May 10, 2012
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.
The Wisconsin Bike Challenge
Date: Now through Fri., August 31
Description: The Wisconsin Bike Challenge is a free event that provides a fun and simple opportunity to promote wellness, team-building, and bicycling within your workplace. By participating in the Wisconsin Bike Challenge, you and your colleagues will easily and conveniently track your bicycle miles and trips for both transportation and recreation using the challenge Web site. Thanks to recent improvements, logging your miles will now take less than 30 seconds. There will also be incentives provided to encourage you and your co-workers to bike more. Every month, the National Bike Challenge partners will conduct a prize drawing. The more you bike, the greater your chances of winning. CLICK HERE for more information, to register, or to learn how to log miles.
Bay View Park (MAP)
3120 S. Lake Drive
Milwaukee, WI 53207
Date: Sat., May 12
Location: Mailboxes across Wisconsin
Stamp Out Hunger, the largest single day food drive in the nation, is
celebrating its 20th Anniversary this year. On the second Saturday in
May, letter carriers all across Wisconsin perform double-duty by
collecting bags of donated food along their mail routes. The food is
then delivered to pantries and meal programs to help at a time when food
pantries are critically low.
CLICK HERE for more information at the Web site for Hunger Task
BVNA Rummage Sale
Date: Sat., May 12 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Native Plant Sale
Date: Sat., May
12 from 9 a.m. to Noon
Description: Support South Milwaukee Middle School’s Environmental Club by purchasing native, hardy perennials and garden vegetable plants. This is also a great opportunity to pick up a gift for Mother’s Day. Prices start as low as $1 for 2.5-inch pots. To place a pre-sale order or for details, contact Chris Bosetti at (414) 766-5890.
CLICK HERE for more information.
South Milwaukee Middle School (MAP)
1001 15th Avenue
South Milwaukee, WI 53172
Grant Park Weed-Out
Dates: Sat., May 12 and May 18 at 9 a.m.
Location: South Milwaukee
Description: Help our neighbors protect our plant diversity in Grant Park by participating in the Grant Park Weed-Out. Meet in the tennis courts parking lot (Area 1) in Grant Park ready to pull out invasive garlic mustard. Call (414) 764-0612 for more information.
Grant Park (MAP)
100 E. Hawthorne Avenue
South Milwaukee, WI 53172
Greater Milwaukee Fair Trade Crawl
Date: Sat., May 12 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Location: Milwaukee Area
Description: Over 30 locally owned shops in the greater Milwaukee area will host World Fair Trade Day celebrations as part of the 5th Annual Greater Milwaukee Fair Trade Crawl. Crawlers will go from shop to shop learning about the featured products, enjoying special samples and sales, and winning prizes. This event will also celebrate how fair trade practices help fight modern-day slavery and human trafficking around the world. CLICK HERE for more information, including a list of participating shops.
Bird Walk at Grant Park
Date: Sun., May
13 at 8 a.m.
Description: Witness the annual return of our feathered friends as they stop at Grant Park during their migration. Participants are welcome to bring binoculars and hats with brims. Meet at the parking lot in Area 7, in the north part of Grant Park, accessed via the Wil-O-Way entry off of Lake Drive. This event is weather contingent. CLICK HERE or call (414) 531-9249 for additional information.
Grant Park (MAP)
100 E. Hawthorne Avenue
South Milwaukee, WI 53172
Date: Sat., May
19 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Description: The Cudahy Historical Society and Cudahy Police Department will be hosting this major fundraising event for the Society. Stop by to participate in the auction of bicycles and also visit the accompanying rummage sale. Paddle sales and viewing begins at 9 a.m. with the auction scheduled to start at 11 a.m. A city rummage sale will occur in the Annex. CLICK HERE for more information at the Cudahy Historical Society's Web site.
Cudahy Depot (MAP)
4647 S. Kinnickinnic Avenue
Cudahy, WI 53110
Bay View Historical Society Yard Sale
Date: Sat. May 19 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Location: Bay View
Doing some spring cleaning and have items you wish to discard? Consider
donating the items to the Bay View Historical Society for their annual
Beulah Brinton House (MAP)
2590 S. Superior Street
Milwaukee, WI 53207
As families are approaching the end of the school year and preparing for summer, now is the perfect time to take a look at education in Wisconsin. From K-12 to technical colleges and universities, education is the backbone of our state's future.
As usual, please feel free to contact me with any questions, concerns or opinions you may have about our community or our state.
Schools Lose Valuable Community Members
One of the greatest concerns my colleagues and I expressed regarding the devastating cuts to education in Governor Walker's budget, was how this might negatively affect student-to-teacher ratios across Wisconsin. We believed the choice to funnel $1.6 billion from our neighborhood schools to fund tax breaks for big corporations and special interest initiatives would undoubtedly result not only in pay cuts for our highly valued teachers, but also in massive teacher layoffs statewide.
Tragically, it appears that our fears
were not unfounded. The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction
recently released data showing Wisconsin lost 2,312 teachers and staff
from the 2010-2011 to the 2011-2012 school year, the first year since
Governor Walker’s budget went into effect. This leaves Wisconsin schools
with their highest student-to-teacher ratio since 1995, with 73% of
districts having lost teachers this year.
How This Affects Our Children
In addition to narrowing our children's educational opportunities by reducing staff, increasing class sizes, eliminating vital support services, and decreasing course offerings, Governor Walker cuts to education have also had a strong emotional impact on Wisconsin's students. Aside from a child's parents, their teachers are often the biggest part of molding their lives and preparing them for the real world. Losing their teachers due to budget cuts can often feel like they are losing a family member.
One school that has experienced this first-hand is nearby Oconomowoc High School. Late last month after 15 teachers received layoff notices, students could be seen in the halls wearing special shirts with the message "We love our teachers" and felt compelled to organize a Facebook group called OHS Solidarity.
The group page, which already has 2,221 members, reads: "This is the official Facebook group for the OHS Solidarity movement, in support of the 15 amazing teachers who have been cut from their positions for the coming school year. This group exists solely for the purpose of coming together as a student body to give back to the teachers who have given us all so much of themselves over the years."
This is just one example of the
experience many schools across the state are facing as they are forced
to lose members of their community. After looking at these results, how
is it possible for Governor Walker and Republican legislators to
continue to try and justify their decision to place education at the
bottom of our priority list during the last legislative session?
Misinformation Regarding Act 10
For example, Governor Walker is claiming that the City of Milwaukee saved a lavish $25 million because of Act 10. However, the real number is closer to a $14.9 million cut to public workers according to the city's budget and management director. Milwaukee Public Schools shows a similar discrepancy. While Walker is claiming that MPS has an additional $21 million in their budget as a result of the cuts, MPS has said that Act 10 cuts and lay-offs to teachers and staff in the 2011-2012 school year will only generate $2.4 million and an estimated $7.7 million in the 2012-2013 school year.
Sheboygan County and its municipalities also point out that Governor Walker grossly overestimated the savings his regressive legislation would create. Sheboygan County reported not spending about $1.6 million in its 2012 budget as a result of Governor Walker's Act 10, compared to the $2.1 million the governor's administration claimed it would receive. The same was true for the City of Sheboygan where city officials said they "saved" only $420,000, less than half of Governor Walker's $1.3 million claim. Likewise, the Sheboygan Area School District reported not spending about $4 million as a result of the bill, compared to the $6.6 million for which the Walker administration is taking credit.
Many municipalities and school districts expressed that they do not believe many of the cost-saving measures they had implemented before the passage of Act 10 were being taken into account. In the case of the City of Sheboygan, the governor's estimate incorrectly assumed that Sheboygan employees were not previously paying any money toward their health insurance, when in fact most were already pay 8% to 10%.
As a member of the Senate Committee on Education, I will continue to monitor the state of education to ensure that we have a realistic, fact-based, and truthful understanding of how these cuts are affecting our children and their opportunity to succeed.
Transparency in Education Shows on Our Tax Bill
fought hard this session to create a more open government by bringing
about greater accountability and transparency in a number of policy
areas, including education. One way that I did this was by working with
my Milwaukee colleagues to ensure greater transparency and
accountability on Milwaukee’s property tax bills. I worked with the
Milwaukee Treasurer, Comptroller, Mayor, and members of the Common
Council and Milwaukee Public School Board of Directors to develop an
information sheet to be distributed with property tax bills providing
separate cost information for Milwaukee Public Schools and the Milwaukee
Parental Choice Program, which was formerly listed as one lump sum.
In their property tax bill, Milwaukee taxpayers now receive a detailed
break down of how much we pay for Milwaukee Public Schools and
how much is siphoned into the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program.
Touring Our Neighborhood K-12 Schools
Our children are the future of our state. Therefore, I believe it is of the utmost importance that we invest in their education. To help with this endeavor, I often visit our neighborhood schools to answer questions about Wisconsin's government, urge students to be more active in our local community, and encourage them to pick up good habits to improve their educational experience, such as reading more. Recently, I was given the opportunity to visit Fernwood Elementary, Tenor High School, and Kindercare. I was impressed with the students' thoughtful questions and participation.
If you are a teacher and would be interested in having me stop by your class during the current school year or the next school year, please do not hesitate to contact me to schedule a tour of your school and a visit to your classroom.
Collaboration to Educate and Create a Skilled Workforce
There is an exciting new partnership in our community that will help move Wisconsin to the forefront of next generation green energy research. The University of Wisconsin system has teamed up with Johnson Controls, the world’s leading supplier of automotive batteries. According to projections, the automotive battery market is expected to grow from a $23 billion industry to a $72 billion industry by 2020.
Johnson Controls has invested more than $2.5 million dollars to bring two new cutting edge energy research laboratories to UW-Milwaukee. Additionally, the company will provide funding for several new fellowships and an internationally recognized expert to oversee the research. I was fortunate to recently tour these labs, which will house technology typically found only in major corporations and national research labs.
With ever increasing advancements in
technology, it is crucial that we remain committed to fostering growth
in developing fields to ensure we are competitive with other states and
able to improve our economy. This new technology will help make certain
that Wisconsin is a major hub of development in the battery industry. I
am confidant that this new partnership will provide fascinating
opportunities for our neighbors for many years to come.
Summer Reading Program for Kids
Valuable skills can be lost during the summer months if students do not continue to perfect their reading. Students who do not participate in summer reading can experience an achievement gap between themselves and those students who continue to practice their reading skills during the summer months.
To help close this gap and ensure that all students are living up to their potential, the Milwaukee Public Library offers a summer reading program called Super Reader. The Super Reader program is free and easy to sign up for at any Milwaukee Public Library. The dedicated and highly trained staff at the Milwaukee Public Libraries will also be able to help your student find appropriate summer reading materials. According to the Scholastic Book Corporation, when children are provided with 10 to 20 self-selected children’s books at the end of the regular school year, as many as 50% not only maintain their skills, but actually make reading gains. The Super Reader summer reading program begins on May 14, 2012.
The Milwaukee Public Library's Web site also offers fun and helpful tips for summer reading as well as information about starting a Super Reader Book Club with other neighbors.
If you live outside of the Milwaukee area, please do not hesitate to contact your local library to see if they have a similar program.
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: I keep hearing about the massive cuts that our state has made to education, but how do the cuts in Wisconsin compare to other states?
A: According to a study released by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities in October of 2011, of the states examined in the study Wisconsin's students faced the greatest cuts to education per pupil.
This year, Wisconsin cut school aid by $635 per pupil, topping many other states including New York, California and Ohio, according to the analysis. Over the past four years, our state's annual aid to schools is down $776 per pupil after adjusting for inflation, putting Wisconsin at fourth in the country so far in total education cuts.
Unfortunately, the choice by Governor Walker and Republican legislators to cut education by $1.6 billion in order to fund tax breaks to corporations and special interests could have a devastating, long-term effect on our communities. Not only does having a strong education system help our students increase their test scores and decrease high school dropout rates, but it also helps to grow our economy. As stated in the report, cuts to education can have a short-term effect on the economy by decreasing consumer spending by schools and their employees and a long-term effect by making our workforce less competitive.
While the study was only able to examine half of nation's states (the states left out did not have adequate budget data available at the time of the study), the students covered in the report still make up about two-thirds of the nation's students.
Did You Know...
Today, kindergarten is the foundation
of the public education curriculum throughout the country. But did you
know that the nation's first kindergarten was established in Watertown,
Wisconsin in 1856? The kindergarten was founded by Margarethe Meyer
Schurz, a native of Hamburg, Germany who learned the principles of the
kindergarten from its creator, Friedrich Froebel. The school's first
students were five local German-speaking youngsters.
Political Pardons for Polluters
Earlier this week, my colleagues and I sent a letter to Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen to express our concerns about a recent Wisconsin State Journal report that gave one example of Governor Walker’s political appointees putting as many as 40 families at risk of drinking water contaminated with human waste to help a political donor.
Herr Environmental has a history of significant violations of laws designed to protect public health and the environment. Department of Natural Resources administrators protected them from potential prosecution by the Department of Justice. Administrators blocked the recommendations of professional staff to refer the case and test the drinking water wells where human waste was spread at 300% the legal limit. This follows on another Wisconsin State Journal story showing a significant 50% decline in enforcement actions.
We called on Attorney General Van Hollen to conduct a complete investigation into political interference with science-based law enforcement as reported by the Wisconsin State Journal. We also requested that he report back immediately on the threat to the families that may have been harmed and if any state or federal laws were broken to reward a large political contributor. I hope that we will receive a prompt response and will be sure to keep you updated on this developing situation as more information becomes available.
More Secret Polluter Pardons?
The 50% enforcement reduction appears to indicate that Governor Walker's administration has dramatically reduced efforts to safeguard the public from polluters. I have joined other members of the Legislature's natural resource committees to call on the committee chairs to establish oversight committees immediately to determine how widespread this problem runs.
Summer Camp Information
Our community offers a wide variety of camps to keep Wisconsin's youth busy while school is out for summer. Below are just a few activities that your children can take part in this summer in Milwaukee and the surrounding area.
Urban Ecology Center
Click here for more information about YMCA summer camps.
Zoological Society of
Milwaukee Summer Camps
Birth Announcement -- Welcome Atticus!
I am proud to report that at 10:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 3, my wife, Jessica, and I welcomed our first child, a son named Atticus James Larson, into the world. He is healthy and has a good set of lungs, which he showed off for us instantly. He weighed in at 8 pounds, 8 ounces and measured 20.5 inches long.
A big thank you to those who have sent congratulations and well-wishes. We look forward to introducing Baby Atticus to our family, friends, and neighbors and showing him all the amazing opportunities our community has to offer.
Happy Mother's Day
Sunday is Mother's Day. I encourage you to take advantage of some of the
Mother's Day events in our community this weekend to celebrate and thank
the mothers in your life. Many of our neighborhood restaurants will also
be offering brunch, lunch, and dinner specials this Sunday in honor of
Mother's Day. Please feel free to contact area restaurants for details.
East Town Market Mother's Day
Discovery World (MAP)
Mother's Day at Milwaukee Public Museum
Sunday, May 13 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Bring your mom to the Milwaukee Public Museum to celebrate this special holiday. All Moms will receive free admission and a free lunch in the Museum Café on Mother's Day. Mother's will also get a free gift of a seedling or seed pack from Shady Lane Greenhouse. Additional offerings at this event will include tips on growing a butterfly garden, a butterfly craft table for kids, special kid-friendly short films in the Nickelodeon Theater, cookie decorating, scarf-tying demonstrations, plus a 25 percent off jewelry sale in the Museum Marketplace.
Milwaukee Public Museum (MAP)
Celebrate Mother’s Day At The Zoo
Milwaukee County Zoo (MAP)
Click here or call (414) 256-5412 for more information.
Marcus Center for the Performing Arts (MAP)
IDs for Voting Temporarily on Hold
Dane County Circuit Court issued an injunction against 2011 Wisconsin
Act 23, a newly implemented law
requiring voters to show a valid ID for voting purposes. As a
result, this law will temporarily be suspended and voters will not be
required to show and ID when voting for the time being, including in the
upcoming April elections. This ruling, however, is subject to change based on
pending challenges to Judge Flanagan’s ruling in the Wisconsin Court of
Neighborhood Survey Available
I created a survey asking about various issues that are
important to our community and our state. The input of neighbors is
I look forward to hearing your views on these important issues!
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