Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Newly Formed Rural Caucus To Hold Listening Sessions On 2013-2015 State Budget


MADISON April 24, 2013 – Today, a group of Assembly Democratic Legislators announced the formation of a Rural Caucus whose focus will be raising awareness and advocating on behalf of the people and communities of rural Wisconsin. The Rural Caucus will kick off with a series of listening sessions on the 2013-2015 Wisconsin State Budget. 

“Too often, the needs of rural communities are ignored or put behind the needs of urban and suburban areas of the state.  Working together, rural legislators will have the political clout and the numbers to balance the influence that legislators representing more populous parts of the state have,” noted State Representative Janet Bewley (Ashland), who will serve as  chair of the group. “The Rural Caucus can be a focal point and direct avenue for rural residents and organizations to get their message across to the entire Wisconsin State Legislature,” added Representative Janis Ringhand (Evansville), who is serving as vice-chair. 

“Unfortunately, the debate in the Legislature frequently centers on just Madison and Milwaukee.  This is unfair to all the residents who live in other parts of the state,” said Representative Amy Sue Vruwink (Milladore).  “The challenges rural communities face are different than the ones urban and suburban communities face. I felt it was important that rural Wisconsin be adequately represented, especially during budget negotiations, which is why I’ve joined the Rural Caucus,” added Representative Fred Clark (Sauk City).

In an effort to ensure that this state budget represents all Wisconsinites, members of the Rural Caucus will be holding budget listening sessions in rural communities across the state. The first four are listed below. The listening sessions are open to the public and legislators who represent these areas have been invited to attend. “This is just the first step in the process,” explained Representative Chris Danou (Trempealeau), “the Rural Caucus intends to continue meeting on important rural issues, including broadband, schools, local road aids and healthcare access.”

Monroe
Saturday, May 11th
1:30- 3:30 pm
Community Center
Monroe City Hall, Lower Level
1110 18th Ave, Monroe, WI 53566

Monday, April 29, 2013

Private School Voucher Expansion: What is it and what does it mean for us?



By: State Representative Janis Ringhand

Two months.  That’s about how long it’s been since Governor Walker first introduced his 2013-15 state budget.  The budget always provides a clear snapshot of a Governor’s priorities and this session is no different.  From removing the cap on the amount of land that can be sold to foreign entities (individuals or corporations) to the nearly $500 million increase in transportation aid – many of the Governor’s priorities have generated some controversy.  

One area of Governor Walker’s budget that has received a great deal of attention over the last two months is education.  Last session, the Governor cut funding for our schools by $1.6 billion.  Anticipation was high regarding how our public schools would fare this time around.  While education aid receives an increase of just over 1 percent over the biennium – there remains a freeze on spending limits.  So while districts are getting more money, they cannot spend any more than they did last year. 

On the flip side, the private school voucher program received a funding increase of over 29 percent.  Currently this program is operated in just Milwaukee and Racine, however, the budget includes provisions that would expand the program to nine additional districts.  The Beloit School District is one of those nine districts.  It is important to note that this is not something the Beloit School District asked for and they have been clear that they oppose the expansion.

There is a lot of misinformation out there about the expansion of the private school voucher program and so I wanted to use this week’s column to clear up some of the confusion.

Myth: Without expansion of the private school voucher program – families do not have a choice when selecting the right educational path for their child. 

Many Wisconsin school districts already use charter schools and alternative schools to help address the needs of some of their most vulnerable students.  Furthermore through open enrollment, families have the option of enrolling their children in another district if they feel it’s a better fit for their child.  Therefore Wisconsin parents already have other choices available to them if they feel their child’s current education is unsatisfactory.  

Myth: Funding for the private school voucher program does not impact the pocketbooks of our public schools.

Instead of putting more aid into our public schools, the Governor’s budget essentially subsidizes private school education.  As I mentioned earlier, voucher schools are receiving a 29 percent increase in aid.  A great deal of that money will go towards paying tuition for students who already attend private school.  For example in the Racine School District, which the voucher program recently expanded to, nearly half of the students involved in the program already attended private school. Both our rural and urban schools face unique challenges and after talking with our local superintendents it is clear they need every single dollar to help combat those challenges.  For districts where the expansion is proposed, like Beloit, they will be required to help cover costs for the program which results in a direct loss of state aid for them.  According to the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, Beloit could lose up to $1.3 million in funding.

Myth: Private voucher schools are subject to the same standards as our public schools.

Voucher schools do not require their teachers to be licensed nor are they required to conduct background checks of all school staff.  The federal law that requires public school districts to provide equitable services for students with disabilities does not apply to voucher schools.  They are not even required by state law to hire special education teachers or therapists. Too often our local school districts end up providing services to these children resulting in even higher costs for them.  Finally, voucher schools are not required to establish uniform graduation standards so what constitutes graduation from one voucher school might not permit graduation from the public school system or even a different voucher school. 

Although I do not support the expansion of the voucher program (for the reasons stated above) I realize our existing education system is not perfect.  We have great schools and great teachers in Wisconsin, however, we can always make our classrooms better.  Improving our educational system is an on-going process that requires honesty, open dialogue and a willingness to work together.  I’ve seen it in the school districts throughout the 45th Assembly District and I hope it continues.  Our kids and our future depend on it.

As always, please feel free to contact my office if you have additional questions on this or any other state legislative matter.  I can be reached toll-free at 1-888-534-0045 or by email at Rep.Ringhand@legis.wi.gov.        

###



Janis Ringhand
State Representative
45th Assembly District

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

***Attention Those In The 80th Assembly District***


From the desk of Sondy Pope-Roberts - 
Because the Republicans are not holding enough budget listening sessions to allow the public voice to be heard before we vote on the final passage of our budget, many Democrats are holding listening sessions in their districts.  I have scheduled many of those throughout the 80th but want to reach out to offer to meet with smaller groups in more private settings which we are calling Kitchen Table Talks in order to reach as many folks as we can at whatever locations are convenient for them. If you are aware of any potential opportunities or can think of any folks who might want to meet with me please let me know and I will reach out to meet with them where and when we can.  Scheduling can be done through my office or with me directly.

I have also authored a statewide petition to remove the voucher school expansion in the budget and need your help in circulating that petition.  It can be signed online or paper can be circulated and returned to my office.

Call me if you have questions or suggestions.  266-3520 or 358-8994

Link to my webpage and petition sign up:  https://www.facebook.com/stopwivoucherexpansion  

Constituents from the 80th Assembly District are invited to attend a Kitchen Table Talk budget listening session with Sondy Pope at 3:30, Monday, April 29, 2013, at the Fat Cat Coffee Works (upstairs) in New Glarus.  Contact Keith Steffen (608-558-1767 - c) for more information.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

State Budget Hearings

From Representative Sondy Pope:


Because the Republicans are not holding enough budget listening sessions to allow the public voice to be heard before we vote on the final passage of our budget, many Democrats are holding listening sessions in their districts.  I have scheduled many of those throughout the 80th but want to reach out to offer to meet with smaller groups in more private settings which we are calling Kitchen Table Talks in order to reach as many folks as we can at whatever locations are convenient for them. If you are aware of any potential opportunities or can think of any folks who might want to meet with me please let me know and I will reach out to meet with them where and when we can.  Scheduling can be done through my office or with me directly.

I have also authored a statewide petition to remove the voucher school expansion in the budget and need your help in circulating that petition.  It can be signed online or paper can be circulated and returned to my office.

Call me if you have questions or suggestions.  266-3520 or 358-8994

Link to my webpage and petition sign up:  https://www.facebook.com/stopwivoucherexpansion

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Just a little info as to why voucher schools are bad for Green County and Wisconsin as a whole:


Monday, April 15, 2013

PARTY!!!

Folks,
I am giving you the heads up that the Rock County Democratic Party is having their Spring Fling in a couple of weeks and they have invited us to attend!  The information is below, as is the link to the Facebook page.  Please RSVP and attend this great event and have the opportunity to hear our newly elected Congressman Mark Pocan speak.


UAW Hall, 1795 Lafayette St, Janesville, WI 53546
Democratic Party of Rock County, Spring Fling Fundraiser, UAW Hall, 1795 Lafayette St, Janesville, WI 53546. Cocktails 5pm, Dinner 6pm, Keynote Speaker: U.S. Representative Mark Pocan, 7PM. Tickets: $20 each.

To purchase ticket(s): Contact Mike Southers, Chair, mikesouthers@gmail.com or 608-728-2539 


On a side note.....

We are looking for delegates for the 2nd Congressional District Convention happening this Saturday, April 20th AND for the State Democratic Convention happening June 7-8.  If you are interested in learning more about this event, please contact me at: sandystauffacher@gmail.com


Thursday, April 4, 2013

Guest Poster

Folks,
I have been a wee bit busy as of late and so I have not been able to update for a while.  I am using the words of our county Communication Director now to update you all on happenings.  Please feel free to send me ideas for columns or any other tidbits that should be shared with our Democratic and Progressive populace.


Upcoming Events:

Saturday, April 13 - "All About Citizens United" Conference,  8:45 AM - 3:45 PM, at Promega BTCI, 5445 E. Cheryl Parkway in Fitchburg (registration from 8-8:45AM). Speakers include David Cobb (Co-Founder of Move to Amend), Bob Edgar and Jay Heck (Common Cause), Lisa Graves, Mike McCabe, John Nichols, Rep. Peter Barca, and more. Cost is $20 which includes lunch. Seating is limited so it is best to register ahead of time online. For more information and to register, go to: http://www.allaboutcitizensunited.org

Sunday, April 14 - Green County Democrats & Progressives monthly meeting - 6:00 PM at Luna Maya (formerly Fiesta Cancun) Mexican Restaurant, 128 W. 8th Street, Monroe. Greg Neil from the AFL/CIO and Jeff Leverich from WEAC will discuss unions, issues related to recent changes, and their importance in our society. A short business meeting will follow the program. You're invited to come early (5:00-6:00 PM) for an informal social time and dinner hour (Dutch treat). For the latest information and points of view, remember to check the GC Dem's blog at http://greendems.blogspot.com and its Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/140623545987402/.

Sat.-Sun, April 20 - 21 - The 15th annual Democratic Leadership Institute (DLI) will be held at Hotel Mead in Wisconsin Rapids. DLI is an intensive workshop for young, emerging leaders ages 18-35 who are committed to progressive values and interested in a career in politics. Lodging, meals and materials are covered by sponsorships for those 18-25 years of age. The cost for participants 26-35 yrs. is $100. People wishing to attend should apply online by this Friday (29th) at wisdems.org/DLI

Saturday, April 20 - 2nd Congressional District Convention will be held at the Reedsburg Public Library starting at 12:00 PM to vote on resolutions to send to the June State DPW Convention. If you are a paid Democratic Party member and would like to attend, please contact one of Green Co. Dems' Co-Chairs, Sandy Stauffacher (swissms68@hotmail.comor Phil Fransen (pcfransen@gmail.com).

Interesting Reading:

Appleton's Post Crescent newspaper, not known for having a liberal bent, recently printed an editorial well worth reading that is strongly critical of Walker's plans to expand the voucher school program. You'll find some good points that could be used in letters to the editor of our local papers -- fire up those pens, letter writers! Citizens need to push back against all the voucher school lobbyists who have rented office space around the state Capitol building to be near our legislators.  
"School's in Session on Voucher Expansion"
http://www.postcrescent.com/article/20130324/APC0602/303240122/Editorial-School-s-session-voucher-expansion

The Medicaid funding debate: "Scott Walker should listen to Chris Christie"
http://host.madison.com/news/opinion/editorial/scott-walker-should-listen-to-chris-christie/article_f8c56334-8e5f-11e2-919b-0019bb2963f4.html

And for the statistically-challenged among us (of which I count myself as one), here is a short video with effective "infographics" that clarify the current wealth distribution in the U.S. 
"Wealth Inequality in America"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QPKKQnijnsM