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Contempt for teachers PDF Print E-mail
News
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 17 June 2015 19:36

The proposal to abolish virtually all licensing requirements for teachers in Wisconsin attacks the heart of education quality

What is it about teachers that provokes such mean-spirited behavior by some Wisconsin legislators?

    Are these grown-up politicians still bitter over mediocre middle-school report cards that got them grounded by their parents? Still mad about being sent to the office for being naughty in a grade-school classroom? Miffed over getting an “F” on a freshman English essay because the teacher took issue with serial misspellings?


    Outside of the Capitol halls controlled by the Republican majorities of the Wisconsin Senate and Assembly, teachers are respected. National opinion polls consistently rank teaching among the most respected professions. Anecdotal evidence of high regard for teachers abounds. Ask anyone, from recent graduates to senior citizens, and you will likely hear of teachers fondly remembered for making a difference in their lives.


    But in the Legislature the budgeting process has been perverted into an assault on teaching. Proposals to reduce state funding for K-12 public schools and the University of Wisconsin system, to shift tax dollars from public schools to private schools and to undermine tenure for UW professors all have a negative effect on public school teachers. But the topper, the affront that reeks of contempt for teachers, is the proposal to allow people who do not have teacher training or even a college degree to be licensed as teachers in Wisconsin.


    The proposal would make Wisconsin the only state in the U.S. to certify teachers without bachelor’s degrees. Wisconsin would have the distinction of the lowest standards for teachers in the nation.


    Students will certainly pay a price in the eventual deterioration of the quality of their education. But the instant harm of the proposal, which State School Supt. Tony Evers has aptly described as “breathtaking in its stupidity,” would be its impact on teachers.

    If signed into law—and there are strong indications it will be in the final budget—the dismantling of standards for their profession will send an explicit message to teachers that their training and their degrees in their chosen fields of education are considered meaningless. It will tell them their work is so ordinary, so undemanding, that anyone can do it.

    The provision was slipped into the budget by the Joint Finance Committee at 1:30 a.m. on May 20 with no public debate. Its sponsor, Rep. Mary Czaja (R-Irma), said it was intended to help rural schools find teachers.

    Yet representatives of rural schools seemed dismayed if not appalled by the idea. One of them, Jerry Fiene, executive director of the Wisconsin Rural Schools Alliance, said, “This totally destroys any licensure requirements we have in Wisconsin. It’s very concerning.”


    Under the plan to lower teacher standards to rock bottom, any person could be licensed to teach any non-core subject in grades six through 12, with no college education required. Anyone with a bachelor’s degree in any subject could be licensed to teach English, math, science and social studies, with no teacher training required.


    Education experts across the country have condemned or ridiculed the Wisconsin Legislature’s astonishing willingness to undermine teacher standards, but it doesn’t take an expert to see it as mindless meddling in necessarily demanding licensing requirements.


    Teaching is a skill that needs to be taught. That is the purpose of education schools. Subject matter needs comprehensive study. Aspiring teachers need the intellectual rigor that comes with the mastery of a college course of study and the guidance of mentors that is required under current teacher certification rules. There is no reason this should not apply to non-core subjects, including technical education, as much as to the basics.


    There is much irony in the claim by its backers that weakening standards would make it easier for schools to find teachers. The opposite, that it would reduce the number of available teachers, is more likely true. Who would want to go into a profession that is treated so shabbily by a state’s legislators?


    Why any lawmaker would want his or her name associated with this codified denigration of teachers is beyond understanding. We can’t imagine that the people of Wisconsin want anything to do with it. We suspect it is a nearly universal hope across the state that clear-thinking Senate and Assembly Republicans will stand up and demand that this idiotic measure be excised from the budget and consigned to the nearest wastebasket.


    Failing that, it will be up to Gov. Scott Walker, who has the most powerful item-veto authority in the nation, to get rid of it. He has not been considered a friend of public education, but with a stroke of his pen he could mitigate that damning perception.


 
Spare Fish Day a needless mandate PDF Print E-mail
News
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Thursday, 11 June 2015 21:28

Requiring thousands of Fish Day attendees to wear wristbands in order to buy a beer is a solution in search of a problem

Let us now accept guidance from an ancient aphorism that has proved valid time and again in the course of human events. Expressed in proper English, it counsels would-be do-gooders: If something isn’t broken, don’t try to fix it.

    Port Fish Day isn’t broken. It doesn’t need fixing.

    Fish Day is a smooth-running operation that on a single day brings thousands of people to downtown Port Washington, shows them a good time and raises a lot of money that civic organizations invest in maintaining the good life in the community.

    It is not broken, not in need of a tune-up, not even a squirt of WD-40.

    Yet now it is being pressed to make a repair it doesn’t need or want.

    Police Chief Kevin Hingiss has proposed that people buying alcoholic drinks at Fish Day be required to wear wristbands.

    It may sound like a small thing, but nothing is small about Fish Day. The celebration can attract as many as 30,000 people. Fitting wristbands on the vast number of them who wish to buy a cold beer to go with their fish and chips would be, as one Fish Day official aptly put it, a “logistical nightmare.”

    Under the proposal, people would have to line up at points near the entrances to the celebration grounds, present a driver’s license or ID card and, if 21 or older, have a band sealed around their wrists. The point of this exercise, the chief says, would be to combat underage drinking.

    The police chief’s interest in Fish Day is quite understandable. It’s a big day for police, and not in a festive way. Merely the presence in the downtown of a crowd more than double the size of the city’s population presents challenges. Add to that the impressive quantity of beer consumed in connection with the event, and it is safe to say Port police officers earn their pay on Fish Day.

    But this is not to say that Fish Day is some sort of bacchanal. On the contrary, drink-induced misbehavior has been relatively minor considering the size of the crowd. Over the years, the problems police have had to deal with mostly involved people of legal drinking age, many of whom did their imbibing at private parties or local taverns. Wristbands would do nothing to alleviate these problems.

    The wristband requirement would add a new complication to the already complex process of managing the celebration. Imagine the length of the lines of Fish Day goers queuing up for the mandatory bands. Logistical nightmare indeed.

    Beyond the impact on Fish Day organizers, consider the effect on the people who come to downtown Port Washington to enjoy Fish Day. Whether they are visitors or residents, these folks are all Fish Day’s guests, and they deserve hospitable treatment. What’s more, they are customers whose purchases are important to the community. Regardless of their age, every one of them who might want to buy an alcoholic drink—even senior citizens—would have to endure the aggravation of waiting in line and producing identification for the privilege of wearing a wristband.

    The volunteers who work at Fish Day stands are well trained in the law’s requirements for alcohol servers and diligent in applying them.

    Fish Day servers control underage drinking by employing that marvelous quality called human discretion. If a person looks to be too young to drink, they don’t serve him or her without checking IDs to verify they’re over 21. If a person’s appearance makes it obvious that he or she is old enough to drink legally, they sell them a beer.

    Members of the city’s Finance and License Committee expressed sensible reservations when the wristband idea was first proposed. There are ample reasons for the committee to reject it altogether. The most compelling one is that Port Fish Day doesn’t need a gratuitous mandate from the police department. After more than 50 years of operation, it knows how to run a successful festival safely and efficiently.

    It’s not broken. Therefore, it doesn’t need to be fixed.



 
Thanks for the federal interference PDF Print E-mail
News
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 03 June 2015 17:37

This federal tax and mandated state spending show that sportsmen and tree huggers have common cause in conservation

The elected officials currently in charge of the government of the state of Wisconsin have made clear their disdain for the federal government and taxes. They’ve demonstrated the former by rejecting more than $5 billion in federal money to expand Medicaid and build a high-speed railroad line and the latter by refusing to rely on taxes to meet critical needs, such as paying for road maintenance.

    But they are sure to make an exception in the next few weeks when a big check arrives from a federal program that is funded entirely by taxes, a substantial portion of which are paid by Wisconsin residents, and mandates millions of dollars in spending by the state.

    The program is named Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration and Sport Fish Restoration. This year it will give Wisconsin $36.5 million for conservation, and will require the state to match 25% of that amount.

    You won’t hear this federal intrusion into state government being bad mouthed in Madison, because even the most obtuse politicians have learned that the people of Wisconsin support taxing and spending on conservation.    

    The program is funded by federal excise taxes on boat fuel, fishing tackle, archery equipment, firearms and ammunition and is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

    This federal aid was established by Congress in 1937 to fund programs for conservation of wildlife habitat, but over the years it has supported the preservation of natural resources and outdoor recreation in other ways and has benefitted every American who appreciates nature and the outdoors.


    The director of the program, Dan Ashe, put it like this: “These funds are the cornerstone of state-based efforts that are critical to the preservation of America’s wildlife and natural resources. . . . providing opportunities for the next generation of Americans to get outdoors, experience our wild places and learn the importance of conserving our natural heritage.”

     The success of the program illustrates a phenomenon state politicians bumped into this spring when Gov. Scott Walker’s budget sought to shut down the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program: Hunters and fishermen and environmentalists are kindred spirits when it comes to protecting the state’s natural resources.

    Led by a diverse aggregation of conservation minded groups including land trusts and hunting organizations, public reaction was so opposed to shutting down the program that has protected endangered forests, waterways and prairies that the Legislature is moving to reject the governor’s budget proposal and renew stewardship funding.

    The defense of the Stewardship Program and the popularity of the wildlife and fish restoration program show that the groups that might be categorized as sportsmen and tree huggers are not exactly strange bedfellows. When it comes to the environment, whether they value it for hunting and fishing or merely to pass through as hikers or birdwatchers, they have a common cause in supporting government action to protect it.

    As an ironic aside, it is interesting to note that the federal wildlife and fish program will distribute more money to the states this year than every before thanks in part to the surge in firearms sales.

    There may be a few hard cases in the political crowd that has demonized federal authority over states who object to the wildlife restoration program, but they wouldn’t dare say it out loud. For the people of Wisconsin know this is a federal law, tax and mandate that help ensure that our great outdoors will remain great.



 
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