Tell Senator Ron Johnson: Do Your Job and fill the Supreme Court vacancy!

U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington D.C.

By Brian Washington
EdVotes.org

TakeActionSidebarCongress is returning to Capitol Hill this week — a perfect time to tell members of the U.S. Senate, “Do your job.”

Instead of playing political games and delaying action on President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, Republicans, who control the Senate, should break with extreme voices like GOP presidential candidates Donald Trump and Ted Cruz and consider the nomination as well as give it an “up-or-down” vote.

It’s important to note that a few Senate Republicans have already expressed a willingness to meet with Garland. In fact, Senator Susan Collins (ME) shared that the president’s nominee deserves “careful consideration.”

“It’s the duty of the Senate, under the Constitution, to give our advice and give our consent or withhold our consent,” Collins recently said on CNN. “I believe we should follow the regular order and give careful consideration to any nominee that the president may send to the Senate.”

Supreme Court nominees deserve a fair hearing, and both Democrats and Republicans have always provided that courtesy. Now is the time to let your voice be heard. Tell your lawmakers that it’s time to do the will of the people. Polls show that 56 percent of all Americans disagree with GOP Senators who say they will not hold hearings on the proposed replacement for the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

TAKE ACTION: Send an email message to your Senators and ask him/her to do their job and fill the current vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court.

If you want to send them a message via Twitter, below you’ll find sample tweets you can use. Just make sure you add the hashtags: #DoYourJob and/or #WeNeedNine.

  • Senate must fulfill its constitutional responsibility and consider Garland. Doing otherwise is unprecedented and irresponsible.
  • Not holding a fair hearing on Garland would create a constitutional crisis and handcuff all 3 branches of government.
  • There is plenty of time for the Senate to fulfill its responsibility to give Judge Garland a fair hearing and a timely vote.
  • Senators: It would be irresponsible and unprecedented to let a vacancy on the Supreme Court extend into 2017.
  • Besides #SCOTUS, more than 40 judicial nominees are now waiting for a Senate vote so they can do critical work.

You can also help us elevate this important message via social media. But most importantly, make sure you contact your U.S. Senators and urge your friends and family to do so as well. Tell them that U.S. Supreme Court nominees deserve a fair hearing and an up-and-down vote.

DoYourJobSocialLink

Milwaukee community tells school board: Class Size Matters!

A huge outpouring of support from educators, parents, students and community advocates of quality public schools convinced the Milwaukee school board Tuesday night to demand more information before acting on an administration proposal that would threaten the district’s class size reduction efforts.

Among those testifying was Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association Vice President Amy Mizialko, who said: “Money saved today by increasing class sizes will result in more substantial social and educational costs for our children in their futures.”

MTEA took to Facebook to post a series of photos, memes, videos and recaps of testimony from Tuesday night’s school board meeting. Below is a collection of some of those posts, with photos by Joe Brusky (click HERE if the images do not appear below):

Read more about the district’s plan:

Plan to reassign teachers raises class size concerns in MPS

By of the More than 100 teachers could be reassigned, pushing up classroom sizes in some early grades at dozens of Milwaukee Public Schools next year as MPS phases out of the state’s soon-to-be-defunct class size reduction program known as SAGE.

Educators, students, community members ‘walk in’ together to show support for public schools

Mitchell School in Racine held its first ever walk-in to demand the schools all students deserve.

Mitchell School in Racine held its first ever walk-in to demand the schools all students deserve.

Cooper School's walk-in for public schools.

Milwaukee Cooper School’s walk-in for public schools.

Educators, students, and community members came together Wednesday to show their support for public schools by walking into school together in a proud and public display of unity. ‘Walk-ins’ were held in dozens of Wisconsin schools, including schools in Green Bay, La Crosse, Milwaukee, Racine, Solon Springs, Onalaska, Sparta and Tomah. They were among dozens of cities throughout the country that participated.

Walk-Ins for Public Schools are a simple and powerful visual reminder of the extreme support that exists for public schools. The Walk-Ins aren’t new to Wisconsin. Last September, Wisconsin educators, parents, students and community supporters in Milwaukee and La Crosse proclaimed support for public schools by holding similar walk-ins at over a hundred schools. The event succeeded in showing the massive support that exists for public schools, stopping the Milwaukee county executive from a plan to turn a large number of public school buildings over to private schools. In the end, the executive publicly committed to supporting Milwaukee Public Schools and only one empty building was handed over to private interests.

We Are Wisconsin walked in with La Crosse Central High educators to support public schools.

We Are Wisconsin walked in with La Crosse Central High educators to support public schools.

For Milwaukee, February’s Walk-Ins for Public Schools continued the struggle to provide all students with the schools they deserve. Wisconsin has enacted public school takeover legislation and there is a new takeover commissioner who has yet to outline specific plans.

In other Wisconsin cities taking part, local public schools are reeling from massive cuts in state funding and an outflowing of millions from public school budget to instead subsidize private schools. The events are a call for public community schools that welcome and serve all children and offer excellent academics, art, music, physical education, libraries and support services including health care, before- and after-school care, tutoring and family involvement.

“Walk-Ins for Public Schools send a strong message that we love our public schools and we stand united against any attempt to turn our public schools over to private operators who don’t serve all children and are not accountable to parents, voters, or a locally elected school board,” said Kim Schroeder, a teacher and president of the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association.

“If we’re serious about improving schools, we need to invest in the public schools that provide opportunity for all children, no matter what their ZIP codes,” said Betsy Kippers, a teacher and president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council. “Time and again, Americans have said they prefer improving public schools to spending scare tax dollars on voucher schools or lining the pockets of independent charter schools.”

Plan to pull $22 million from public schools sidetracked but may return

A move is afoot to defund public schools to the amount of $22 million. In a stealth maneuver, a last-minute amendment was offered to a technical bill dealing with special needs vouchers, AB 751.  The amendment, clearly not germane to the bill, would change the school funding formula to strip away $22 million in revenue limit authority for those school districts with voucher students. This would be a devastating blow to our neighborhood public schools and the students they serve. Once the truth was revealed about the amendment and its impact, the Assembly Education Committee pulled back the bill on Thursday, but it will likely be resurrected soon.

Contact your legislators today and urge them to reject any amendments to AB 751 that would defund neighborhood public schools!

Read more:

Proposed change to public school revenue limits could cost schools $22 million

WEAC members reach out to Kohler families

From the UAW Local 833 Facebook page

From the UAW Local 833 Facebook page

“I know there are a lot of people and our contributions won’t stretch as far as we want it to, but at least we can put a meal or two on the table for their families.”

Some of the recent donations to UAW Local 833

Some of the recent donations to UAW Local 833

Onalaska kindergarten teacher and WEAC Region 4 President Allison Pratt has a special place in her heart for the employees at the Kohler Co. in Sheboygan, on strike for fair wages to support their families. Pratt, along with members of WEAC Region 4, are standing in solidarity by donating to the families impacted by the situation.

But before members of WEAC Region 4 donate personal and vacation time to stand with Kohler workers next Friday, they’re spreading the word to other WEAC affiliates to encourage them also to stand together for living wages. “We’re asking WEAC’s other regions to match our contributions, exceed them or to give anything they can give,” Pratt said.

Educators point toward students when explaining why they’re lending their support to Kohler employees. Family-supporting jobs are a key factor in providing stability for children, which is a key factor in school success.

Hundreds of employees, comprising United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 833, have been on strike since mid-November – the first strike at the Wisconsin manufacturer in more than 30 years. Workers are asking for higher pay, lower health care costs and an end to a two-tier wage scale that unfairly limits many employees with less seniority to about $13 an hour regardless of the type of work they do.

Pratt said educators traveling from western Wisconsin to the state’s eastern border hope to demonstrate solidarity. “We think it’s important to show that educators are supporting them and we are going to stand with them,” she said.

WEAC Region 4, comprising southwestern communities including La Crosse, is one of many WEAC affiliates uniting around Kohler families. In the small town of Reedsburg, near Wisconsin Dells, educators are also raising money for striking workers.

“We have two members who are from that area, one whose father is on the picket line,” said Trista Henke, a middle school science teacher and president of the Reedsburg Education Association. “One of our members will hand deliver the donations when she goes home for the holiday on December 23. Some of the young families there are living out of their cars.”

At WEAC Region 6, donations are being collected to help Kohler employees be sure they can provide a nice Christmas for their children. And at the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association, located less than an hour south of Kohler, educators have also stepped up – including providing Thanksgiving meals for families.

“These workers haven’t had a raise in seven years, while the company owner has seen his financial worth triple in that same time,” MTEA shared on Facebook. “Strike pay does not cover a working family’s expenses. Families are in need of non-perishable food items. They also could use any financial help you can give.”

WEAC President Betsy Kippers, a Racine teacher, said educators believe in supporting families and communities.

“Students succeed when they have the opportunities to support their learning,” she said. “That includes family-supporting jobs that give children adequate nutrition and health care to allow them to learn to their full potential.”

Local WEAC affiliates, regions or citizens can contribute to the Kohler fund by contacting the WEAC Region 4 office, 608.781.1234, visiting Checks can be made out to UAW Local 833.

Eau Claire School Board sharply denounces bill that would restrict referendums

The Eau Claire School Board on Monday unanimously approved a resolution sharply denouncing a bill now before the Legislature that would severely restrict the ability of school districts to raise needed funds through local referendums.

“I’m appalled that our legislators want to take away one of our tools of operation,” said board member Kathryn Duax, as quoted in the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram. “We need to object to taking away local control and the ability to take care of our financial problems.”

Under a proposal advanced by Republican state lawmakers, school districts would be prohibited from asking voters for new resources for a period of two years after a referendum failed to pass. School districts go to referendum to get voter approval to borrow money for large projects such as the construction of new schools, and to make up for spending limits imposed by the state.

The bill also changes the schedule by which a school district can place a referendum on the ballot.  Currently, a school referendum can coincide with a primary election, general election, or a special election can be called specifically for the referendum. Under this bill, a school district referendum would have to coincide with a regularly scheduled spring or fall general election.

The Leader-Telegram also quoted Eau Claire school board member Wendy Sue Johnson:

“This is absolutely spiteful, and (these are) ridiculous actions by our Legislature, and we can’t let them get away with it,” she said. “We are not sounding the alarm loud enough; this is frightening.”

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Read more:

School board criticizes referendum proposal

Legislation that would restrict when school boards could take a referendum to the voters could cause some districts to close, said Eau Claire school board member Wendy Sue Johnson. “We are not sounding the alarm loud enough; this is frightening,” she said Monday of the proposal that would launch a buffer period after failed referendums, preventing districts from reaching out to the public for two years to ask for more dollars.

Tell legislators to keep local control of school referendums! – WEAC

For more than two decades, state legislators have justified caps on school resources by saying school districts always have the option of going to referendum to get voter approval to raise property taxes to meet the needs of children attending neighborhood public schools.

Petition opposes limits on school district referendums – WEAC

A Whitewater community/parent group is circulating a statewide petition opposing a bill now being moved through the Legislature that would restrict the ability of school districts to hold much-needed local referendums. Whitewater YES for Education is a volunteer community/parent group in Whitewater focused on supporting school district referenda.

New restrictions on school referendums would have cut new resources for schools by $200 million in recent years – WEAC

A new proposal by Republican legislators making it more difficult for school districts to go to referendum would have reduced or delayed new resources for schoolchildren by nearly $200 million if it was in effect over the last few years, according to a new analysis by the Wisconsin Budget Project.

Small Randall Consolidated School District approves referendum to make up for loss in state aid – WEAC

Voters in the small Randall Consolidated School in southeastern Wisconsin approved a referendum to maintain student opportunities at the local level, after the state backed away from its commitment to the school district.

 

Bill would place severe restrictions on local school referendums – WEAC

Republican legislators are circulating a bill that would place severe restrictions on local school referendums. Under the bill – circulated by Rep. Michael Schraa (R-Oshkosh) and Sen. Duey Stroebel (R-Cedarburg) – a school district referendum would have to coincide with a regularly scheduled spring or fall general election and a district would have to wait two years to reschedule a failed referendum.

Tell Congress: Get ESEA done! Get ESEA right!

NEA and nine other leading education groups kicked off a digital ad campaign this week urging Congress to finish rewriting ESEA and focus on opportunity for all students, no matter their zip code.

“If Congress is serious about every child’s bright future, let’s get serious about putting kids first,” said NEA president Lily Eskelsen García. “Now is the time to finish the job and deliver a bipartisan education bill to the take actionpresident’s desk right away. Students can’t afford to live another year under the failed No Child Left Behind law.”

Agreement on a final bill is likely to be announced by before Thanksgiving — Congress is hearing the urgency from educators! Continue to add your voice so that Congress cannot ignore the need to pass ESEA now. Call your senators and representative via our “Opportunity for All” hotline at 1-866-331-7233. Click on the “take action” button to urge Congress to finish ESEA now.

Tell legislators to butt out of school referendums!

For more than two decades, state legislators have justified caps on school resources by saying school districts always have the option of going to referendum to get voter approval to raise property taxes to meet the needs of children attending neighborhood public schools. With a state legislature intent on disinvesting in public education with record cuts, school districts are exercising the referendum option more than ever before and voters are approving them more than ever before.  They know how dire things are for their public schools and know they can’t count on this state legislature to provide the critical resources so every child, regardless of zip code, has access to a quality public education.

It has become clear that all that talk about the freedom of communities to commit resources to their public schools by approving local school referenda was just that – talk.  Why else would some legislators be pushing SB 355/AB 481, dictating when school districts can go to referendum and how often?  It is an affront to local control, to voters and to all of us who support our neighborhood public schools, the heart of our communities.

Contact your legislators today and tell them to butt out of local school district referenda and oppose SB 355/AB 481.

Read more:

New restrictions on school referendums would have cut new resources for schools by $200 million in recent years – WEAC

Bill would place severe restrictions on local school referendums – WEAC

Small Randall Consolidated School District approves referendum to make up for loss in state aid – WEAC

Guns and campus buildings are a volatile mix that should be rejected

Tragically, our nation’s college campuses have recently experienced a handful of shootings.  These senseless acts of violence are devastating.  Some Wisconsin policymakers are championing the introduction of guns in campus buildings as the “answer” (SB 363/AB 480). Students, college governance, and law enforcement officials have been outspoken in their opposition to these measures. They are fearful that allowing individuals to carry guns in campus buildings does nothing to promote campus safety. In fact, these measures could very likely serve as the impetus for deadly encounters that jeopardize the safety of all on campuses.

Contact your legislators today and urge them to oppose SB 363/AB 480.  Tell them to heed the voices of those who would be directly impacted who have urged them to go back to the drawing board. Campus safety depends on it.

Read more:

Bill would OK concealed guns in Wisconsin college buildings

While a pair of Republican state lawmakers want to allow students and faculty to carry concealed guns inside public university and college buildings, at least one campus and its police department are warning the measure could have dangerous day-to-day implications.

UPDATE: UW Police against proposal to allow concealed guns in campus buildings

MADISON (WKOW) — The UW-Madison Police Department released a statement Tuesday afternoon in opposition to a legislative proposal that would allow the concealed carry of guns in public university and college buildings. Here is UWPD’s statement: Recent school shootings have elevated discussions across the country about gun safety, protecting the rights of citizens, and protecting the safety of our schools.

Campus Carry: GOP lawmakers want to allow concealed weapons in public college buildings

People with concealed weapon licenses would be allowed to carry guns inside the buildings and classrooms of Wisconsin’s public universities and colleges under a bill introduced Monday by two state legislators.

Putting guns in schools will not improve school safety, Kippers says – WEAC

Putting guns in schools is not the way to improve school safety, WEAC President Betsy Kippers said Wednesday after both houses of the Legislature approved a bill that will allow off-duty and former law enforcement officers to carry concealed firearms onto school grounds.

Milwaukee fights back against school takeovers with “walk-ins” at more than 100 public schools

walk in hartford

Thousands of parents, educators, students and community leaders held “walk-ins” at more than 100 public schools across the city of Milwaukee to celebrate public schools and to share information about how a proposed public school takeover will hurt students and the Milwaukee economy. All fourteen schools in LaCrosse also held walk-ins today in solidarity with Milwaukee.

Look for pictures of your school at the end of this post – schools are listed in alphabetical order, and more will be added in the next few days.

The Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association and the Schools and Communities United coalition organized the walk-ins in response to a public school takeover plan that was passed in July as part of the Wisconsin state budget.

The school takeover plan charges Milwaukee county executive Chris Abele with choosing a takeover commissioner this fall. The commissioner would then choose 1-3 schools to convert into privately run charter or voucher schools for the 2016-17 school year. In each subsequent year, up to five schools could be handed over to private operators.

Parents and community members have raised several concerns about the takeover plan. Among them:

  • The takeover plan offers no new ideas or resources. Changing who runs a school will not provide the resources or support that students need to succeed.
  • Many students will be left without critical services. The takeover schools are not required to meet the needs of special education students or English language learners.
  • School takeovers eliminate good jobs in our city. Takeovers have hurt the local economy in New Orleans, Memphis and Detroit.
  • The takeover plan eliminates democratic local control and disenfranchises black and brown communities.
  • Takeovers will affect all public schools, not just a few individual schools. The very existence of our public school system is in jeopardy.

The walk-ins today were a step forward in building a network of school defense committees to protect and strengthen every public school in the city of Milwaukee. Parents, educators, community members and students will work together in the coming months to solidify their school defense committees and prepare for an all-city summit of school defense committees on December 5, 2015.