Beginning at 11 a.m. today in Madison, the Joint Committee on Finance goes into executive session on a number of items, but two of special interest to Milwaukee public school parents, students, employees and supporters.
Those folks are concerned about the upcoming state budget cuts to education and the potential for a voucher program expanded to include to families of means.
Those items will be part of the discussion of the budgets of Department of Public Instruction – General School Aids and Revenue Limits and Department of Public Instruction – Categorical Aids.
"Budgets are about choices and priorities," said state superintendent of public instruction Tony Evers in a statement this morning. "Today I call on members of the Joint Committee on Finance to show citizens across Wisconsin that they have their priorities straight by reversing the proposed cuts to Wisconsin’s public schools."
The committee – led by senate chair Alberta Darling and assembly chair Robin Vos – will also discuss the Wisconsin Technical College System, Department of Workforce Development, Department of Transportation – Transportation Finance, Department of Transportation – Local Transportation Aid, Department of Transportation – State Highway Program, and Department of Transportation – State Patrol.
Folks I've heard from have expressed little expectation – but a lot of hope – that the legislature will reconsider its approach to Milwaukee's schools and their students, more than 80 percent of whom live in poverty.
"Such a drastic cut to education will have far reaching consequences – including for our state’s economy," Congresswoman Gwen Moore told me in an e-mail today.
"I respect Gov. Walker’s duty to present a balanced budget, but his proposal to cut more than $800 million from our schools is the wrong choice. When coupled with his efforts to lift the income and participation caps for vouchers, we will harm our children and our public schools. This is Robin Hood in reverse. Taking $6,000 from our poorest students – and in effect – giving it to our richest students has nothing to do with balancing budget."
MPS superintendent Dr. Gregory Thornton also posted a blog on the subject today. Thornton is in Madison today for the meeting.
Meanwhile, WEAC and other unions are celebrating Dane County Judge MaryAnn Sumi's permanent injunction, issued today, against the collective bargaining law.
Clear and convincing evidence that the open meetings law was violated led to a judge’s ruling today striking down a law that set Wisconsin labor relations back more than 50 years. The Wisconsin Education Association Council, the state’s largest union of educators, issued the following statement, attributable to WEAC President Mary Bell, a teacher from Wisconsin Rapids:
"Wisconsin public school employees applaud the ruling today that strikes down this backward legislation", said state teachers union president Mary Bell, who is also a Wisconsin Rapids educator.
"It is not in the best interest of students, schools or Wisconsin’s future to take the voices of educators out of our classrooms. We’ve seen how this issue has polarized our state."
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.