Boots & Sabers

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Tag: Washington County Daily News

Return surplus to the taxpayers

Sometimes I feel like I’m spitting into the wind, but I’ll keep trying. My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Here’s a part:

With the state’s coffers overflowing, every hog is at the trough jostling for position and every politician is eyeing their favorite one to fatten. There will be no shortage of requests, demands, justifications, and admonitions from advocates to spend every dollar of the surplus and more. Instead, the Legislature should give it, and more, back to the beleaguered taxpayers.

 

First, let us dig into the anatomy of the forecasted surplus. According to the 62-page DOA report, the state entered the budget with a $2.52 billion balance, added $1.78 billion to the balance in first fiscal year of the budget, and projects to add an additional $2.276 billion to it by the end of this fiscal year for a total biennial budget surplus of $6.576 billion. This is based on the current economic outlook and current tax policies. The reason for the surplus is relatively straightforward. The state spent every dollar it appropriated (actually, a little more), but it collected far more in taxes than it needed. For example, in FY22 which ended on June 30th of this year, the state collected $534 million more in income taxes than lawmakers said they needed in the budget. It collected $338 million more in sales taxes and $1.05 billion more in corporate taxes than it needed.

 

Why? The primary reason is inflation. While the underlying economy is struggling, the price of everything is going up. Incomes are up, corporate taxable profits are up, the price of consumer goods are up, and taxes are based on percentages of those things. The budget did not make any inflationary assumptions when it was created. Inflation has averaged 7.4% since the beginning of this budget in July of 2021. If the projected surplus is realized, it will be due to the state collecting about 10.6% more in taxes than it budgeted.

 

The assumptions used to forecast the surplus are telling, and troubling. The DOA uses economic projections from a single source — IHS Markit. It is concerning that in such tumultuous economic times that the DOA would rely on a single source. They forecast that the nation will have a mild recession in 2023 with a 0.2% decline in GDP before returning sluggish growth in 2024. It also forecasts that inflation will decline to 3% versus prior year by the end of 2023.

 

I hope they are right because those are relatively optimistic projections compared to many other sources. But it reminds us that a forecast is just an educated guess, and we should not spend money that we do not have.

 

The data also shows that while inflation is also pushing up wages, the buying power of those wages are not keeping up. According to the data in the DOA report, personal income rose by 7.4% in 2021 (inflated by COVID bailouts) and 2.3% in 2022. That compares to annualized inflation of 7.1% in 2021 and 7.75% year-to-date in 2022 according to the Federal Reserve. Every dollar of wage increases is being consumed by inflation and then some. Wisconsinites’ expenses are increasing at a far faster rate than their wages.

 

Under normal circumstances, it is immoral for the government to overtax the people and then use that as an excuse to increase spending. With a suspect economic forecast and the buying power of Wisconsinites being eaten away by inflation, it would be unconscionable for our elected leaders to do anything other than to return the surplus to the people who paid it with a sheepish, “ope.”

Millions for education. Not one penny for failure.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I sure did. As I settle in to watch the Packers and write my column for this week, here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News last week.

A few weeks ago, in a regrettable spurt of optimistic exuberance at the prospect of Tim Michels defeating Governor Tony Evers and ushering in an opportunity to make great strides in advancing progressive conservative policies, this column advocated that education reform should be at the top of the priority list. With Evers’ electoral victory and Wisconsin deciding on divided government for at least another two years, reforming Wisconsin’s education remains the absolute top priority, but the tactics and realistic goals must, necessarily, change.

 

By every meaningful measure, Wisconsin’s government education system is failing kids. There are, of course, individual success stories, but the overall performance is systemic failure at all levels. According to ACT Aspire, Forward, and ACT testing data from Wisconsin’s Department of Public Instruction, Wisconsin’s kids are failing to learn basic reading, writing, and math in our schools. Roughly two-thirds of Wisconsin’s kids at every grade level are not proficient in language or math. It is utterly intolerable.

 

Bear in mind that those testing results are statewide averages. A large number of individual districts and schools are even worse. Again, according to DPI data, there are some Wisconsin schools where not a single child is proficient in language or math. President George Bush once lamented the “soft bigotry of low expectations.” There is nothing soft about the bigotry that abandons kids to ignorance.

 

Tony Evers and the Democrats like to sell themselves as the party of education. If that is the case, then they are terrible at it. The Democrats have had a stranglehold on the state DPI and most government education districts for decades. The result has been a steady decline in performance punctuated by catastrophic failures. They have abandoned at least two generations of kids as they continue to fund failing systems.

 

To be frank, watching someone brag about our government education system when less than half of our kids can read at grade level makes me angry. They should be angry at such failure. It makes a lot of parents angry. It should make you angry. Republicans should be angry about it. Not only is fixing education a moral imperative, but it is also good politics. Whichever party actually fixes education and gets more than 96% of our kids reading at grade level will stay in power for decades.

 

I am firmly convinced that the best and fastest path to quality education for everyone is to privatize our education system. Getting the government out of the business of delivering education and unleashing the power of competition is the proven path to performance. Unfortunately, with a governor who is a wholly owned subsidiary of the state teachers union, such needed reform is unrealistic. Governor Evers has shown that there is no length to which he will not go, and no bill he will not veto, in order to protect the monied interests of the government-education-industrial complex.

 

In light of the political realities, the Republican leadership will not be able to make the substantial changes necessary to radically improve educational outcomes. What they will be able to do, and what they must do, is become the party of accountability. Over the last five years, state taxpayers have increased spending on education by 19% to over $16,000 per student. This was during a period when people were losing their jobs, paychecks were shrinking, and inflation was just beginning to bite.

 

What did taxpayers get for their generosity and willingness to invest in education? Dumber kids. Over that same five-year period, the slow decline that was happening before the pandemic accelerated into collapse after many government educators abandoned kids to their illiteracy while continuing to collect their paychecks.

 

Legislative Republicans must tie funding to performance and force the closure of failing schools. Speaker Robin Vos has floated the idea of passing a bill that couples universal school choice with more spending on government schools. This idea is flawed because Evers has the most powerful veto pen in the nation and could simply veto school choice while accepting the spending increase.

 

Instead, Republicans should freeze education spending at its already inflated level and impose performance goals for continued funding. There is no reason that taxpayers should pay for a school where less than 20% of kids can read. Funding failure is explicit support for failure. Republicans must stop supporting failure like the Democrats and become the real party of education.

 

If Republicans play the same old Democrat game of pretending that the system is great and only needs more money, they will fail to capture the powerful electoral support of parents. Worse, they will doom yet another generation of kids to ignorance and exploitation. Our nation will be worse for their complacency.

Millions for education. Not one penny for failure.

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Here’s a taste before Thanksgiving:

To be frank, watching someone brag about our government education system when less than half of our kids can read at grade level makes me angry. They should be angry at such failure. It makes a lot of parents angry. It should make you angry. Republicans should be angry about it. Not only is fixing education a moral imperative, but it is also good politics. Whichever party actually fixes education and gets more than 96% of our kids reading at grade level will stay in power for decades.

 

I am firmly convinced that the best and fastest path to quality education for everyone is to privatize our education system. Getting the government out of the business of delivering education and unleashing the power of competition is the proven path to performance. Unfortunately, with a governor who is a wholly owned subsidiary of the state teachers union, such needed reform is unrealistic. Governor Evers has shown that there is no length to which he will not go, and no bill he will not veto, in order to protect the monied interests of the government-education-industrial complex.

 

In light of the political realities, the Republican leadership will not be able to make the substantial changes necessary to radically improve educational outcomes. What they will be able to do, and what they must do, is become the party of accountability. Over the last five years, state taxpayers have increased spending on education by 19% to over $16,000 per student. This was during a period when people were losing their jobs, paychecks were shrinking, and inflation was just beginning to bite.

 

What did taxpayers get for their generosity and willingness to invest in education? Dumber kids. Over that same five-year period, the slow decline that was happening before the pandemic accelerated into collapse after many government educators abandoned kids to their illiteracy while continuing to collect their paychecks.

 

Legislative Republicans must tie funding to performance and force the closure of failing schools. Speaker Robin Vos has floated the idea of passing a bill that couples universal school choice with more spending on government schools. This idea is flawed because Evers has the most powerful veto pen in the nation and could simply veto school choice while accepting the spending increase.

 

Instead, Republicans should freeze education spending at its already inflated level and impose performance goals for continued funding. There is no reason that taxpayers should pay for a school where less than 20% of kids can read. Funding failure is explicit support for failure. Republicans must stop supporting failure like the Democrats and become the real party of education.

Make government small again

Here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News this week.

As I sit writing this column, it has been five days since the election, and we still do not know the outcome of several critical races. It is unacceptable that our elections have become so sloppy and rife with opportunities for fraud that we can no longer trust that the outcomes reflect the true will of the people. Irrespective of who ends up winning, the losing side will rightfully question the results and the steady erosion of our civic society will continue apace.

 

In the aftermath of another contentious election, I once again find myself lamenting the emotional investment that so many of us have in the outcome. Why does the outcome of this election matter so much to so many people? Why does it matter at such a personal, emotional level? Why do we think that the outcome will have an impact on our daily lives? Why is it so easy to appreciate why people would be willing to risk ruin and cheat in order to bend elections their way?

 

We care so much because it does matter so much, but it shouldn’t. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. We were not supposed to live our lives so much under the boot of government that every election feels like we are making irrevocable life-altering decisions. If, as Henry David Thoreau said, “that government is best which governs least,” then our government is very far from being the best.

 

Over the decades we have allowed our government at all levels to increasingly encroach on our lives. It is the natural progression of government to grow, and it has often been done with good intentions. When there is a problem in our society, whether it be poverty, pollution, or poultry, our political leaders look to try to solve them. Solving problems, or pretending to solve problems, is how politicians garner support to further their political careers and the only tool at their disposal to solve problems is government.

 

From this impetus we get government programs to “solve” poverty. We get regulations, programs, and subsidies designed to reduce pollution. We get more regulations, programs, and subsidies to ensure that our Thanksgiving turkeys are safe to eat. While each regulation, program, tax, subsidy, prohibition, and mandate might be argued on its relative merits, the cumulative effect is a government that has its beak in everything we do.

 

The last few years revealed the raw power and brute force that we have allowed our government to accumulate. With the wave of a hand, our government locked us out of our jobs, forced unproven medicines into our veins at penalty of being excluded from society, crippled our kids’ education and development for years, and looted the next generation’s wealth. It happened while we were told that it was for our benefit and that the government was looking out for our best interests.

 

Underneath all of that altruism, entities used the same levers of government for ill intent. We saw regulations applied unevenly based on political favoritism. For example, leftist protests were allowed to continue unabated while churches were closed. We witnessed Governor Evers and other governors doling out COVID relief money for personal political impact instead of actual need. We will be tracking for decades the incredible amount of fraud and corruption that is taking place as the federal government prints and spends money with little or no oversight.

 

We have allowed our governments at all levels to be too big, too intrusive, too powerful, too coercive, and too corrosive. As long as this is the case, our elections will continue to be battles in a passionate ideological warfare where the combatants are willing to go to extraordinary lengths to win because the consequences of losing are too dire. Such warfare will continue to rend our civic society along the many seams of our polycultural society.

 

If we want a return to normalcy, or, at least, if we want to avoid the inevitable slide into further despotism, we must drastically push our government back to the fringes of our lives. The purpose of our government is to protect individual liberty. That’s it. Nothing more. It is not the purpose of government to manage the economy, dictate our culture, or regulate our personal lives. The longer we allow our government to stray from its purpose, the more our society will devolve into irreconcilable factions that lurch for power.

 

I find myself rereading General Washington’s prophetic farewell address in 1796 and anticipating our future with dread:

 

“The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.”

Make government small again

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Here’s a part:

As I sit writing this column, it has been five days since the election, and we still do not know the outcome of several critical races. It is unacceptable that our elections have become so sloppy and rife with opportunities for fraud that we can no longer trust that the outcomes reflect the true will of the people. Irrespective of who ends up winning, the losing side will rightfully question the results and the steady erosion of our civic society will continue apace.

 

In the aftermath of another contentious election, I once again find myself lamenting the emotional investment that so many of us have in the outcome. Why does the outcome of this election matter so much to so many people? Why does it matter at such a personal, emotional level? Why do we think that the outcome will have an impact on our daily lives? Why is it so easy to appreciate why people would be willing to risk ruin and cheat in order to bend elections their way?

 

We care so much because it does matter so much, but it shouldn’t. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. We were not supposed to live our lives so much under the boot of government that every election feels like we are making irrevocable life-altering decisions. If, as Henry David Thoreau said, “that government is best which governs least,” then our government is very far from being the best. 

 

[…]

 

We have allowed our governments at all levels to be too big, too intrusive, too powerful, too coercive, and too corrosive. As long as this is the case, our elections will continue to be battles in a passionate ideological warfare where the combatants are willing to go to extraordinary lengths to win because the consequences of losing are too dire. Such warfare will continue to rend our civic society along the many seams of our polycultural society.

 

If we want a return to normalcy, or, at least, if we want to avoid the inevitable slide into further despotism, we must drastically push our government back to the fringes of our lives. The purpose of our government is to protect individual liberty. That’s it. Nothing more. It is not the purpose of government to manage the economy, dictate our culture, or regulate our personal lives. The longer we allow our government to stray from its purpose, the more our society will devolve into irreconcilable factions that lurch for power.

Legislature must shore up elections

Sorry. We’ve had some technical issues with the blog for the last few days. It appears to be healthy now. Here is my column that ran in the Washington County Daily News yesterday. Given the disappointing election results, it’s fairly moot.

We have reached the culmination of another tempestuous election season with the capstone of Election Day. Self-governance imposes on us the responsibility of enduring the withering assault of political campaigns before choosing who will carry our priorities into government. Irrespective of the outcome of the election, our civic responsibility is to ensure that our elections are free, fair, and secure. We have work to do in Wisconsin.

 

The reason that some Democrats questioned the results of the 2016 election and some Republicans questioned the results of the 2020 election is because it is too easy to defraud our electoral process in many districts. America’s history is replete with examples of election fraud and cheating. There is little to suggest that the human condition has advanced to the point to think that such fraud is no longer possible. The fact that so many of our elections are decided by so few votes makes the consequences of even a little bit of fraud too dire to tolerate.

 

Wisconsin’s election laws are fairly good compared to many other states’. Voters are required to prove their identities with photo identification; same-day registration helps ensure voter access; and state law requires the regular purging of voter rolls. Unfortunately, the execution of the laws has been uneven and the holes have been exploited by bad actors. Many of the holes in our election process are the result of unclear or ambiguous laws that leave great discretion to state and local election officials.

 

As a general theme, the Legislature should take up the effort to codify specific election rules to ensure that all of Wisconsin’s voters have equal and fair access irrespective of their address. Specifically, the legislature should address the rules regarding early voting. If I had my druthers, I would severely curtail early voting to make Election Day great again, but the public has come to enjoy the flexibility of early voting. If we are to have it, it should be the same for everyone. The Legislature should set standard open hours for early in-person voting and restrict it to established municipal or county facilities like city halls or court buildings. The purpose is to ensure that every voter in Wisconsin knows when and where they can cast an early in-person ballot.

 

In respect to early voting, the Legislature should also prohibit drop boxes of any kind. Every early in-person ballot should be received, checked, and witnessed by an accountable election official. Not only does such a procedure provide a check against fraudulent ballots, but it also ensures that legal votes are not discarded due to clerical errors.

 

Speaking of clerical errors, the Legislature should also completely prohibit the counting of any mail-in ballots that are not legally completed and witnessed. This should not be left to the discretion of clerks.

 

Events last week exposed another hole in the mail-in ballot process when a Milwaukee election official illegally ordered three military absentee ballots to the address of Representative Janel Brandtjen. Current law does not require military voters to register to vote or provide identification to request a ballot. This must be remedied.

 

The Legislature should also prohibit ballot harvesting. This is simply when people — usually political operatives — collect people’s early ballots and submit them en masse. The issue is that there is no security to ensure that a voter’s ballot is cast and it allows for bad actors to intimidate voters. While homogenizing early voting laws will correct for some of this, the Legislature should affirmatively prohibit this practice. There is other work to do. The Legislature should also prohibit private citizens from administering or funding our elections. All elections should be administered by accountable public officials. They should also prohibit the practice of central counting which is more susceptible to fraud or the perception of fraud.

 

The biggest lift for the Legislature is to decide what to do with the Wisconsin Elections Commission. The WEC has performed abominably through the pandemic with partisan and illegal actions. The Legislature should abolish it completely and replace it with a bipartisan bicameral legislative committee. That way elected officials will be accountable. By codifying much of the electoral process into statute, the actual duties of such a committee would be severely curtailed.

 

Good elections require a balance of ballot access, ballot security, and transparency. The end goal must be that we have confidence that everyone who is legally allowed to vote can do so, and everyone who is not legally allowed to vote cannot.

Winning the election is just the start

Here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News last week:

The outcomes of elections are always uncertain and replete with surprises, but it is looking more and more like the Republicans are going to do very well next week. If that should come to pass, I fervently hope that the Republicans govern boldly. Winning elections is the goal of politicians. Leaders act to use the power loaned to them by the voters to solve problems for the betterment of our state and nation, and boy, do we have some real problems.

 

The biggest problem facing our nation right now is inflation. There are many other problems, but runaway inflation kills nations. America is not invulnerable to the whirlwind economic forces that inflation unleashes that have obliterated a hundred nations before us.

 

Simply put, inflation happens when there is too much money in the economy chasing too few goods. Prices naturally rise and our dollar buys less than it did yesterday. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the core inflation rate was 8.2% in September and has been in that range since last year.

 

The core inflation rate is misleading because it assumes a basket of goods that is not meaningful to everyone. Inflation hits different goods unevenly. In that same September report, it showed that the price of food is up 91.4%, utilities are up 33.1%, and health insurance is up 28.2%. For people who eat and heat, inflation is hitting much harder than 8.2%.

 

The Federal Reserve has been trying to squeeze money out of the economy by increasing interest rates, but Fed actions are blunted in an era when the federal debt is 125% of our nation’s gross domestic product, according to the Congressional Budget Office, and federal government policies are swamping the country with cash. There has been a structural change in our economy where the levers of inflation have shifted to the federal government’s policies and the central bank is relegated to being an interested bystander. Our nation-killing inflation is a policy choice. If we want different results, we will need to make different policy choices. The federal government must dramatically reduce spending to get inflation under control. Reducing federal spending is the surest way to protect Americans’ wealth from the wildfire of inflation.

 

Should Sen. Ron Johnson be reelected, I hope he will use whatever power he has as one of a hundred senators in a bicameral legislature to oppose new spending and pull back existing spending. Lest we become Venezuela or Zimbabwe, getting control of inflation must be our top national priority.

 

At the state level, Wisconsin’s biggest problem is the deplorable state of our government education system. Despite lavish spending averaging over $16,000 per child per year (an increase of 19% in just five years), our kids are learning less than ever. Test scores have plummeted to the point that barely a third of Wisconsin’s kids can read, write, or do math at grade level.

 

Our government education system is not just an embarrassment, it is a generational brutality committed on our own children. We are condemning a generation of Wisconsinites to be less educated, less capable, and more ignorant than we are. We are robbing them of their potential and a lifetime of opportunities. Our state government schools’ failure to provide our kids with even a mediocre education – much less a good education – is a cruelty for which our kids will rightfully condemn us.

 

We are well past a time when tweaks and nudges will fix the problems with our government education infrastructure. It needs substantive systemic changes at all levels.

 

Wisconsin’s Democrats are the party of perpetuating failure. Last weekend, they even held a rally with President Obama at a Milwaukee high school where zero percent of the kids can do math or science at grade level according to the state ASPIRE exam. The only “solution” that Democrats champion for failing government education is to spend more money on doing the same thing. Their policy choices are about perpetuating and funding a solid Democratic voting bloc irrespective of the quality of the education our kids are getting.

 

Should Tim Michels be our next governor, it is imperative that he immediately tackle the task of fixing our government education system with meaningful changes like universal school choice, outcome-oriented funding, and even privatization. It will be hard and will spark the same kind of radical protests that we saw from government school employees when Gov. Scott Walker signed Act 10. Our kids and their futures are worth enduring whatever the entitled defenders of the status quo might do.

 

Elections matter. Good governance matters more. Our nation and state have real problems that need real leadership.

Winning the election is just the start

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Here’s a part:

The outcomes of elections are always uncertain and replete with surprises, but it is looking more and more like the Republicans are going to do very well next week. If that should come to pass, I fervently hope that the Republicans govern boldly. Winning elections is the goal of politicians. Leaders act to use the power loaned to them by the voters to solve problems for the betterment of our state and nation, and boy, do we have some real problems.

 

The biggest problem facing our nation right now is inflation. There are many other problems, but runaway inflation kills nations. America is not invulnerable to the whirlwind economic forces that inflation unleashes that have obliterated a hundred nations before us.

 

[…]

 

At the state level, Wisconsin’s biggest problem is the deplorable state of our government education system. Despite lavish spending averaging over $16,000 per child per year (an increase of 19% in just five years), our kids are learning less than ever. Test scores have plummeted to the point that barely a third of Wisconsin’s kids can read, write, or do math at grade level.

 

Our government education system is not just an embarrassment, it is a generational brutality committed on our own children. We are condemning a generation of Wisconsinites to be less educated, less capable, and more ignorant than we are. We are robbing them of their potential and a lifetime of opportunities. Our state government schools’ failure to provide our kids with even a mediocre education – much less a good education – is a cruelty for which our kids will rightfully condemn us.

Be informed. Vote wisely.

Here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News last week

With two weeks until the election, most people have made their choices at the top of the ballot. Unfortunately, with the big races, like for governor and senator, rightfully dominating the news and advertising space, the races and issues further down the ballot are often overlooked. For most Wisconsinites, they will also be voting on a series of binding and non-binding referenda. Some of these referenda have sweeping consequences and should be carefully considered. I highly encourage every voter to go to myvote.wi.gov to see what is on their ballot as it will be different based on location.

 

To pick one of my favorite communities, voters in West Bend have three referenda on their ballots. Two of them are binding and will increase taxes. One of them is nonbinding. Let us take a look. The non-binding referendum is called, “Washington County Election Uniformity Referendum.” This referendum simply asks the voters whether or not the Legislature should begin the process to amend the state constitution to make the state’s election process as uniform as practicable. Under current law, each local election official has wide latitude on how to conduct elections. This results in great variability in terms of ballot access and process depending on where someone lives. I would vote “yes” on this referendum to encourage the legislature to begin the process of ensuring fair and equal ballot access throughout the state. The Legislature can ignore the results either way, but the voters of Washington County should make their wishes known.

 

The first binding referendum is called, “Washington County Anti-Crime Plan Referendum.” Arguing that Washington County is facing an increase in crime, and, in particular, more criminals are coming into the county from Milwaukee County, the County Board wants to increase the Sheriff Department’s budget by about 10% forevermore. To do this, the county wants to increase property taxes by $3.6 million in addition to the maximum allowable property tax increase every year hereafter.

 

Crime in the state — particularly violent crime — has been increasing due to a variety of factors including Gov. Tony Evers’ Parole Commission releasing violent felons early, soft-on-crime judges and district attorneys, and the defunding of police in some of Wisconsin’s largest cities. Washington County is not immune to these larger societal winds, but those winds will not be blocked by an extra $3.6 million in funding for the Sheriff’s Department.

 

Given that the county is not committing to better outcomes with more money (focus on outcomes, not inputs); the county is already well-funded; the county budget is fungible; and the County Board could easily prioritize law enforcement in the existing funding level, I would vote against this referendum.

 

The second binding referendum is entitled, “Moraine Park Technical College General Obligation Bonds Referendum.” This referendum asks the voters to allow MPTC to borrow $55 million for four projects. These projects are to add and improve an advanced manufacturing and trades facilities to the Fond du Lac campus; expand the West Bend campus for manufacturing, automation, and a robotics lab; purchase land and build a fire training facility to certify fire fighters; and add and improve facilities for a health and human services education at the Fond du Lac campus.

 

Hell may be getting frosty, but this is a tax increasing referendum I would seriously consider supporting. MPTC has a strong direct and local impact to the community and economy. It provides a quality, practical education that puts people directly into good paying jobs in our local businesses. Due to the increasingly questionable value of many university programs, technical colleges provide an economical path for students to pursue higher education or a skilled trade. The dollars spent at MPTC have a high rate of return for the community. While I quibble with some of the specifics of the named projects (the fire training facility seems like overkill when there are at least five such facilities in the MPTC district area), the preponderance of the spending is well-aimed at the needs of the local economy.

 

The question is still whether the community can afford it. At a time of high inflation, recession, and looming unemployment, sometimes we must decline even the good ideas. Families throughout the state are making those hard choices and delaying even necessary things because they just cannot afford it right now. Unfortunately, we appear to be at the beginning — not the end — of a tough time for our economy and we will face some tough choices on what to fund. This is something to consider with any request to increase taxing and spending.

 

Self-governance requires all of us to be informed and make good choices. Please take the time to look up what will be on your ballot and do the homework that good citizenship demands.

Be informed. Vote wisely.

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. I take a look down ballot. Here’s a sample:

With two weeks until the election, most people have made their choices at the top of the ballot. Unfortunately, with the big races, like for governor and senator, rightfully dominating the news and advertising space, the races and issues further down the ballot are often overlooked. For most Wisconsinites, they will also be voting on a series of binding and non-binding referenda. Some of these referenda have sweeping consequences and should be carefully considered. I highly encourage every voter to go to myvote.wi.gov to see what is on their ballot as it will be different based on location.

 

To pick one of my favorite communities, voters in West Bend have three referenda on their ballots. Two of them are binding and will increase taxes. One of them is nonbinding. Let us take a look.

 

[…]

 

The second binding referendum is entitled, “Moraine Park Technical College General Obligation Bonds Referendum.” This referendum asks the voters to allow MPTC to borrow $55 million for four projects. These projects are to add and improve an advanced manufacturing and trades facilities to the Fond du Lac campus; expand the West Bend campus for manufacturing, automation, and a robotics lab; purchase land and build a fire training facility to certify fire fighters; and add and improve facilities for a health and human services education at the Fond du Lac campus.

 

Hell may be getting frosty, but this is a tax increasing referendum I would seriously consider supporting.

Monsters in our midst

Here is my full column from the Washington County Daily News this week. I watched a lot more of the trial later in the week and it only got worse.

Thanks to the live stream from Court TV, I have watched dozens and dozens of hours of the trial of Darrell Brooks. It continues this week. I highly encourage readers to tune in for a few hours to watch Brooks in long form instead of in snippets of news story. The man is a monster.

 

Brooks has been charged with 76 crimes including 6 murders after he drove his car through the Waukesha Christmas Parade last year running down at least 67 people. He has chosen to represent himself which puts him in the position of questioning his victims, witnesses, and law enforcement personnel who had to clean up his carnage. Throughout the trial, Brooks’ utter lack of remorse, callous revictimization of people whose lives he has devastated, and mockery of the rule of law is infuriating.

 

I take comfort knowing that when Brooks is convicted and sentenced that Wisconsin now has truth in sentencing. Brooks will never be paroled by the likes of Governor Tony Evers and released back into our midst.

 

When Tony Evers ran for office with Mandela Barnes, he promised to cut Wisconsin’s prison population in half.

 

He has been working hard to keep that promise through his appointed chair of the Wisconsin Parole Commission. Wisconsin ended its parole system about twenty-two years ago in the waning days of Governor Tommy Thompson’s administration, but criminals convicted before that time are still eligible for parole.

 

According to data released by the Wisconsin Parole Commission to conservative news site Wisconsin Right Now, the Wisconsin Parole Commission under Evers’ appointee has been releasing an average of two felons per week with discretionary paroles from January to May of this year. They are on pace to release over 100 of the most vicious murders, rapists, and child molesters this state has ever seen by the end of the year. These monsters will be roaming the streets of Wisconsin.

 

In the gubernatorial debate hosted by the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association between Governor Tony Evers and challenger Tim Michels last week, Evers prevaricated and evaded a question about his liberal support of discretionary paroles. First, Evers said that the governor does not control the Parole Board. Then he took credit for reversing the discretionary early parole of murderer Douglas Balsewicz and firing the Chair of the Parole Board.

 

Then he pivoted to talk about his support for more government spending on shared revenue. At no point did Evers commit to slow or stop the emptying of our prisons of murderers and rapists with discretionary paroles even though he bragged about his ability to do so.

 

Tony Evers is choosing to release violent criminals. He could stop it, but he is not doing so because he wants it to happen. He wants violent felons to be released into our communities because social justice politics is more important to him than victims and their families. Evers’ choices will surely lead to even more victims and families. Wisconsin Right Now has been reminding us of some of the crimes that these criminals committed. Joseph Michalkiewicz was sentenced to life for killing a gas station attendant with a screwdriver, pipe wrench, and hatchet. He was released in January of this year after serving less than twenty years. He is 62 years old.

 

Dennis Steele brutalized and murdered a 3-year-old toddler by breaking his ribs and crushing his skull. He was sentenced to a life sentence. He was released in February after serving just 32 years. He is only 54 years old with many years ahead of him.

 

David Alliet grabbed a UW-Eau Claire student off the street and violently raped her. He was sentenced to 40 years in prison but was released in July after serving only 23 years. He is 53 years old.

 

The list is agonizingly long with hundreds of victims who were killed or forever traumatized by these crooks.

 

One case looks eerily familiar. Shannon Bailey raced his car down a crowded street and onto the sidewalk running down 30 people and killing one. 22 years later, he is back on the street thanks to Evers’ Parole Commission. This is a full 35 years before he would have otherwise been released. If this is the kind of monster that Evers’ Parole Commission released, would they release Darrell Brooks in 22 years if they could?

 

While the passage of time may diminish the memory, it does not diminish the savagery committed by these felons. For every criminal released by Evers’ Parole Commission, there are victims and families whose lives have been forever altered. In many cases, there are victims who never got to see another sunrise. While their lives have been shattered, the monsters who committed the crimes are now enjoying their freedom thanks to the policy decisions of Governor Tony Evers.

 

He could have stopped these felons from being released like he took credit for doing during the debate, but Evers chose to let them all out.

Monsters in our midst

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Here’s a part:

Thanks to the live stream from Court TV, I have watched dozens and dozens of hours of the trial of Darrell Brooks. It continues this week. I highly encourage readers to tune in for a few hours to watch Brooks in long form instead of in snippets of news story. The man is a monster.

 

Brooks has been charged with 76 crimes including 6 murders after he drove his car through the Waukesha Christmas Parade last year running down at least 67 people. He has chosen to represent himself which puts him in the position of questioning his victims, witnesses, and law enforcement personnel who had to clean up his carnage. Throughout the trial, Brooks’ utter lack of remorse, callous revictimization of people whose lives he has devastated, and mockery of the rule of law is infuriating.

 

I take comfort knowing that when Brooks is convicted and sentenced that Wisconsin now has truth in sentencing. Brooks will never be paroled by the likes of Governor Tony Evers and released back into our midst.

 

When Tony Evers ran for office with Mandela Barnes, he promised to cut Wisconsin’s prison population in half.

 

He has been working hard to keep that promise through his appointed chair of the Wisconsin Parole Commission.

 

[…]

 

In the gubernatorial debate hosted by the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association between Governor Tony Evers and challenger Tim Michels last week, Evers prevaricated and evaded a question about his liberal support of discretionary paroles. First, Evers said that the governor does not control the Parole Board. Then he took credit for reversing the discretionary early parole of murderer Douglas Balsewicz and firing the Chair of the Parole Board.

 

Then he pivoted to talk about his support for more government spending on shared revenue. At no point did Evers commit to slow or stop the emptying of our prisons of murderers and rapists with discretionary paroles even though he bragged about his ability to do so.

 

Tony Evers is choosing to release violent criminals. He could stop it, but he is not doing so because he wants it to happen. He wants violent felons to be released into our communities because social justice politics is more important to him than victims and their families.

Our nation is too important to trust to Mandela Barnes

Here is my column from earlier this week in the Washington County Daily News. There is an error in it. I said that there was only one debate, but there was a second debate last night. It was much the same. Anyway, here you go:

Incumbent U.S. Senator Ron Johnson and challenger Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes met last week for their one and only debate before the election to see who should represent Wisconsin in the U.S. Senate for the next six years. The debate was hosted by the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association which lined up the usual panel of Leftist questioners to ask questions from the Left’s perspective while actively avoiding issues that favor the Right.

 

How, for instance, one could ask questions for an hour of candidates for the U.S. Senate without mentioning inflation, Ukraine, our $31 trillion national debt, or the nation’s open border policy — all issues that will be discussed in the Senate — is journalistic malpractice. As the only debate held, it was a poor showing.

 

Both candidates stayed close to their usual comments while layering in criticisms of each other’s positions. The general media consensus is that both candidates articulated their positions effectively and very few minds would be changed. That analysis is largely correct, but it glosses over the casual radicalism expressed by Mandela Barnes. With a smile and comforting voice, Barnes is espousing the same positions as radicals like Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Ilhan Omar. When asked about Milwaukee’s horrific rise in violent crime under Democratic leadership, Barnes’ answer was to spend more tax money on schools and somehow create jobs (he did not say how this would happen). He has long been a champion of defunding the police and rooted for anti-police rioters from the safety of his Twitter account.

 

Barnes has this relationship exactly backward. It is the violent crime that drives families and jobs out of communities. They will not come back until the crime is under control and the only way a civilized society has ever accomplished that is with a professional and effective police force. Barnes’ policies would lead to more crime, fewer jobs and another generation lost to crime and poverty.

 

While Barnes is advocating for cutting police funding, eliminating cash bail, and emptying our prisons of violent criminals, he is also pushing for the suppression of citizens to keep and bear arms. During the debate, Barnes lamented that, “the ATF doesn’t even have searchable databases right now because of the law,” supported universal background checks, and pushed for red flag laws.

 

Let us put those policy positions together. Barnes is advocating for a federal government that tracks every single gun purchase, keeps a database of who owns what guns, and has the power to strip someone of their 2nd Amendment rights without due process if a government official thinks someone might be a threat someday. While violent crooks run free in Barnes’ America, law-abiding citizens might be stripped of their civil rights if they displease a government official.

 

When asked about President Biden’s unconstitutional effort to forgive student loans, Barnes said, “absolutely it’s fair.” If you are a Wisconsinite who responsibly took on debt to attend college and paid it back, chose a career path that did not include college, worked your way through college without debt, earned scholarships, or did not even qualify for student loans, then Barnes thinks it is absolutely fair that you pay off the debt of others.

 

When asked about high gas prices, Barnes had no answer other than to say that we need to focus more on renewable energy. In other words, Barnes would not do anything about high gas prices as a U.S. Senator other than spend more of our money on windmills. This is not a serious policy position that actually addresses the real problem of fuel prices driving up the cost of everything in our economy. One cannot move billions of tons of grain and beef to the stores of America on solar-paneled river barges or wind-driven trains. Barnes would rather we fuel our economy with gas and diesel bought from despots in Russia and the Middle East than let Americans reap the rewards of energy independence.

 

Mandela Barnes is Wisconsin’s Beto O’Rourke. He is an unethical, unserious charlatan who spins a good yarn on the campaign trail while not having any meaningful accomplishments to his name. Our country is too important to trust to such a man.

Our nation is too important to trust to Mandela Barnes

I did what the vast majority of Wisconsinites did not do… I watched the debate between Johnson and Barnes. No, I didn’t watch it live. I have a life at 7 pm on a Friday evening. Thankfully, it can be found in full on Youtube. Here is a preview of my column from the Washington County Daily News today.

Incumbent U.S. Senator Ron Johnson and challenger Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes met last week for their one and only debate before the election to see who should represent Wisconsin in the U.S. Senate for the next six years. The debate was hosted by the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association which lined up the usual panel of Leftist questioners to ask questions from the Left’s perspective while actively avoiding issues that favor the Right.

 

How, for instance, one could ask questions for an hour of candidates for the U.S. Senate without mentioning inflation, Ukraine, our $31 trillion national debt, or the nation’s open border policy — all issues that will be discussed in the Senate — is journalistic malpractice. As the only debate held, it was a poor showing.

 

[…]

 

When asked about Milwaukee’s horrific rise in violent crime under Democratic leadership, Barnes’ answer was to spend more tax money on schools and somehow create jobs (he did not say how this would happen). He has long been a champion of defunding the police and rooted for anti-police rioters from the safety of his Twitter account.

 

Barnes has this relationship exactly backward. It is the violent crime that drives families and jobs out of communities. They will not come back until the crime is under control and the only way a civilized society has ever accomplished that is with a professional and effective police force. Barnes’ policies would lead to more crime, fewer jobs and another generation lost to crime and poverty.

 

While Barnes is advocating for cutting police funding, eliminating cash bail, and emptying our prisons of violent criminals, he is also pushing for the suppression of citizens to keep and bear arms. During the debate, Barnes lamented that, “the ATF doesn’t even have searchable databases right now because of the law,” supported universal background checks, and pushed for red flag laws.

 

Let us put those policy positions together. Barnes is advocating for a federal government that tracks every single gun purchase, keeps a database of who owns what guns, and has the power to strip someone of their 2nd Amendment rights without due process if a government official thinks someone might be a threat someday. While violent crooks run free in Barnes’ America, law-abiding citizens might be stripped of their civil rights if they displease a government official.

 

When asked about President Biden’s unconstitutional effort to forgive student loans, Barnes said, “absolutely it’s fair.”

Evers and Barnes run from their records

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. You know, it’s really helpful when people write down what they actually believe. All you have to do is read it. Here’s a part:

You can tell that it is October before an election because the political commercials are inescapable. From their commercials, one might be bamboozled into thinking that Democrats Tony Evers and Mandela Barnes are tax-cutting, crime fighting, small government conservatives despite a lengthy history of being unadulterated leftists. Thankfully, as governor and lieutenant governor, they took the time to write down their ideas and priorities in a budget proposal.

 

The 2021-23 Executive Budget is the budget proposal that the governor submits to the legislature to launch the budget process. It is a document written exclusively by the executive branch and represents the governor’s priorities and policy initiatives. Let us look back to the early months of last year when the governor and lieutenant governor were laying out their priorities in the midst of a pandemic.

 

Despite Evers’ and Barnes’ claims to support tax cuts, the executive budget included an incredible $1 billion (with a “B”) net tax increase. At a time when Wisconsinites were still struggling to recover their livelihoods and businesses were slipping into bankruptcy after Governor Evers forced mass closures, he sought to foist a massive tax increase on the people of Wisconsin.

 

Perhaps more interesting is exactly what taxes he wanted to increase. The biggest proposed tax increase was a $540.1 million increase of individual and corporate income taxes. The second biggest proposed tax increase was a change in the tax code to increase taxes on manufacturing and agricultural companies by $259.1 million. The third largest proposed tax increase was a $350.5 million increase on individual capital gains. All of these taxes would have hit middle class and higher income Wisconsinites hard and pushed more manufacturing out of Wisconsin.

 

But Evers did not stop there.

 

[…]

 

Inexplicably, Evers’s budget proposal would have legalized marijuana for 18-year-olds but raised the age at which people can buy tobacco or vape to 21 years old. Evers supports people getting high so that they will more readily accept his policy proposals.

 

Governor Evers maintains light schedule while destroying lives

Here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News earlier this week:

Actions have consequences, or so goes the adage. For some, however, they can make devastating decisions that impact millions of people without ever feeling the slightest sting from their decisions. Such is the case with Governor Evers and so many other government officials and bureaucrats.

 

Empower Wisconsin obtained Governor Evers’ official schedule through an open records request, and it is appalling. Evers’ schedule shows that the man, lifelong government apparatchik that he is, will never be accused of being a workaholic. His calendar shows that most weeks the governor is averaging a languid schedule of something between 30 and 36 hours of work. “Work” time includes time being transited to and fro in a chauffeured car or on the state plane provided by state taxpayers.

 

A normal workday for Governor Evers has been quite leisurely. He wakes from his nightly slumber in the cavernous and luxurious mansion provided to him by taxpayers overlooking Lake Mendota in the tony community of Poplar Bluff. He typically begins work in the mid-morning with perhaps a phone call or perhaps a video conference in the Executive Mansion. Usually after lunch, he will be chauffeured the 3.4 miles to his office in the state Capital building. Almost without exception, he is back at the mansion by 5 p.m. in time to catch reruns of “The Carol Burnett Show” on Decades TV.

 

It’s good to be the guv.

 

More infuriating than Evers’ semi-retired schedule is the specific schedule he kept during those whirlwind days earlier during the pandemic. In those early days when we were seeing the spread of COVID and getting false projections that it could kill millions within weeks, Governor Evers maintained his normal workload.

 

As Empower Wisconsin highlights, on March 13, 2020, Evers ordered the closing of all K-12 government and private schools. This marked the beginning of educational and psychological damage to our kids that will last for decades and caused untold upheaval in families throughout Wisconsin. On that day Evers started his workday at 9:30, made it to his office at 2 p.m., and was back in the mansion by 5 p.m.

 

On March 23, 2020, Governor Evers announced that he was going to order all “non-essential” business to close the following day. This single authoritarian act forced millions of Wisconsinites out of work, pushed many Wisconsin small businesses into bankruptcy, and brutalized families who lost their source of income with a stroke of Evers’ pen.

 

That day Evers put in a hard day of work — for him. He got up early and began working at 8:30 a.m. He made it to the office at 1:15 p.m. and was still back at the mansion by 5 p.m. He burned the midnight oil with a work call at 6 p.m. before ending his workday.

 

The point of this is not to ridicule our governor for his pathetic work ethic and disinterest in actually doing his job. The point is to highlight how easy the governor has had it while his actions have destroyed livelihoods, crippled kids’ futures, and forced families into dependency.

 

Throughout the pandemic, Governor Evers was never touched by the consequences of his decisions. He never went a single day without a paycheck or generous benefits. He never had to cut back on groceries, turn down the heat in winter, or skip paying a few bills to get by.

 

Governor Evers never felt the pain of a small-business owner who sat at her desk and made the hard decisions to drain her family’s savings to keep the business afloat for another couple of months in the hope that they might be able to make it. Evers never sat across the table from good people and had to take away their livelihoods because there was no more money. The governor was blissfully eating ice cream in his free mansion when single moms went home and had to explain to their children that they needed to save money because she had lost her job.

 

Governor Evers never had to hastily call his parents to watch the kids because schools and child care centers were suddenly closed. He never had to watch his kid, who struggled with school, sink into failure and depression because virtual learning was not working for him. Evers never had to go to work during the pandemic as so many “essential” people did, and then come home and work another four or five hours to help his kids navigate recorded lessons and homework.

 

While Wisconsinites were struggling with Evers’ idiotic and tyrannical edicts during the pandemic, the governor kept his lackadaisical schedule, ate his ice cream, played pickleball, and led his best life at taxpayers’ expense. It is offensive.

 

It is equally offensive that the governor is continuing to dole out our tax dollars in dribs and drabs as “relief” and expects people to be thankful. He behaves like an abusive husband who hands his wife a bandage after beating the snot out of her and expects gratitude. His actions deserve contempt, not appreciation.

 

The pandemic taught us a lot of things about the threadbare parts of our social fabric and the yawning divide between government and the people it is supposed to serve. More than ever, we need to elect people who do not come from government but seek to bring it to heel. We must never forget the havoc wreaked by Governor Evers.

Terrible school performance demands real action

Here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News last week:

In this column last week, I lamented the abysmal performance of our government schools. At all levels, barely a third of our kids are at least proficient in language or math skills. In some cases, it is far less than a third. Such poor performance demands action. What would I do? I’m glad you asked.

 

Before we begin, we must understand a few things. We, the people, have a Constitutional and moral obligation to provide for the education of our children. An education is not only a valuable asset for an individual, but an educated citizenry is a prerequisite for sustained self-governance.

 

There is no requirement, however, that the government operate the means of delivering that education. In fact, as the data shows, the government is really terrible at delivering education. While we are compelled to pay for education with our tax dollars, we are also obligated to find the best means of delivering that education.

 

Also, kids are individuals. They are not cattle. They learn at different speeds, with different methods, and with different styles. It is unrealistic to expect any single school to cater to the individual needs of students. Our kids are better served if we encourage the development of an educational heterogeny and trust parents to choose the best option for their children. All that understood, first, we must implement universal school choice with equal funding for each child irrespective of the school they attend. In Wisconsin’s current School Choice programs, taxpayers get a bargain because they provide much less money for a kid who attends a choice school than if the kid attends a government school. We must equalize funding to equalize choice. The current rate in Wisconsin is $16,017 per child. The full funding should follow the child.

 

Next, we should implement rigorous, focused, testing of core subjects for all schools that receive funding. The taxpayers are paying for a quality education and deserve to know that their money is being well spent. The key, however, is that the testing must only test true core subjects and not impose any other strictures on the schools. If 70% of the children are proficient in reading, writing, math, and civics, then that is more than twice as good as the current government schools are delivering. We should use the power of the purse to demand very high standards in a very limited number of key subjects.

 

Once the funding and testing infrastructure is in place, Wisconsin should privatize all K-12 government schools. All of them. We should get government out of the business of delivering education.

 

When I have suggested privatization in the past, people tend to have one of two sincere reservations. Some folks worry about for-profit schools. We have been culturalized to think that profit is incongruous with education. It is not. Capitalism and the profit motive have improved the lives of more people than any other system in the history of humankind. They have lifted people out of poverty and cured diseases. Education is not immune from its benefits. From a taxpayer perspective, if a school can deliver 96% reading proficiency and make a profit, we should be delighted.

 

Some folks also worry about schools that may teach values with which they disagree. They usually ignore the fact that our government schools are already teaching values with which many disagree, thus instigating controversy. Privatization must come with getting government away from dictating values and relegate it to simply enforcing core standards.

 

With diversity of schools, we may have schools that teach values rooted in Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Critical Race Theory, secularism, or any number of different value systems. We have a diverse society, and that diversity will be reflected in our schools. Families will choose and government will leave them alone to believe what they will. We should abandon the notion that we must have uniformity of beliefs in order to have uniformity in education funding. If we truly believe in diversity, then we must actually practice it.

 

In all actions, we must be obsessive about educational outcomes and unapologetic about demanding them. If we can double proficiency in reading, writing, and math, our children will be equipped to build better futures for themselves and our entire society will benefit. If we can triple proficiency (sadly, there is room to triple it), the individual and societal benefits are immeasurable.

 

That is what I would do. What would you do to improve education for our kids?

Terrible school performance demands real action

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Readers of this blog won’t be surprised by the thoughts. Here’s a bit:

Also, kids are individuals. They are not cattle. They learn at different speeds, with different methods, and with different styles. It is unrealistic to expect any single school to cater to the individual needs of students. Our kids are better served if we encourage the development of an educational heterogeny and trust parents to choose the best option for their children. All that understood, first, we must implement universal school choice with equal funding for each child irrespective of the school they attend. In Wisconsin’s current School Choice programs, taxpayers get a bargain because they provide much less money for a kid who attends a choice school than if the kid attends a government school. We must equalize funding to equalize choice. The current rate in Wisconsin is $16,017 per child. The full funding should follow the child.

 

Next, we should implement rigorous, focused, testing of core subjects for all schools that receive funding. The taxpayers are paying for a quality education and deserve to know that their money is being well spent. The key, however, is that the testing must only test true core subjects and not impose any other strictures on the schools. If 70% of the children are proficient in reading, writing, math, and civics, then that is more than twice as good as the current government schools are delivering. We should use the power of the purse to demand very high standards in a very limited number of key subjects.

 

Once the funding and testing infrastructure is in place, Wisconsin should privatize all K-12 government schools. All of them. We should get government out of the business of delivering education.

 

When I have suggested privatization in the past, people tend to have one of two sincere reservations. Some folks worry about for-profit schools. We have been culturalized to think that profit is incongruous with education. It is not. Capitalism and the profit motive have improved the lives of more people than any other system in the history of humankind. They have lifted people out of poverty and cured diseases. Education is not immune from its benefits. From a taxpayer perspective, if a school can deliver 96% reading proficiency and make a profit, we should be delighted.

Step 1: Admit that you have a problem

Here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News this week. It is particularly apropos in light of the state DPI releasing their budget request asking for more and more money.

The data is telling. The more we have spent on K-12 education, the worse the results have gotten. If we are to make data-driven decisions, there are only two conclusions. 1) There is no correlation between money spent and educational outcomes. The outcomes are a result of other inputs. 2) There is a negative correlation between money spent and educational outcomes. More money actually results in poorer outcomes.

Personally, I think the answer is #2. Here’s why: once basic needs are funded (we did that a long time ago), more money becomes a distraction from core education. Every administrator, department, specialist, etc. who is hired is looking for something to do. They create new curriculum, new programs, change standards, create study committees, have meetings, and on and on and on. All of that is time that is not being spent in classrooms teaching core subjects in proven ways.

This happens in corporate America too. When companies get fat, they spend a lot of time-wasting energy around the edges of their core businesses and profits erode. That’s why the market tends to love it when a company cuts fat in a deep layoff.

Anyway, here’s the column. Look at the data:

The first step in the renowned twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous is to admit that you have a problem. One cannot begin the path to recovery if one does not admit to having a problem. Well, Wisconsin has a huge problem. Our government education system is utterly failing our kids and it is getting worse every year. Our governor, Tony Evers, with a lifetime spent in government education, accepts such failure as normal and acceptable. It is not.

 

According to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, every significant benchmark of student achievement is in freefall since well before the abysmal response of government schools accelerated the decline. Student proficiency on the ACT is down.

 

Between 2016-2017 and 2020-2021, the percentage of Wisconsin eleventh graders who were proficient or better on the English language arts part of the ACT, which measures understanding of English, writing, and knowledge of language, dropped from 39.5% to 33%. That is a 16.4% drop in scores in five years.

 

Math scores are even worse. Over the same time span, the percentage of Wisconsin’s eleventh graders who were proficient or better at mathematics dropped from 35.7% to 25.5%. That is a 28.6% drop in proficiency in just five years.

 

The story is the same for the ACT Aspire, which is given to ninth and tenth graders. Proficiency in English dropped from 41.2% to 32.4% between 2016-2017 and 2020-2021. In Mathematics, proficiency dropped from 37.1% to 29.8%. Those are declines of 21.4% and 19.7%, respectively.

 

Looking at the younger students between third and eight grades who take the Forward exams, the decline remains consistent and persistent. On the Forward exam over the same five years, the number of students who were proficient or better in English language arts declined 24.1% from 44.4% to 33.7%. In mathematics, their scores declined 21.5% from 42.8% to 33.6%.

 

But let us step back from the cold numbers for a moment and put them in perspective. The fact than only 33.7% of Wisconsin’s students between third and eighth grades are at least proficient in English language arts is abysmal. According to the DPI, the Forward Exam tests what, “students should know and be able to do in order to be college and career ready.” That means that barely a third of Wisconsin’s students are meeting grade-level standards to be ready to attend college or start a career. Only one in three of Wisconsin’s kids are proficient in English or math — two key skills for success as an adult.

 

What the heck are we doing? Is that really good enough? Two-thirds of our kids are falling behind and we collectively shrug and accept it? Have we been so cowed by the government education bullies that we are willing to accept that their failure is normal and satisfactory?

 

Our governor thinks it is. On his campaign website, he brags about his accomplishments on education. As proof, he noticeably fails to mention anything about student achievement. Instead, he cites the fact that the state spends more money than ever on K-12 education. If the spending is not resulting on better results for our kids, then what is the point?

 

In fact, the more we spend, the worse our student achievement is getting. According to DPI data, between the 2016-2017 and 2020-2021 school years, total state and local spending on government K-12 schools ballooned 14.8% from $11.5 billion to $13.2 billion. Over the same period, total enrollment declined 3.6% from 855,307 to 823,827 students. That is a whopping 19% increase in spending per student over just five years.

 

What are we getting for our money? Why are we continuing to pump more money into government bureaucracy who produces increasingly poor results every year? Governor Tony Evers recently announced that he wants to spend an additional $2 billion on K-12 schools. Given that a $1.7 billion increase in spending over the last five years resulted in a 24.1% drop in English scores on the Forward exam, will another $2 billion push scores down further?

 

Like any addiction, spending more money on it makes it worse because the spending obscures the real problems. In Wisconsin, we have been failing our kids and making ourselves feel better about it by spending more money on them. They do not need more money. They need a quality education and our government education establishment is increasingly unable or unwilling to give them that education.

 

It is time to stop. Stop the excessive spending. Stop the pretending that our government education system works. Stop accepting abysmal performance as normal or acceptable. Stop rewarding failure. Admit that we have a real problem and we are failing our kids at every grade level.

 

We cannot begin on the path to fixing our government education system until we admit that it has failed. As a lifelong insider of that system, Governor Tony Evers is never going to take the first step to recovery. We need a governor who will.

 

We need a governor who will focus on outcomes instead of inputs. We need a governor who will value our kids more than the system. Let me rephrase that … our kids need a governor who will value them more than government workers. Tony Evers is not that governor.

Step 1: Admit that you have a problem

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Here’s a part:

The first step in the renowned twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous is to admit that you have a problem. One cannot begin the path to recovery if one does not admit to having a problem. Well, Wisconsin has a huge problem. Our government education system is utterly failing our kids and it is getting worse every year. Our governor, Tony Evers, with a lifetime spent in government education, accepts such failure as normal and acceptable. It is not.

 

According to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, every significant benchmark of student achievement is in freefall since well before the abysmal response of government schools accelerated the decline. Student proficiency on the ACT is down.

 

Between 2016-2017 and 2020-2021, the percentage of Wisconsin eleventh graders who were proficient or better on the English language arts part of the ACT, which measures understanding of English, writing, and knowledge of language, dropped from 39.5% to 33%. That is a 16.4% drop in scores in five years.

 

Math scores are even worse…

 

[…]

 

But let us step back from the cold numbers for a moment and put them in perspective. The fact than only 33.7% of Wisconsin’s students between third and eighth grades are at least proficient in English language arts is abysmal. According to the DPI, the Forward Exam tests what, “students should know and be able to do in order to be college and career ready.” That means that barely a third of Wisconsin’s students are meeting grade-level standards to be ready to attend college or start a career. Only one in three of Wisconsin’s kids are proficient in English or math — two key skills for success as an adult.

 

What the heck are we doing? Is that really good enough? Two-thirds of our kids are falling behind and we collectively shrug and accept it? Have we been so cowed by the government education bullies that we are willing to accept that their failure is normal and satisfactory?

 

Our governor thinks it is. On his campaign website, he brags about his accomplishments on education. As proof, he noticeably fails to mention anything about student achievement. Instead, he cites the fact that the state spends more money than ever on K-12 education. If the spending is not resulting on better results for our kids, then what is the point?

 

[…]

 

Like any addiction, spending more money on it makes it worse because the spending obscures the real problems. In Wisconsin, we have been failing our kids and making ourselves feel better about it by spending more money on them. They do not need more money. They need a quality education and our government education establishment is increasingly unable or unwilling to give them that education.

 

It is time to stop. Stop the excessive spending. Stop the pretending that our government education system works. Stop accepting abysmal performance as normal or acceptable. Stop rewarding failure. Admit that we have a real problem and we are failing our kids at every grade level.

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