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.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Civil Discourse - An Occasional Attempt To Restore Civility To Our Civic Discourse

By Roger Utnehmer

Two legislative proposals under consideration in Madison would inject politics into what should be a non-partisan Wisconsin Supreme Court. One proposal would have the chief justice, now determined by seniority, elected by a majority of members. The other would require justices to retire at age seventy-five.

Both appear to target Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson.

The seven member court is divided. Four justices are described as conservative and three as liberal. Abrahamson, regarded as liberal, would probably not be elected chief justice if the selection were put to a vote of the court. Selecting the chief justice based on seniority keeps politics out of the process.

The proposal to require retirement at seventy-five also targets Abrahamson who is eighty-one. Voters knew her age when they overwhelmingly re-elected her in 2009.

If representatives are sincere when they deny the personal focus of this legislation is the removal of Chief Justice Abrahamson, then the proposals should be amended by grandfathering existing members of the court and making them effective with future elections.

Monday, January 5, 2015

A wake up call for incumbents

By Bill Kraus

Reform is something to talk about not do in the halls of government, which are for the most part bastions of the status quo.

There are a couple of possible exceptions however.

Not surprisingly these reforms (a) protect and/or (b) enhance the permanence and power of the incumbents whose hands are on the levers of power.

The first is called “disclosure.” When the Supreme Court opened what seemed at the time to be the floodgates to spending by outsiders on political campaigns, but has turned out to be more of a garden hose, the court said that the freedom to spend did not include the right to hide. The court said they would look favorably upon any legislation that disclosed who was doing the spending.

This, surprisingly, did not evoke a wave of disclosure proposals. The incumbents who were given this power and encouragement were told by the newly unregulated potential spenders that they didn't like disclosure and their contributors really didn't like it and would go away rather than tell the wider world who they were.