Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Unfinished Business 3: Law Enforcement Elections

By Bill Kraus

Judges are elected in non-partisan [in quotes] spring elections in Wisconsin. As partisan organizations and their money made an appearance in these contests on the indisputable premise that it is cheaper to buy influence with four Supreme Court justices than with 50 members of the state assembly, a law was passed to fully fund those elections with public money [inadequately but admirably] which was important and to provide public money to offset and discourage campaign spending by third party organizations of all stripes and colors, which was essential. This innovation got its inaugural run in a campaign which coincided with the winter of riotous Wisconsin which was set off by Act 10. It’s inaugural run turned into a referendum on Act 10 instead of a contest between judicial candidates. Everything and everyone was demonized in that tumultuous moment, including the fledgling Impartial Justice law. The governor and the legislature offhandedly cut off the crucial public money in the wake of that election and the law died in the delivery room so to speak.

Another Supreme Court election looms. There is no Act 10 hanging in the balance, but the possibility that this election will be less about the candidates and more about a philosophical fight between a couple of monied outsiders with a score to settle looms.

Monday, January 26, 2015

More Unfinished Businesss 2: Public Education

By Bill Kraus

The distinguishing tradition in our country is free, mandatory, universal public education through high school for all. This is a colossally difficult thing to deliver to our diverse population, many of whom are indifferent or hostile to the offer and more who are ill equipped to take advantage of it.

The other distinguishing tradition about public education, to steal from a lament in the advertising business, is “everyone wants to be an art director.”

Public education is a mosh pit of reform, regulation, review, change. Everybody has an idea about public education. Everybody wants to dive in and evaluate teachers. Nobody respects the organization of public education. Nobody seems to care that the principals have the job of hiring, firing, and managing the teachers, like managers everywhere of everything do. All reforms bypass the management people and go right to evaluating what students have learned and what and how teachers have taught. The management superstructure whose job it is to do that is bypassed and ignored. Everybody is a quarterback and every day is Monday morning.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Unfinished Business 1

By Bill Kraus

It’s an insiders game, and the insiders will do what they can to keep it that way. They will say that everyone else is uninterested in politics and governing, and there is plenty of proof that this is dismayingly true. Not as true as they say though.

It is perpetuated by the insiders in several ways. They don’t invite outsiders in. They are particularly wary of academics who at one time provided the kind of expertise and creative thinking that made things like the Wisconsin Idea possible. In Wisconsin it was a rare government that didn’t have UW staffers or professors in cabinet jobs and sprinkled elsewhere throughout the government in positions of power. They have been replaced in at least the last two administrations by legislative staffers, bureau careerists, former legislators and other insiders.

The Blue Ribbon Commissions that looked at the mole hills like efficiency as well as the mountains like public education are nowhere to be seen. Even the studies and recommendations like those that came out of Bonnie Reese’s legislative council where legislators and outside experts and activists pondered the imponderable have fallen into disuse. These not only brought citizens and outsiders into the inner circle, they also give citizens and outsiders a relationship with and understanding of the bureaucracy and bureaucrats who make the government work. Bring them back.