LARSON REPORT

WEEKLY NEWSLETTER



 

 

October 31, 2013

     

 
















 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


CONTACT ME


Please feel free to contact me with any concerns or opinions you might have.

Office Phone: (608) 266-7505
Toll-free Phone: (800) 361-5487

Email:
Sen.Larson@legis.wi.gov

 

Mailing Address:

State Capitol
P.O. Box 7882
Madison, WI 53707

 

Web Site:

SenatorChrisLarson.com

 

Find Me on Facebook and Twitter:

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

COMMUNITY EVENTS
 

Supporting our neighbors and being involved in our community is of the utmost importance. Some community events that might be of interest to you and your family are listed below. 
 

 

21st Annual Dia de los Muertos Exhibition

Date: Now through Sat., November 16

Location: Milwaukee

Description: This October marks 21 years of the Walker's Point Center of the Arts celebrating Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), a rich Mexican tradition. Curated by local art historian Juan Lopez, this traditional celebration will include a touch of contemporary flavor with ofrendas (altars/offerings) created by local artists of various backgrounds in addition to sculpture and 2-D work related to the holiday. Dia de los Muertos recognizes death as a celebration of life. It reminds one to reflect on what they value through the commemoration of loved ones and their lives, while at the same time generating enthusiasm for the friends and family around us. As the celebration progresses, this dynamic gathering of people transforms itself into a festivity of life. Informational tours and culturally relevant crafts for kids are available during the course of this exhibition. The opening reception will be held on Friday, October 18 from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. CLICK HERE for more information.

Walker's Point Center for the Arts (MAP)
839 S. 5th Street
Milwaukee, WI 53204

 

 

Co/exist: New Sensibilities in Collage
Date: Now through Sat., December 7

Location: Milwaukee

Description: Explore contemporary approaches to collage as informed by the digital realm and a shift in the definition and cultural boundaries of art. CLICK HERE for more information.

Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MAP)
273 E. Erie Street
Milwaukee, WI 53202

 

 

Romeo & Juliet
Date: Now through Sun., November 3

Location: Milwaukee

Description: When a story is retold as often as Romeo & Juliet, how it is told is of utmost importance. And nobody tells a story quite like Milwaukee Ballet.
This interpretation of the doomed lovers caught between feuding families
forgoes prose for poses and couplets for choreography. Through movement and the live performance of Prokofiev's score, the dancers convey
everything from infatuation to epic heartbreak. To witness them is to feel everything right along with them. CLICK HERE for more information.

Marcus Center for the Performing Arts (MAP)
929 N. Water Street
Milwaukee, WI 53202

 

 

7th Annual Turkish Film Festival
Date: Fri., November 1 through Sun., November 3

Location: Milwaukee

Description: Enjoy the Turkish Film Festival that is screened at the UW-Milwaukee Union
Theatre. Admission is free of charge and is open to public. CLICK HERE for more information

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (MAP)
2200 E. Kenwood Blvd.
Milwaukee, WI 53201

 

 

City of Oak Creek Veterans Day Celebration
Date: Sat., November 9 at 9 a.m.
Location: Oak Creek
Description: Join me in remember those that served by stopping by the Oak Creek Veterans Day program on Saturday, November 9. Guest speakers will include city and state officials, as well as, members of the Oak Creek Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion. Gathering and refreshments will follow the program.

Headquarters Fire Station (MAP)
6 N Rawson
Oak Creek, WI
 

 

Veterans Day Parade in Milwaukee
Date: Sat., November 9 at 11 a.m.
Location: Milwaukee
Description: The 50th Annual Milwaukee Veterans Day Parade will take place on Saturday, November 9 at 11 a.m. The parade route and cross streets will close at approximately 10:45 a.m. The parade lasts between and hour and an hour and a half. The parade route will begin at 4th and Kilbourn and end at the War Memorial in Veterans Park. CLICK HERE for more information.

 

 

Cudahy High School's Annual Veterans Day Assembly
Date: Mon., November 11 at 9 a.m.
Location: Cudahy
Description: Cudahy High School's Annual Veteran's Day Assembly has been described as "one of the best in Southeastern Wisconsin." It has been recognized in the past with both newspaper and television coverage. The assembly will take place on Monday, November 11 at 9 a.m. in the school's field house. Featured will be a moving, dramatic reading of the Cudahy Gold Star List, the names of all the community's men who gave their lives in service to our country during World War I, World War II, the Korean Conflict, Vietnam, and Iraqi Freedom. Many of the names on the list are former Cudahy High School students. The reading is enhanced by photos of the men on the Gold Star List projected on a giant ten foot rear projection screen. Members of the community are invited to attend. If anyone knows of a veteran that would like to be included in this ceremony please contact Principal Christopher Haeger or his secretary, Cindy Smith, at (414) 294-2700.

Cudahy High School (MAP)
4950 S. Lake Drive
Cudahy, WI 53110

 

 

Beyond Glory

Date: Mon., November 11 at 7:30 p.m.

Location: Milwaukee

Description: Stephen Lang, award winning playwright, stage, and screen star, brings the stories of eight different men to the stage in a one-man show that will reach into your very soul and keep you thoroughly spellbound. Beyond Glory enjoyed a celebrated run on Broadway and in Chicago's Goodman Theater; Lang is now taking it coast to coast. Beyond Glory presents the stories of eight veterans from World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, rendering first-hand accounts of valor which resulted in the nation's highest military award, the Medal of Honor. A portion of all tickets purchased will be donated to The Milwaukee Homeless Veterans Initiative. CLICK HERE for more information.

 

Marcus Center of Performing Arts (MAP)

929 N. Water Street
Milwaukee, WI 53202
 

 

Dear Friend,

 

I recently participated in the MPS Parade of Schools, an event that visits four neighborhood schools to get a real perspective of our children's educational opportunities. This week's newsletter will focus on that tour, as well as frac sand mining legislation that impedes local control, progression of a bill to prevent the mistreatment of animals, a proposed Constitutional Amendment that would alter the composition of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, and a petition to support the Higher Ed, Lower Debt bill. Continue reading for more on this and other important issues.


Sincerely,

Chris Larson
State Senator, District 7

 

 

Visiting Our Local Schools

Last week, I participated in the Parade of Schools event hosted by Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS). This was a valuable opportunity to visit four neighborhood schools to learn more about the positive things they are doing to educate our children and how we can better support these efforts.

 

Tour Stops and Highlights

The tour began at Honey Creek Continuous Progress Charter School, which provides a quality educational experience to children from K4 through grade 5. This school offers a structured learning environment that utilizes proven strategies based on informed assessments. These efforts have shown tremendous success as this school ranks as an "exceeds expectations" institution. Further, these students are on track with the state's reading proficiency rate while exceeding the state's mathematics proficiency rate by over 10 percentage points.

 

The next stop on the tour was Audubon Technology & Communication Center Middle School and Audubon Technology & Communication High School. These schools provide an emphasis on STEM--science, technology, engineering, and mathematics--coursework. Further, the high school maintains a partnership with Alverno College. These unique offerings ensure that students are equipped with the necessary skills to succeed in a 21st century economy, whether they choose to seek employment after graduation or continue on to post secondary educational endeavors.

 

 

While at Audubon High School, I also had the opportunity to speak with some students about a school project they were working on. The four students (listed from left to right)--Rebecca Nelson, Timothy Barnes, Olivia Miller, and Adriana Maldonado--were working on their community service project, which involves holding a donation drive on behalf of the Homeless Veterans Initiative. So far, they are half way to their goal of collecting 1,500 items to donate.

 

The final stop on the Parade of Schools tour was Fairview School, which provides instruction to K3 through grade 8 students. This school boasts a wide range of educational opportunities to meet the needs of each student. Not only do they participate in Project Lead the Way by offering engineering and accelerated reading courses, but they also aim to provide a positive environment for students with disabilities through inclusion, as such students comprise approximately 26.4% of their population.

 

Turning MPS Around Despite Challenges

MPS has faced a number of significant challenges in recent years. In 2011, legislative Republicans passed Scott Walker's first budget as governor, which decreased state aid support for Wisconsin's neighborhood schools by over $800 million. Unfortunately, many schools will fare even worse this school year under Governor Walker's second budget. While general school aid statewide increased overall by 1.1%, much of the increase is being diverted to private voucher schools as a result of Republicans expanding the program statewide. According to recent estimates by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI), more than half of Wisconsin public school districts will receive less general aid in the 2013-2014 school year than they did for the 2012-2013 school year. In fact, 229 of Wisconsin's 424 school districts, or 54%, will receive less general aid in the current school year. This includes MPS, which saw a decrease in state aid of $1,407,778 this school year. In contrast, schools in the voucher program will see an astronomical increase of up to $1,414 per pupil. These cuts have meant larger class sizes and decreased program options at our local schools, including those that I visited.

 

Additionally, MPS also has a staggeringly high population of students with disabilities, economically disadvantages students, or students with limited English proficiency. For example, 89.7% of Audubon Middle School students are economically disadvantaged, which means more students suffering the effects of poverty, such as lack of proper nutrition, which can make it difficult to focus in school and learn the material being taught. These factors create a more challenging environment for teachers who are trying to ensure that each and every child is adequately prepared when they graduate.

 

Despite these problems, MPS has worked hard to improve the quality of their educational institutions. The proof that these efforts are succeeding is shown in their enrollment rate and parent satisfaction. Enrollment in MPS grew between the 2012-13 and 2013-14 school year, reversing a decline that lasted nearly a decade. Parents have also proven to be satisfied with MPS. According to a 2012-13 Climate Survey of parents, 93.2% of parents say their schools have friendly, welcoming atmospheres; 90.6% of parents agree that their schools make sure classrooms are safe and orderly; and 89.4% of parents believe students are given challenging work.

Part of the district's success in attracting students has come from expanding and replicating successful traditional schools and charter schools thanks to strategic use of underutilized or unused facilities. Other district successes have also helped attract families. These include:

  • More MPS schools are meeting or exceeding expectations and fewer MPS schools are rated as failing to meeting expectations on state report cards

  • MPS' graduation rate has grown 14 percentage points between 2000 and 2012

  • More MPS students are taking Advanced Placement courses

  • More MPS students are going to college

  • The MPS Class of 2013 scholarship total was about $24 million, up from about $18 million the year before

  • MPS is home to the two best high schools in southeastn Wisconsin--Rufus King International School High School Campus and Ronald Reagan College Preparatory High School--according to the Washington Post

The dedicated teachers, faculty, and staff within these MPS schools also play a crucial role in the growing success of MPS schools and its students. Sarah Berndt, a ninth grade Spanish and introductory international baccalaureate class  teacher at Ronald Reagan College Preparatory High School, recently received a 2013 Milken Educator Award. This award is given by the Milken Family Foundation to mid-career teachers who have made a significant impact and have promising futures in teaching. Berndt was one of 40 award recipients named across the United State this year.

 

Berndt is not alone in being awarded for her commitment to our children through teaching. Three teachers at ALBA School, a bilingual K-5 elementary school in MPS, also received an award for their efforts, this time from People magazine. Brenda Martinez, Radames Galarza, and Elissa Guarnero won the award as a team for their work in running the school, which does not have a principal, and teaching in a way that has helped to close the racial achievement gap within MPS.

 

I would like to thank MPS for making this Parade of Schools tour possible. This was a valuable opportunity to see first-hand how our local schools have aimed to improve and succeed despite facing such things as funding cuts, the expansion of the voucher program, the loss of quality teachers, and the potential sale of MPS buildings. I will continue to do what I can in my role as state senator to fight for the necessary tools these schools require to properly prepare our children for success in our 21st century economy.

 

 

New Mining Bill Restricts Local Control Across Wisconsin

A Senate Republican, who authored the open-pit iron mining bill, has written another proposal that sweeps away local control of public health and safety regulations. This time he wants to take away the ability of municipalities to enforce their own standards on nonmetallic mining companies, most notably, frac sand mines. The proposed measure would pre-empt local regulation of air quality, water quality, use of explosives in mining, quarrying, and highway use contracts by local governments. Appallingly, this senator's district is in northeastern Wisconsin--an area of the state where frac sand mining is least prevalent.
 

Frac Sand Mining Growing Exponentially

In the past three years, the number of frac sand mine operations in Wisconsin has jumped from 10 to over 100, with the vast majority of them being in western Wisconsin. This boom was prompted by oil and gas companies that use the mined sand in a drilling process called hydraulic fracturing. To meet those companies' specifications, sand mines have had to remove more clay and unusable sand than they initially projected. The unusable sand is washed away from usable frac sand. Mining companies then treat the murky wash water with chemicals that cause suspended particles to sink so the water can be reused. The clarified water is then used to wash more sand, while the bottom sludge is piled as waste material and then plowed back into the ground where sand was excavated. This process has created unstable piles of waste and wastewater runoff. In addition, heavy rains have combined with sand-processing water to overflow holding ponds on several mining sites. The breaches have dumped sandy sediment into public waters, where (among other things) it can suffocate aquatic life and destroy the habitats of reproducing fish.
 

Concerns Not Limited to Environmental Issues

Beyond environmental concerns, there are very troubling health concerns with the fine dust that the mines create. While it is documented that mine workers are exposed to very serious health hazards, including lung disease and lung cancer, much less is known about how the health of nearby communities is affected. People who live close to these mines have reported having increases in asthma attacks and trouble breathing. Some school districts have even had to upgrade their air filtration systems.
 

I think it is important that we allow local governments to make their own decisions around the well-being of their citizens. For example, Trempealeau County recently voted to temporarily stop mining operations so they could further study the health effects of such operations. This new bill would completely eliminate the capacity for that type of local control.
 

To be clear, this bill is much more far reaching than decisions impacting frac sand companies. It would overturn a recent state Supreme Court decision which determined that Wisconsin towns without zoning authority can regulate nonmetallic mines using traditional police powers. Passing this proposed legislation would restrict local governments from setting any environmental standards or monitoring beyond what is in place at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. This is a clear power grab against communities in each part of Wisconsin.
 

Thankfully, Republicans have admitted that this bill is flawed and have said that they do not want to vote on it until next year. Even though it is somewhat heartening to see Republicans hold off on a bill that so broadly encroaches local control, the initial speed and carelessness with which these bills were written and sent to a committee is disconcerting. Why are these bills being drafted with such little thought and precision? There is growing concern that Tea Party Republicans are more focused on pushing through ill-conceived, partisan ideas or special interest proposals than on implementing good, quality policies.
 

 

Hearing on Saving Mistreated Dogs

As shown in a recent WISN 12 News Investigation, 20 dogs are currently being kept at the Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Control Commission as evidence in dog fighting cases. Under current Wisconsin law, these dogs must be euthanized, regardless of their disposition.

 

However, legislation that aims to end this cruel punishment against mistreated animals is currently progressing though the legislative process. Senate Bill (SB) 191 and its companion, Assembly Bill (AB) 230, would give dogs taken into custody the opportunity to live a full and healthy life. This proposal would allow Humane Society workers the ability to declare an animal fit for adoption if they believe the dog would be a suitable candidate for a family. In other states, it is becoming obvious that dogs rescued from fighting rings often make very good companion animals, with some even becoming therapy dogs. These bills take away the arbitrary death sentence that many of these dogs are currently facing and gives them a chance to find suitable homes.

SB 191--authored by Democratic Senator Julie Lassa and Republican Representative John Spiros--received a public hearing this past Tuesday in the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Labor. It's Assembly companion, on the other hand, received a public hearing on October 2, 2013, and was supported unanimously by the Assembly Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security on October 29, 2013. AB 230 is now available for scheduling for a vote by the full Assembly.

 

It is my hope that one of these proposals will make its way to the Senate floor for a vote, at which time it will have my full support.

 

Click here to view Senate Bill 191.

 

 

Constitutional Amendment Would Further Divide the Courts

This week, Republicans in the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Labor voted in favor of Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 57, legislation that would change the Wisconsin Constitution regarding how the chief justice is chosen.


Currently, the chief justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court is selected based on seniority. The justice who has been the longest, continuous serving member of the court serves as chief justice. This ensures that experience, rather than partisanship dictate who holds this position.

SJR 57 and its companion, Assembly Joint Resolution (AJR) 67, would amend Wisconsin's Constitution to mandate that the chief justice be elected by a majority of the justices serving on the court. This proposal would require the chief justice be elected every two years and would limit the chief justice to no more than three consecutive terms.

 

This proposal is concerning for a number of reasons. First, this Constitutional Amendment is a gross overreach by the Legislature and ignores that we maintain a separation of powers for a reason. Additionally, having the justices elect their leader will only serve to further divide the court. The seven-member court has four conservative justices and two liberal ones. Justice N. Patrick Crooks tends to side with conservatives on criminal cases, but has joined with the progressive bloc in some of the court's other high profile cases in recent years. The proposed amendment would likely remove longtime Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, a progressive, from her position as chief justice. After Abrahamson, the next most senior justice is fellow progressive Ann Walsh Bradley and then Crooks. In other words, the four conservatives on the court, with David Prosser at their head in terms of tenure, have the least seniority. As it currently stands, court members of different persuasions of thought are forced to work together. However, this Constitutional Amendment would allow these lesser experienced justices to single-handedly control the operations of the court, which could mean all but ignoring the other justices that do not always vote with them on court cases. The court has already been plagued by bitter divisions, this bill will only exacerbate those issues rather than solving the problem.

 

Finally, this proposal would undermine the role carved out for the chief justice in the Wisconsin Constitution. Our Constitution states: "The chief justice of the supreme court shall be the administrative head of the judicial system and shall exercise this administrative authority pursuant to procedures adopted by the supreme court. The chief justice may assign any judge of a court of record to aid in the proper disposition of judicial business in any court of record except the supreme court." Clearly, the person who would be best able to fulfill these obligations is the justice that has been around the longest and is familiar with the administrative procedures, rather than someone who was selected through a popularity contest.

 

Click here to view SJR 57.

 

Wisconsin has had a rich history of implementing good government policies. Legislators should be continuing to look at ways to take the politics out of governing by pursuing such things as campaign finance reform and overhauling the redistricting process rather than supporting proposals that increase the already staggering political divide. This proposal is not the Wisconsin way.

 

 

Ask Chris

I often have neighbors contact me looking for my perspective on various local and state issues. I very much appreciate our neighbors' questions and want to dedicate a portion of my newsletter to common questions that I hear to maintain an open dialogue. Please continue reading for this week's question.

Q: As someone who is still paying off student debt, I really like the bill you signed onto regarding making higher education more affordable. How can I make sure that my legislator knows I support the bill?

A: I am glad to hear that you like the Higher Ed, Lower Debt bill and would like to advocate for its passage. Here are some tips that may help you.

 

First, I encourage you to contact your local elected officials directly including your Assembly representative, state senator, and the governor via email, phone, or letter, whether they agree or disagree with your perspective. Doing so officially guarantees your contact and position are recorded and that these officials have a more accurate idea of how their constituency feels on a particular issue, such as making higher education more affordable.

 

Click here to type in your address and find out who represents you.

Second, you can also sign or circulate a petition that reaffirms your views. One such petition can be found at www.HigherEdLowerDebtWI.com. The petition states the following:


I support the Higher Ed, Lower Debt bill authored by Sen. Hansen and Rep. Mason. It is a positive step forward in making higher education more affordable in Wisconsin and frees up money for Wisconsinites to spend in local communities and our state.

Finally, encourage your family, friends, and neighbors to join you in taking action. The more Wisconsinites that advocate for the bill, the more likely it is to pass. Below is some information that you can pass along regarding the student debt crisis and the Higher Ed, Lower Debt bill.

 

Exponential increases in tuition and fees coupled with challenging economic times over the years have made it nearly impossible for students to work their way through school, as was commonplace in the past. In fact, nearly 40 million Americans now hold over $1.2 trillion in student loan debt nationally.

Unfortunately, Wisconsin currently ranks 10th in the nation for number of college students with debt, with 67% of graduates from four-year schools having loans to repay. According to the U.S. Federal Reserve System there are 753,000 Wisconsin residents with federal student loan debt (this does not include those with private student loan debt). Further, college tuition costs have doubled over the last 12 years and Wisconsin's student loan borrowers have an average debt of $22,400. It is estimated that Wisconsin residents paying student loans from obtaining a bachelor's degree are currently paying an average of $388 per month for about 18.7 years.

Student debt is the only kind of household debt that continued to rise through the Great Recession, and is now the second largest consumer debt in our country, more than credit cards or auto loans. Having this money tied up in debt is a huge drain on our already struggling Wisconsin economy as the money spent on student loans could instead be spent on cars, new homes, and at local businesses in our communities.

 

Some issues related to student loans can only be dealt with at the federal level. Unfortunately, Congress' current partisan gridlock leaves little hope for real relief for student loan borrowers in the near future. We cannot wait for Congress to act. It is time for innovative, common sense solutions that will provide real relief for Wisconsin's student loan borrowers.

Therefore, I am asking that the Wisconsin State Legislature passes the Higher Ed, Lower Debt bill, authored by Senator Dave Hansen and Representative Cory Mason, which would do the following:

  • Allow Wisconsin's student loan borrowers to deduct their student loan payments from their income tax, resulting in annual tax savings of approximately $172 for the typical borrower or as much as $392.

  • Enable Wisconsin's student loan borrowers to refinance their student loans at lower interest rates, putting potentially hundreds of dollars back in their pockets and into Wisconsin's economy annually. For example, a borrower with an interest rate of 6.8% and the average University of Wisconsin graduate's loan debt of $27,000 who could lower their interest rate to 4% could save over $40 per month. That would put nearly $500 back in their family's pocket over the course of a year.

  • Provide students and parents with detailed information about student loans, the best and worst private lenders, and ensure that students receive loan counseling so that Wisconsin's student loan borrowers can make informed financial decisions about student loans.

  • Ensure data is collected and tracked about student loan debt in Wisconsin to help policymakers and the public better understand the depth and breadth of the debt crisis in our state.

As you can see, this legislation offers common sense solutions for real savings on behalf of Wisconsinites managing student loan debt. I hope legislative Republicans will see the economic value of moving forward with such a proposal. Therefore, I encourage them to join me in supporting the Higher Ed, Lower Debt bill. Wisconsinites cannot afford to wait any longer for more affordable college education and decreasing their debt burden.

 

Click here if you would like join me in supporting the Higher Ed, Lower Debt bill by signing on to the petition to encourage the Wisconsin State Legislature to pass the bill.

 

 

Did You Know...?

You may be aware that the Wisconsin Badgers Football Team plays the University of Iowa Hawkeyes this Saturday at 11 a.m. But did you know that a popular song at these football games titled "On, Wisconsin!" is also our state song?

 

The music for "On, Wisconsin!" was composed in 1909 by William T. Purdy with the idea of entering it in a contest for the creation of a new University of Minnesota football song. ("Minnesota" would have replaced "On, Wisconsin" in the opening lines.) But Purdy was persuaded by fellow composer Carl Beck, who helped in writing the song's lyrics, to dedicate the song to the University of Wisconsin football team instead. The song was introduced at the Madison campus in November 1909.

Although "On, Wisconsin!" was widely recognized as Wisconsin's song, the state did not officially adopt it until 1959. Representative Harold W. Clemens discovered that Wisconsin was one of only 10 states without an official song, so he introduced a bill to give the song the status he thought it deserved.

 

 

Hoan Bridge Construction Beginning

Last week, crews began preparing Milwaukee's Hoan Bridge for a two-year project that includes redecking and, unfortunately for commuters, closing off lanes during construction.

For the next week, the state Department of Transportation (DOT) expects only minor inconveniences on the I-794 bridge, such as short-term ramp or lane restrictions, as workers make markings and prepare temporary ramps.

Major construction will start by the week of November 4. Lanes will close at this time. At least one lane of traffic will be open during the project and crews will try to keep two lanes open during peak times.

While the construction on the Hoan Bridge will last two years, it is part of a larger, five-year project involving work on I-794 bridges and the Lake Interchange. Further, the painting of the Hoan Bridge will take another two years after the construction work is finished.

 

Click here for more information from DOT about this project.

 

 

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month

Held each October, National Disability Employment Awareness Month is a national campaign that raises awareness about disability employment issues and celebrates the many and varied contributions of America's workers with disabilities. The theme for 2013 is "Because We Are EQUAL to the Task."

Our national economy is showing strong growth, but Wisconsin still has a long road to recovery. As of this July, over 200,000 Wisconsinites still could not find work and Wisconsin has plummeted from 11th to 37th in the nation in job growth under the Republican majority. Unfortunately, Wisconsinites with disabilities have been hit particularly hard by our lagging economy.

Statistics collected by the Survival Coalition of Wisconsin Disability Organizations shed light on the employment circumstances for neighbors with disabilities. For instance, Wisconsin's working-age employment rate is approximately 70% for individuals without a disability, but only 37% for individuals with a disability. Poverty is also a hardship that disproportionately affects individuals with disabilities. The poverty rate for all working-age Wisconsinites is approximately 12%, while 27% of neighbors with a disability in Wisconsin live below the poverty line. These alarming statistics make it apparent that progress must be made to improve the employability of workers with a disability in Wisconsin. Allocating sufficient resources to address the needs of workers with disabilities is a pursuit that extends far past the month of October.

One governmental organization committed to changing to the current situation is the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services (DVR). Job training, career guidance and counseling, job search and placement assistance, transportation, and rehabilitation technologies are some of the critical services that are offered by DVR. Many neighbors with disabilities rely on these life-altering resources as a ladder to reach economic self-reliance. Currently, over 4,000 potential workers with disabilities remain on the waiting list for DVR employment assistance. Some individuals wait up to four months to access basic resources provided by DVR. Administering adequate resources to individuals with disabilities creates a culture where a disability does not equal increased likelihood of unemployment and poverty.

Shaping our community into a place where all Wisconsinites are equally able to contribute to our economy is a dream that will hopefully be realized for current and future generations. To help reach this goal, I am supporting legislation drafted by Senator Jennifer Shilling and Representative Katrina Shankland. Their legislation, Senate Bill (SB) 274 and Assembly Bill (AB) 131, would allow Wisconsin to take full advantage of federal incentives for the state's successful DVR program. I believe utilizing these federal funds to properly fund the DVR and its employment resources will shorten waiting lists and help improve the quality of life for participating Wisconsinites.

Education and training are essential to an individual's personal and career success. Normally education is discussed in terms of supporting our public schools to strengthen childhood education or financing our state university system; but education can extend past the classroom into adulthood. SB 274 is a good example of how adult education, in the form of career resources at DVR, can have a significant, positive, and direct effect on the lives of neighbors with disabilities. Therefore, I am proud to support SB 274 and also observe October as National Disability Awareness Month.

 

 

Survey on K-12 Education Available

Investing in quality education is a shared Wisconsin value that many of us highly treasure. Our next generation of workers are in Wisconsin schools right now, and their success or failure will likely dictate whether Wisconsin will succeed or fail in the years to come.

 

As a result, the statewide expansion of the private voucher program and the reduction of state aid to the majority of our local public schools for the 2013-2014 school year have become increasingly hot topics. Therefore, I would like to hear your thoughts on K-12 education in Wisconsin. I have created an online survey to learn more about you and your perspective. Please take the time to fill it out. I look forward to hearing back from you on the important issue of K-12 education in Wisconsin.

 

Click here to take the K-12 Education Survey now.

 

 

Take the 2013-2014 Neighborhood Survey

I created a survey for the 2013-2014 Legislative Session asking about various issues that are important to our community and our state. The input of neighbors is greatly appreciated. My staff and I will be working hard to deliver as many surveys door to door as possible before winter arrives. In addition, I have also made this survey available online.

Click here to download and print a copy of this survey, which you can return to my office via mail, email, or fax upon completion.

Click here to save a stamp and take the survey online.

I look forward to hearing your views on these important issues!

 

 

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