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September 6, 2012



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



Mailing Address:

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


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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. 


Posters of Paris

Date: Now through Sun., September 9

Description: Come check out the Milwaukee Art Museum's latest exhibition. The museum will transport visitors to 19th century Paris, when larger-than-life, brightly hued artistic posters with bold typography and playful imagery once covered the boulevards. Experience more than one hundred of the finest French posters. CLICK HERE or call 414-224-3200 for more information.

Milwaukee Art Museum (MAP)
700 N. Art Museum Drive
Milwaukee, WI 53202

Outdoor Urban Market
Thursdays and Saturdays now through October from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Location: Milwaukee

Description: Come and enjoy the day in one of Milwaukee’s most charming and unique neighborhoods by visiting Milwaukee Public Market's Outdoor Market happening every Thursday and Saturday through October. In addition to the fresh seasonal produce, the outdoor market experience is complemented by some of the best artists in the region. The market will be held on St. Paul Avenue. CLICK HERE for more information and to view a map.


Indian Summer Festival

Date: Fri., September 7 through Sun., September 9

Location: Milwaukee

Description: The competition pow wow is the main event at Milwaukee's Indian Summer Festival, and it features dancers in full regalia competing to drum groups from across the country. The Grand Entry on each day includes tribal veteran color guard groups presenting the flags of our country, their tribes, and the military branches in which they served. Indian Summer Festival will also feature cultural crafts like finger weaving, moccasin making, quillwork, pottery, jewelry, beadwork, and wildlife carvings. Additionally, the festival will offer delicious, traditional foods including fry bread and Indian tacos. Indian Summer Festival will be open on Friday from 4 p.m. to Midnight, Saturday from Noon to Midnight, and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Admission is $12 for adults and $10 for elders 60 and over. Kids 12 and under are admitted free of charge. Advance tickets are also available online for $10. CLICK HERE or call (414) 273-3378 for more information.

Henry Maier Festival Park (MAP)
200 N. Harbor Drive
Milwaukee, WI 53202



Date: Fri., September 7 through Sat., September 29

Location: Milwaukee
Description: Celebrate the oldest and most authentic Oktoberfest in the Midwest! Oktoberfest is home to brass bands, authentic dancers, traditional foods, and of course, German beer. The festival will be held every Friday and Saturday through October 1. Family-friendly activities are offered Fridays from 5 p.m. until 11 p.m. and Saturdays from 4 p.m. until Midnight. Cost is $4 in advance and $5 at the door. Free admission will also be available on Friday nights for firefighters, police, and members of the military who present a valid ID. CLICK HERE for more information.

Heidelberg Park (MAP)
700 W. Lexington Blvd.
Milwaukee, WI 53217



International Kite Festival
Date: Sat., September 8 and Sun., September 9

Location: Milwaukee

Description: The festival will kick-off on Saturday with the grand launch of 600 kites. It will also feature performers Connor and Amy Doran who competed on "America's Got Talent." The festival will be held on Saturday, September 8 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday, September 9 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. CLICK HERE for more information.

Veterans Park (MAP)
1010 N. Lincoln Memorial Drive
Milwaukee, WI 53202

Medusa and More Monsters

Date: Fri., September 14 through Fri., October 19 at 7 p.m.

Location: Milwaukee

Description: Learn more about Medusa and other monsters in Greek mythology by stopping the the UW-Milwaukee Planetarium. General admission is $2. CLICK HERE or call (414) 229-4961 for more information.


Manfred Olson Planetarium in the

Physics Building (MAP)

1900 E. Kenwood Blvd.

Milwaukee, WI 53211


Briggs & Al's Run & Walk for Children's Hospital

Date: Sat., September 15 at 10:30 a.m.

Location: Milwaukee

Description: Join Children's Hospital of Wisconsin for the 35th Annual Briggs & Al's Run & Walk. This 8K run and 5-and 3-Mile walk has raised more than $13 million dollars with the help of outstanding community support. Public involvement makes it possible for Children's Hospital to provide medical care for more than 325,000 patient visits every year. The event begins at the intersection of 12th Street and Wisconsin Avenue on the Marquette University campus. The time for the runner mass start is 10:30 a.m. Elite runners will line-up at the front of the pack, while all other runners will line-up according to estimated pace. CLICK HERE for more information.



Bay View Bash
Date: Sat., September 15 from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Location: Bay View

Description: Join me at the ninth annual Bay View Bash, which takes place between Potter and Clement on Kinnickinnic Avenue in Bay View. This free, all-volunteer festival is a community gathering of food, art, music, crafts, and books. All the proceeds go back to the neighborhood. In the past, for example, the festival helped with the renovation, maintenance, and preservation of the Historic Beulah Brinton House. CLICK HERE for more information.


Tomato Romp!
Date: Sat., September 22
Location: Milwaukee

Description: Enjoy one of Milwaukee's messiest events of the year. Attend the annual Tomato Romp, which includes an old fashioned tomato fight and a Bloody Mary competition. Tomato Fighters must be at least 16 years old to participate.
As in previous years, registration will begin at 10 a.m. in front of Beans and Barley at 1901 East North Avenue. Cost is $20 per person per Bloody Mary ballot and $10 for the Tomato Fight. Ballots for the Bloody Mary Contest will be limited so get there early early. The 2011 defending champions are Cans Bar and Canteen (Judges' Choice) and Hotch Spot (Fan Favorite). Serving ends at 3:00pm, and winners will be announced before the Tomato Fight. CLICK HERE for more information.














































































































































































































































































Dear Friend,


Committee work is picking up in the Legislature as we tackle issues important to our neighbors in communities across Wisconsin. Continue reading to learn more about the latest public hearings and Legislative Audit Reports.


Chris Larson
State Senator, District 7




Remembering September 11th

This upcoming Tuesday, our nation will be recognizing the 11-year anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. We should all take a moment to remember the lives lost and also recall the days afterward and how the United States stood united in our resolve to not be intimidated by these acts of destruction and cowardice.

I was a student at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee then, and remember hearing the news from a friend when I arrived to campus that morning. Like so many across our nation, we watched in horror as the second plane hit the World Trade Center.

September 11, 2001, took too many U.S. lives and changed all of us. The grief of 9/11 brought us closer together as a nation and in each of our communities. Before this tragedy, I had not been interested in politics or paid much attention to how my community was affected by state and national policies. It was only afterward that I became more aware and decided to get involved. I, along with many others, committed to making a better community and ensuring our greatest days as a country remained ahead.


Our nation is still in the process of rebuilding the landmark World Trade Center building that lay in ruins 11 years ago. The project aims to combine modern, safe, and sustainable commercial space, convenient transportation, and a destination cultural center. The New World Trade Center is expected to be completed next year and will boast five new skyscrapers, span over 100 floors, and contain the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.


Click here for more information about the World Trade Center reconstruction project.



Study Shows Voucher Schools Fail to Out-perform MPS

Late last week, the Legislative Audit Bureau released its analysis of a five-year study examining Milwaukee’s voucher program. The Legislative Audit Bureau’s report confirms the methodology used and student samples examined by researchers was flawed and therefore the findings of the study are frustratingly inconclusive.


Background on the Study

In 2005, the Wisconsin State Legislature passed Wisconsin Act 125, legislation requiring all private schools participating in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program to give standardized tests to all students in fourth, eighth, and 10th grades and submit the results to the School Choice Demonstration Project conducted out of the University of Arkansas. Such requirements are already in place for all of Milwaukee's Public Schools.


The School Choice Demonstration Project studied 5,454 students--half in voucher schools and half in MPS--beginning in the 2006-2007 school year. It released several reports per year on the differences between the two school systems. Wisconsin Act 125 also required the state Legislative Audit Bureau to analyze the project's annual reports in order to compare the academic performance of voucher students to  their counterparts in Milwaukee Public Schools.


Click here to view a copy of the Legislative Audit Bureau's findings regarding the School Choice Demonstration Project's study.

Flaws in the Student Sample Studied

The number of voucher students and public school students that were tracked in the study totaled 2,727 each, and were selected by the School Choice Demonstration Project. However, as acknowledged by the Legislative Audit Bureau, there were major flaws with the student sample from the beginning. Below is a list of just some of the problems with the study that prevented researchers from getting a true apples-to-apples comparison of academic performance between voucher and public school students:

  • Data Missing--Voucher schools were unable to provide information crucial to the study, such as the ethnicity of 107 students, the gender of 119 students, the disability status of 1,152 students, and the primary language status of 1,010 students. Further, as voucher schools are not held to the same accountability and transparency standards as public schools, the information that was provided by voucher schools regarding student demographics may have been gathered not by the schools directly, but by researchers interviewing parents, students, and teachers.

  • Disproportionate Number of Students with Disabilities and English Language Learners--According to the study, 402 of Milwaukee Public School's sample student population were recorded as having a disability, while only 120 students in the voucher school sample were reported as having a disability. Milwaukee Public Schools also reported a higher percentage of English Language Learners in their sample population compared to voucher schools as they reported 259 and 165 respectively.

  • Students Transferring--Approximately 18.4% of test scores recorded by voucher schools were attributed to students that transferred from a voucher school to a Milwaukee Public School during the course of the study. On the other hand, only 3.3% of test scores recorded by Milwaukee Public Schools were attributed to students that transferred from a Milwaukee Public School to a voucher school. Failing to exclude these students from the sample is problematic as it is impossible to determine who should be credited with their success or failure during the five-year study as both schools played a role in their educational experience.

  • Test Administration Changing--For the first four years of the study, voucher schools were only required to administer the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam to students participating in the study. Beginning in the 2010-2011 school year, or the final year of the study, voucher schools were required to give the standardized Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam to all pupils in grades three through eight, as well as grade 10. Such a requirement had already been long in place in Milwaukee Public Schools. Past studies have shown that students' scores often go up after introducing test-based accountability policies. So the Legislative Audit Bureau was unable to determine whether any score increases were due to the newly administered tests or the voucher schools themselves. Therefore, it said it could not conclude the impact of voucher schools on achievement.

Annual Snapshot Likely More Accurate
For those looking to get a more precise snapshot of just how voucher school students are performing compared to their public school counterparts, they should look at data recently collected by the Department of Public Instruction. This data analyzes how all voucher and public school students in 4th, 8th and 10th grade performed in reading, math and science during the 2010-2011 school year. According to the data, Milwaukee Public School students outperformed voucher students in eight out of nine categories. These statistics can also be found in the Legislative Audit Bureau's analysis of the study previously mentioned.


It is foolish to continue funneling over $55 million annually out of our children’s public schools without any measure of the value of this educational diversion. As we progress into the new school year, I hope this report will also motivate the Legislature to re-examine the accountability requirements of the voucher program.

Voucher Schools a Burden on Milwaukee Taxpayers
In 2010, state law compelled Milwaukee Public Schools to levy over $50 million in taxes to subsidize the private and religious schools making up the voucher program, which amounts to 17% of the total Milwaukee Public Schools tax levy. New legislation at the state level recently expanded the voucher program in Milwaukee to allow private schools outside Milwaukee to participate, while also removing all enrollment caps on the program and raising the income limits on participants. Due to these policy changes in the Republican budget, the cost of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program rose significantly, exceeding the state’s official 2012 estimate and increasing the financial responsibility of taxpayers to 22.6% of the total Milwaukee Public Schools tax levy.

These changes came at a time when public schools were forced to make do with $1.6 billion less in state aide during this school year and the last, while spending on programs like the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program continued to balloon. In truth, Milwaukee taxpayers are now being billed for both the largest school district in the state, Milwaukee Public Schools, AND the fourth largest, which is what the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program has grown to be with 22,400 students. The tax levy for the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program already exceeds the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District by nearly $10 million and is expected to exceed Milwaukee Area Technical College’s in the next few years.


My Milwaukee colleagues and I were successful in our efforts to ensure greater transparency and accountability on Milwaukee’s property tax bills. We worked together 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. Milwaukee taxpayers will now receive a detailed break down of how much they pay for Milwaukee Public Schools and how much is funneled into the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program.

Click here to view a copy of the handout on property tax transparency that is being circulated to City of Milwaukee taxpayers.

Fixing the Funding Formula
Currently, Wisconsin does not accurately count all students and only provides funding to Milwaukee for students attending public schools. This in-turn places the financial burden of voucher students solely on the backs of Milwaukee taxpayers. I will continue working hard to ensure that the state of Wisconsin is held accountable for the education of all of our children by adopting a funding formula that is fair.


I realize the complexity of this issue and appreciate those neighbors who have been working to draw attention to it. Please contact me with any clarifying questions you might have.



Audit, Education Committee Hold Public Hearings

Two of the committees of which I am a member--the Senate Committee on Education & Corrections and the Joint Legislative Audit Committee--met last week to discuss issues important to our community and the state of Wisconsin. Continue reading for more information about what was addressed at these public hearings.


Senate Committee on Education & Corrections

The Senate Committee on Education & Corrections held a public hearing on Wednesday, August 29 to ensure the Legislature was informed and up-to-speed on the challenges facing schools across the state as we begin the new school year. Below are just some of the items that were discussed at this public hearing:

  • Findings from the report titled "Making Matters Worse: School Funding, Achievement Gaps and Poverty Under Wisconsin Act 32," which examined how the most recent budget takes more money out of rural and property poor school districts, while benefiting property rich districts.

  • Testimony from Superintendent Bruce Quinton of Pepin Area Schools demonstrating that the increased employee contributions from Act 10 did not make up for the budget cuts in state aid across rural and property poor districts.

  • Discussion on a the article "Average School District Will Face Rocky Road," which highlights the new normal in Wisconsin's schools that includes consolidating districts, bankruptcy, higher tax burdens and less services offered.

  • Testimony from teachers talking about how the cuts have impacted their classrooms through increased class sizes, fewer resources and offerings for children, and the inability to attract the best new teachers.

  • Discussing the "fair funding" concept put forth by Superintendent Tony Evers, which would help equalize aid between poor and wealthy school districts and fix the funding formula flaw created by funneling money from MPS to voucher schools.

Click here or on the picture below to view video of the Education & Corrections public hearing.



Joint Committee on Legislative Audit

The Audit Committee held a public hearing on Tuesday, August 28 to hear testimony from the Department of Health Services, the Legislative Audit Bureau, and Hunger Task Force on some of our safety net programs. The audits we took-up, which were conducted by the Legislative Audit Bureau, included:

During the hearing, we pushed for departments, like DHS, to continue striving to find efficiencies and weed out potential fraud. However, it is also crucial that in addressing that 0.04% of potential fraud found in the audit titled "FoodShare Benefits Spent Outside of Wisconsin," that these departments do not lose sight of their main goal. Above all else, we should be ensuring that Wisconsin's safety net programs are providing neighbors with adequate and timely access to these life-saving programs during their time of need.



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: I often see you cite documents that have been drafted by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau and the Legislative Audit Bureau in your weekly newsletter. What are these organizations?


A: The Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau and the Wisconsin Legislative Audit Bureau are nonpartisan service agencies created to assist members of the Wisconsin State Legislature. These agencies aim to provide accurate information and detailed statistical analysis without political slant. Therefore, their reports and analysis are often cited by members of the Legislature on both sides of the aisle. Below you can read more about each of these agencies and the role they play in assisting the Legislature.


Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau

This Bureau provides fiscal and program information and analyses to the Wisconsin Legislature, its committees, and individual legislators. The Bureau also serves as staff to the Joint Committee on Finance -- a 16-member Committee, which reviews and deliberates on legislation affecting state revenues and appropriations. The primary focus of the Committee's work, and thus, that of the Bureau, in each legislative session is the state's biennial budget.

Wisconsin Legislative Audit Bureau
This Bureau conducts objective audits and evaluations of state agency operations to ensure state money being spent has been made in a legal and proper manner, and to determine whether government programs are administered effectively, efficiently, and in accordance with the policies of the Legislature and the governor. The results of these evaluations, or audits, are provided to the Legislature, along with recommendations for improvements in agency operations. 2007 Wisconsin Act 126 created a fraud, waste, and mismanagement hotline to assist the Bureau by allowing the public and individuals within state government to report suspected fraud and other improper acts by state agencies, employees, and contractors.


Click here to learn more about this legislative hotline.




Did You Know...?

Many of us have gone to a local restaurant, supper club, or tavern on Fridays from time to time to indulge in a meal of baked or fried fish with plenty of sides. But did you know that the roots of this beloved Wisconsin tradition began with Catholic immigrants and grew more popular during Prohibition?

When Catholic immigrants from countries such as Germany, Poland, and Ireland settled in Wisconsin, the practice of eating fish instead of meat on Fridays came with them. This tradition became further ingrained in our state during Prohibition. During this time, as taverns could no longer sell alcohol, they turned to serving food, including fried fish, to keep their businesses open. Wisconsin even expanded its use of fish hatcheries during Prohibition to keep up with the demand for Friday night fish. By 1922, Wisconsin had 12 hatcheries planting upwards of 100 million fish each year.




September is Baby Safety Month

As a new parent, keeping my son safe and healthy is a constant concern and something I think about daily. In recognition of September being National Baby Safety Month, I wanted to bring awareness to a major public health concern--a staggeringly high infant mortality rate--in Southeastern Wisconsin, and Milwaukee especially.


While the city's infant mortality rate has been declining each year and Milwaukee remains on track to reach their goal of reducing the overall rate by 10% by 2017, this is still a concerning issue impacting far too many families in our community. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's in-depth series "Empty Cradle," Milwaukee's 2011 infant mortality rate of 10.2 deaths per 1,000 live births is among the worst for the nation's largest cities.


Milwaukee's infant mortality statistics also show an alarming disparity between infant mortality rates of black and white children. In 2011, the infant mortality rate for white children was 5.0, while the same rate for black children was 14.5, or almost three times higher.

In fact, the black infant mortality rate in Milwaukee is worse than the overall rate in Ukraine, Ecuador, Malaysia, and 58 other countries.

According to City of Milwaukee Health Department, there are several leading causes of Milwaukee's high infant mortality rate, including:

  • Premature Birth--Over 50% of Milwaukee's infant deaths are due to premature birth. Infants born prematurely have a greater risk of medical complications, long-term disabilities, and death.

  • Congenital Abnormalities--Around 20% of Milwaukee's infant deaths are due to congenital abnormalities, or birth defects, and their associated complications.

  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy--About 20% of Milwaukee’s infant deaths are attributable to a combination of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy. Of these deaths, the majority died in an unsafe sleep environment.

Click here for more information on infant deaths at the City of Milwaukee's Web site.


The City of Milwaukee has been investing in a public awareness campaign on safe sleep, and will continue this campaign with a new round of advertisements in hopes of raising awareness for infant safety. The new ads demonstrate the safest way for infants to sleep, which is alone, on their backs, and in their own cribs.


Click here for more information about safe sleep for your baby at the City of Milwaukee's Web site.

The city also has stepped up direct services to the community by partnering with local organizations committed to lowering Milwaukee's infant mortality rate. One such program is the Nurse Family Partnership, a home visiting program that offers assistance to low-income, first-time pregnant women in four of the city's most troubled ZIP codes. Our community has also partnered with the Milwaukee Lifecourse Initiative for Healthy Families, which was awarded a grant of $250,000 from the Oversight and Advisory Committee of the UW School of Medicine and Public Health as part of an initiative commitment to addressing infant mortality among black children in Wisconsin.

Infant mortality is a complex problem impacted by numerous social, economic, and ethnic factors. You can play your part in reducing the infant mortality rate in our community by focusing on increasing safety precautions in your own home. Spend a few days this month checking your infant’s bed and car seat. You can also use the 30-day checklist below to survey your baby's surroundings to ensure a safe home for your infant.


Click here for a baby safety checklist created for National Baby Safety Month.



Thank You, Neighbors

This past weekend, St. Francis held their annual St. Francis Days at Vretenar Municipal Park. I was honored to have the opportunity to participate in this family-friendly event that hosts the city's largest parade each year. It was great to talk to so many neighbors throughout the day about issues important to them. A huge thank you to everyone that attended St. Francis Days and to the City of St. Francis and all groups involved for putting together this great event for our community.




Update on IDs for Voters

In March 2012, 2011 Wisconsin Act 23 was ruled unconstitutional and two separate Circuit Court judges ordered government officials to halt requiring voters to present a valid photo ID when casting their vote. It was stated in the ruling that 2011 Wisconsin Act 23 carried a severe risk of disenfranchising voters and was suspended based on the vital public interest at stake in allowing full participation in elections.

This controversial legislation also contains several provisions not related to presenting valid photo identification while voting, including changes to Wisconsin’s laws regarding residency and absentee voting. These provisions are still in effect. While the merits of this law are being examined, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation will continue to provide free state ID cards to Wisconsinites.

This court ruling remains in the appeals process, meaning that current procedures may change based upon whether the courts irrefutably determine 2011 Wisconsin Act 23 to be constitutional or unconstitutional. I will keep you updated on any changes regarding implementation of 2011 Wisconsin Act 23.


Click here for more information from the Government Accountability Board's Web site.



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 greatly appreciated.

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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