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September 20, 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


Web Site:


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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. 

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.


Date: Now 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

Medusa and More Monsters

Date: Now 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


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.



2012 Komen Southeast WI Race for the Cure
Date: Sun., September 23 at 9:15 a.m.
Location: Milwaukee

Description: Whether you run, walk or stroll,  discover with every step your power to change the world. Join the 14th Annual Susan G. Komen Southeast Wisconsin Race for the Cure at Milwaukee's Lakefront on Sunday, September 23 at 9:15 a.m. In conjunction with its sponsorship of the Race, Kohl’s is continuing its sponsorship of Kids for the Cure, a children’s area at the Race for children 12 and under. CLICK HERE for more information about this event.

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



Milwaukee Film Festival
Date: Thurs., September 27 through Thurs., October 11
Location: Milwaukee
Description: Now in its fourth year, the Milwaukee Film Festival takes place over 15 days, showing nearly 200 award-quality films at the Landmark Downer Theatre, Landmark Oriental Theatre, and Fox-Bay Cinema Grill. Alongside the best fiction features, documentaries, and shorts on the festival circuit, this year’s screenings include expanded cult classics and music documentary series, the Milwaukee Children’s Film Festival, the always-popular "The Milwaukee Show," and a focus on the films of China for its Passport Program. CLICK HERE for information, including a listing of screenings.

Film On the Hill- The Goonies
Date: Sat., October 6
Location: Bay View
Description: Come support the Bay view Community and the Milwaukee County Parks by enjoying a relaxing evening at the Humboldt Park Band Shell where the Goonies will be playing. The movie will begin at dusk and popcorn and local vendors will be available. This is a free event and everyone is welcome to attend. CLICK HERE for more information.

Humboldt Park (MAP)

3000 S. Howell Avenue

Milwaukee, WI 53207












































































































































































































































Dear Friend,


With the State of Education address being delivered today, this week's newsletter will focus on Agenda 2017, Milwaukee's upcoming head count, and visits to our neighborhood schools.


Chris Larson
State Senator, District 7




State of Education Focuses on Investing in Real Reform

Wisconsin's State Superintendent Tony Evers delivered the annual State of Education address today in front of the Legislature, Supreme Court Justices, Attorney General, and Tribal chairs and president. Unfortunately, Governor Walker was not present. Evers' speech detailed the reality Wisconsin's schools are facing and provided valuable insight for moving forward. Continue reading for more detailed analysis of this important event.


Tough Year for Students, Teachers, and Parents

School budget cuts are real and have not gone unnoticed by communities, students, and parents. The claims that savings from Act 10 covered all cuts and put our neighborhood schools in a better position have proven false. To cope with the largest budget cuts in state history, school districts were forced to take away resources from some of our most valuable educational tools. The largest cuts were made to school libraries, special education, and reading specialists. Additionally, school districts cut nearly 2,400 staff last year, and nearly 75% of school districts cut teachers.


Wisconsin schools also had to make cuts to programs aimed at providing every Wisconsin child a pathway to a family-supporting career. Despite Wisconsin's employers struggling to find skilled workers, Governor Walker and Republican legislators cut funding for career and technical education classes. Our investment in career and technical education has decreased 40% in the past 20 years and since 2004, districts have cut 20% of our career and technical education workforce. Approximately 50% of these cuts occurred in the past two years alone. To make Wisconsin a pro-business state, we also have to make it a pro-education one.


Moving Forward with Agenda 2017

We should celebrate our accomplishments, such as our students scoring second in the country on the ACT and consistently leading the nation in high school graduation. However, we also should not cease striving to do better for Wisconsin's children. Despite nation-leading graduation rates, nearly 6,000 Wisconsin students drop out every year. We also need to work to decrease graduation gaps. Currently, Hispanic and American Indian students drop out at a rate of one in four, and African American students at a rate of one in three. Wide gaps persist for students with disabilities, English language learners, and students in poverty, as well. High school dropouts earn far less and are far more likely to be unemployed. For their futures and ours, we must fight to make every child a graduate.


To combat our persistent challenges, Superintendent Evers has launched Agenda 2017. This comprehensive agenda sets aggressive, but achievable, goals and lays out a plan to meet them by the year 2017. Through improved standards and instruction, revamped assessments and data systems, increased school and educator accountability, and school finance reform, we can work together to raise graduation rates, close gaps, and increase career and college readiness. Below are just some of the provisions of Agenda 2017 that have already been put into effect:

  • Adopting common core standards. Allows teachers, students, and parents to focus on the important stuff by no longer having a curriculum a mile-wide and an inch-deep.

  • Partnering with UW Colleges. Work with technical colleges and private universities to expand opportunities for students wanting to earn college credit and employment skills while in high school.

  • Implementing Read to Lead. Providing every kindergartener with early literacy screenings to help teachers target instruction and improve fundamental reading skills.

  • Replacing the WKCE. In grades three through eight, we will be replacing the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination with an online, adaptive test that provides meaningful, timely data to students, teachers, and parents.

  • Ending No Child Left Behind. Wisconsin has applied for a federal waiver to allow our state to replace the failed No Child Left Behind policies.

While our schools have already implemented a number of positive reforms, there are still others that need to be put into action or require legislative approval. Below is a listing of such provisions:

  • Invest in our career and technical education program, STEM, and industry certifications. This will enable schools to create personalized academic and career plans for every student.

  • Funding the ACT for all juniors. By funding the ACT, preparatory tests, such as EXPLORE and PLAN, and job readiness assessments, including WorkKeys, we reduce barriers to college and employment, and create a win-win-win situation for students, parents, and schools.

  • Increasing accountability for schools. Last session, Governor Walker broke his promise by refusing to extend accountability to all schools receiving taxpayer funds, including voucher schools. Therefore, this still needs to be implemented.

  • Implementing Fair Funding for Our Future plan. The current funding system is broken. This will fix funding flaws by increasing equity between low- and high-poverty areas and ensuring voucher funds follow the student.

Bring Respect Back to Teachers

Every Monday through Friday, from September through June, we entrust Wisconsin's teachers with those most valuable to us--our children. The men and women teaching our children play a fundamental role in their present and future success. Unfortunately, over the past year and a half, contentions surrounding Act 10 and the 2011-2012 Biennial Budget have unjustly placed targets on the backs of our teachers. Superintendent Evers shared plenty of stories today detailing how the lives of teachers have been negatively impacted by disparaging rhetoric. One teacher, for example, drives to a grocery store two towns away to ensure she can shop in peace. Another teacher broke down in tears when asked what advice she would give to aspiring educators. While a different teacher admitted she no longer tells people her profession because she is afraid where the conversation will go.


Teachers continue moving forward with their profession because they are devoted to our kids and love to teach. Wisconsin's teachers deserve to make enough to raise a family. Furthermore, it is unacceptable that many of our teachers today feel undervalued, underappreciated, and disrespected.


Changing How We View Education

We must stop forcing schools to balance their budgets on the backs of kids and working families. It is time to change how we view education. Rather than treating education funding as something expendable, we instead need to invest in remodeling our current education system. While Governor Walker keeps trying to convince us that two plus two equals five, Tony Evers has proposed a plan that adds up. We cannot afford to keep following failed policies when we have common sense solutions right in front of us. I support Superintendent Evers' plan and look forward to supporting pending proposal provisions once session resumes in January 2013.


Click here to view a copy of State Superintendent Tony Evers' State of Education address.


Legal Victory for Workers' Rights

This past Friday, a Dane County judge struck down 2011 Wisconsin Act 10, a law created by Governor Walker to repeal most collective bargaining for local and state employees. The law will remain largely in effect for state workers, while city, county, and school district employees will instead follow the state statutes in place prior to passage of Act 10 in March 2011.


According to the court ruling, Act 10 violated constitutional rights to free speech and free association, and also infringed on equal representation by capping union workers' raises but not those of their nonunion counterparts, and treating police and firefighters differently from other union employees. The ruling also stated that the law violated the "home rule" clause of the state constitution by setting the retirement contribution rate for City of Milwaukee employees rather than leaving it to the city and workers.


Click here to read the full court ruling on Act 10.


Democratic legislators raised concerns about the legality and constitutionality of Act 10 prior to its passage. Unfortunately, Governor Walker and his rubberstamp legislators ignored these warnings, instead opting to ram this legislation through as quickly as possible. Worries that the constitutional and legal rights of Wisconsinites were being violated prompted Madison teachers and City of Milwaukee workers to file the lawsuit that led to the ruling.


The ruling is a tremendous victory for Wisconsin, especially those that fought to ensure they had a seat at the discussion table and also increase accountability and transparency in the law-making process. With the support of Governor Walker, Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen has filed a brief to stay, or suspend, the ruling and proceed with the restrictions of Act 10 until legal challenges to the decision can be evaluated. It is unclear what will happen should this case reach the Court of Appeals or the Wisconsin Supreme Court. However, in the meantime, this ruling will help ensure that the views of workers are considered before a decision is made and that such employees receive some level of respect from Governor Walker and state legislators.


Click here for further analysis on this issue provided by WUWM-Milwaukee Public Radio.




Visits to Our Neighborhood Schools

Thank you to the teachers and students at South Milwaukee High School and Parkview Elementary in Cudahy for inviting me to visit your schools. In Mr. Biro's 5th grade class we discussed the legislative process behind getting a water park in Cudahy. I also stopped by Mr. Callender and Mr. Grassl's classes to speak to students in U.S. History, AP American Government, and the We The People class. I thoroughly enjoyed the pointed questions and the thoughtful dialogue.


These visits make me even more appreciative of the hard work our teacher put in with our children each and every day. I look forward to visiting more schools and classes throughout the 2012-2013 school year and sharing the concerns raised by students, teachers, and parents.




Schools Take Student Head Count Friday

This Friday, Milwaukee Public Schools will complete their official head count. This is done each third Friday in September. The figure calculated reflects the number of students living in the district who are enrolled in public schools, and excludes students who attend other school districts through open enrollment or participate in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program. The numbers also might differ from other enrollment counts that factor in students that are enrolled full-time or part-time.

The figures then help determine how much state funding a district receives and how much revenue districts can raise under state-imposed caps. In the fall, districts use the enrollment numbers to complete their budgets and set the property tax levy. Drops in enrollment, even slight ones, can be hard on school districts because of fixed costs.


Unfortunately, this day often reminds public school teachers, parents, and advocates of the loophole in state policies that allows voucher schools to keep receiving taxpayer money, even months after a voucher student leaves for another school. The amount of tax dollars given to voucher schools each year is also based off of the annual September headcount. Knowing this, voucher schools often try to retain their full student body until after the headcount. Once the headcount is complete they will continue to receive taxpayer funds on behalf of students that eventually leave during the school year.


While many Wisconsinites assume financial resources follow the child during their education, this is simply not always the case. In fact, when a student transfers from a private or religious voucher school to a public school, taxpayers could be paying to educate him or her twice--once in voucher payments to the private school and again in taxes to their public school district.


Clearly this flaw related to funding the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program based on Milwaukee's headcount needs to be remedied by improving accountability and transparency beyond just one day each year. As a member of the Committee on Education and Corrections, I look forward to addressing this issue in greater detail once the Legislature convenes for the 2013-2014 Legislative Session in January.



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: Wisconsin has one of the highest rates of pertussis in the country, and measles has been recently making a come back. What is your opinion of changing the state's criteria for vaccine exemptions, in order to increase the number of children who are fully vaccinated for school?


A: Wisconsin State Statute 252.04 establishes the immunization requirements for each age/grade level that are to be implemented by every school district in Wisconsin. While each school district must follow these minimum standards, they also have the authority to create stricter standards. Currently, all students attending public school are required to be current on their shots to help fight against both measles (MMR) and pertussis (DTaP). However, Wisconsin does let parents submit a vaccination waiver if they oppose vaccines for their children because of personal convictions, medical reasons, or religious beliefs.

According to data from the Department of Health Services, in the 2010-2011 school year, 92.2% of students the state of Wisconsin, excluding those in Milwaukee Public Schools, met the minimum vaccination requirements. In Milwaukee Public Schools, only 76% of students met the minimum vaccination requirements during that same school year. Furthermore, analysis released by the Associated Press during the last school year found that Wisconsin was among 10 states that were found to have the number of vaccination exemptions increase by 1.5 percentage points or more over the past five years.

I support the current requirements, which have been shown to limit outbreaks of life-threatening illnesses and are supported by the scientific community. As a new parent who has taken his son for his immunizations shots, I know that it can be tough to see your child go through this process. There is an innate desire to keep them safe from harm and do what is best for our children. However, it is much safer for your child, and the broader community, to choose to immunize and protect them from life-threatening disease than the alternative of opting-out.


While I am not opposed to changing the process for applying for an immunization waiver to ensure that a greater number of students are immunized, if we are to make changes to the current process, we should first have community meetings that involve parents, students, teachers, medical leaders, and other community members. This will allow us to ensure that all of our neighbors’ perspectives are heard and that we come together to decide what is in the best interest of our children and community.

Click here for more information about the immunization requirements for K-12 students in Wisconsin.

Click here for more information from the Center for Disease Control regarding the importance of immunizations for children of school age.




Did You Know...?

Many students across Wisconsin this year will be learning about our state symbols. These symbols help us declare what is special about our state and what sets Wisconsin apart from the other 49. Most of us already know that the badger is our state animal and milk is our state beverage. But did you know that the polka is our state dance, the trilobite is our state fossil, and corn is our state grain?




Thank You, Neighbors

This past weekend, our community held its annual Bay View Bash festival. I was honored to have the opportunity to participate in this family-friendly event of food, art, music, crafts, books, and community organization. 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 the Bay View Bash and to those involved with putting together this great event for our community.



Requirements for Voting This Fall

I have been getting a lot of questions about what the requirements are for voting this fall. Here is some information that should help.


Last session, the Legislature enacted 2011 Wisconsin Act 23. This changed many of Wisconsin's requirements for voters, including those related to photo identification, residency, and absentee voting. While the ID restriction 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, all other provisions of this law remain in effect. 


To clarify what is and is not required of voters, I have created a PDF detailing some of the most important aspects of this law that may affect you or your family.


Click here to view a copy of this PDF, which will also be available on my Web site next week.


More information about requirements for voters can also be found at the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board's Web site. This organization is tasked with ensuring Wisconsin's elections are administered through open, fair, and impartial procedures that guarantee that the vote of each individual counts, and the will of the electorate prevails. Their Web site contains a host of information for voters, including but not limited to how to register and where, the process for voting absentee, and procedures military and overseas personnel should follow.


Click here to visit the Wisconsin 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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