LARSON REPORT

NEWSLETTER

 

August 25, 2016

     

 

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

 

Website:

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.


Milwaukee Fringe Festival
Date: Saturday, August 27 to Sunday, August 28, 12 p.m. to 10 a.m.
Location: Milwaukee
Description: Following the rich tradition of Fringe Festivals, the Milwaukee Fringe Festival is a showcase of a diverse collection of artists that call Milwaukee home. From theatrical actors to painters, musicians to tap dancers, performance artists to playwrights, MKE Fringe is a joyous celebration of what makes Milwaukee’s culture vibrant and extraordinary. Visitors will have the pleasure of experiencing theater, music, visual art, dance, and performance art CLICK HERE for more information.

Pere Marquette Park
(MAP)
900 N. Plankinton Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53203

Historical Society Canopy Talk
Date: Saturday, August 27, 10 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
Location: South Milwaukee
Description: Join us at the South Milwaukee Historical Society for a short presentation on the Lawson Airline by Steve Schreiter. All Canopy Talks are held outside in good weather. This is a free event.

South Milwaukee Historical Museum
(MAP)
717 Milwaukee Ave, South Milwaukee, WI 53172


3rd Annual Lagoon Festival

Date: Saturday, August 27, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Location: South Milwaukee
Description: Come on down to Market Square and enjoy a day of classic cars/bikes, silent auction, live music, vendors, food, drinks, tie dye your own shirts, a kids corner and much more! Kid's Corner includes: Face Painting, Crafts, Coloring contest, Sidewalk Chalk Art, Games, Watermelon Dave, "The Black Smith" is back to show you how everyday items were made by our ancestors. This fundraiser is to help raise funds to restore the South Milwaukee Lagoon. CLICK HERE for more information.

Market Square
(MAP)
11th & Milwaukee Ave South Milwaukee, WI 53172
 


Meeting on Civil Rights and Hate Crimes

Date: Monday, August 29 from 1 p.m. to 4:30 pm
Location: West Allis
Description: The Wisconsin Advisory Committee (WAC) will be holding a public meeting regarding civil rights and hate crimes in Wisconsin. The event will also feature speakers from the Hmong community who will discuss the impact of the Hmong hunter incidents of the past few years and how to combat future hate crimes like these. For more information, CLICK HERE.

 

Hampton Inn & Suites

(MAP)

8201 W Greenfield Ave.

West Allis, WI 53214


 

Bay View Art in the Park
Date: Saturday, September 10
Location: Bay View
Description: Bay View Art in the Park provides free fine arts events and live music for the whole family. The festival celebrates local artists and helps create connections to their community. BVAP will also have a free art workshop for children. Click HERE for more information.

Humboldt Park
(MAP)
3000 S Howell Ave Milwaukee, WI 53207


Simply Swing: Chris Mariani and the Radio Rosies with Swing Explosion
Date: Friday, September 30 at 7:30 p.m.
Location: South Milwaukee
Description: Chris Mariani's sound stylishly blends early 40's Romance with late 50's Swing, meticulously crafted and enriched with an influence that is exclusively, Chris Mariani. Be drawn back in time as Chris is joined by the pure, sweet harmonies of The Radio Rosies, a three-part harmony vocal trio, and accompanied by Swing Explosion, an 18-piece Midwest big band. CLICK HERE for more information.

South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center
(MAP)
901 15th Ave, South Milwaukee, WI 53172








 

 

Dear Wisconsin Neighbor,

 
I hope you've had time to enjoy an end-of- summer vacation and hope the ideas we listed in the last newsletter were helpful.

Already, children across Wisconsin are returning to school. As a parent, I have felt firsthand the joys of watching my kids learn, grow, and overcome challenges. It’s a great time to remember that having an equal opportunity and access to a quality education are cornerstone American principles, because we all believe that every child should have the freedom to live a successful life.

For this week's Larson Report, we’re focusing on what we can do to ensure a quality education for every child and the legislative opportunities we as a state can pursue. It’s amazing what we could accomplish if we had this as a priority. We also have a few legislative updates since the last time we wrote.

Additionally, Labor Day is fast-approaching and communities across the state will be celebrating in their own way. Below you will find celebrations going on in the 7th Senate District.
 

In Service,



Chris Larson
State Senator, District 7

 

 

A Prosperous Future for our Children

A quality education for all Wisconsin children is one of the strongest core values that we all share. Under Governor Walker, we've seen our investment in this deeply held belief crumble. The future of Wisconsin is on the line as Republicans have intentionally underfunded our neighborhood schools in favor of tax breaks for corporations and handing over public money to unaccountable, for-profit voucher schools. We must re-invest in our shared value of educational opportunity for all of our kids by creating innovative pathways to help ensure a brighter future for Wisconsin's children.

Recently, in response to an information request from my colleague, Sen. Bewley, the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau released a memo that shows the dire situation our neighborhood public schools face due to the majority of our districts having their state general aid investments cut below 2010 levels. For instance, our Milwaukee schools struggled to make due after seeing $43 million less in general school aid last school year than in the school year before Walker took office.

See the memo, here.

In a recent op-ed published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Alan Borsuk of Marquette University Law School, echoed the concern that our schools are starved for vital resources as a result of the misplaced priorities of the governor and legislative Republicans.

However, Borsuk was also careful to remind us of some of the positives that parents and students have to look forward to as they gear up for the upcoming school year, including the dedication and hard work of our educators.

Here's a section of the op-ed:
"...Teachers. The very large majority work hard (if you think otherwise, you're wrong). They're dedicated, they care, and they’re deep into preparations to bring their best to their students this year. The better they do, the better their students will do. We need them. We should respect them more than we do. And we should send them back to school with up-arrows that show our support."

Read the full op-ed, here.

Milwaukee Community Unites for Public Schools
Compounding the intentional disinvestment in education, legislative Republicans and other community leaders orchestrated a complete seizure of certain schools in our communities. This takeover of Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) was met with harsh criticism from parents, educators, and locally elected school board members.   

Local control is at the bedrock of Wisconsin's educational system. Our neighbors elect local school boards who are entrusted with the management and success of their districts. Our locally elected school boards were set up in such a way to encourage community input and to give a voice to those benefiting from our public schools.

Those who pushed the MPS Takeover scheme sought to erode local control of our public schools and diminish the power of our democratically elected school board, leaving our neighbors without a voice in the affairs of their neighborhood schools.

However, those who care about our neighborhood schools and the future of our children mobilized efforts to push back against the MPS Takeover. They organized school sit-ins, wrote their legislators, and raised awareness about the issue. Their efforts resulted in the resignation of the unelected commissioner, appointed by the Milwaukee county executive, who was charged with implementing the MPS Takeover scheme.

The commissioner's resignation came just before his statutory deadline to select at least one MPS school to be taken over.

Because the commissioner failed to implement a plan of action by the deadline, the MPS Takeover will not be implemented for this school year. Now, the county executive must appoint a new commissioner to implement the plan next year. Under state law, taking over any schools in the 2nd year of implementation is completely optional, and I will continue to work with the community to ensure we keep our neighborhood schools intact and strong.

Unfortunately, some legislative Republicans seem eager to punish our neighbors who took a stand against the hostile takeover of MPS schools. In fact, just a day after the resignation of the Takeover commissioner, Senate Republican leaders threatened that the Republican-controlled Legislature could further disinvest in the future of our children by slashing even more resources from Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS). If Republicans were serious about offering students a quality education, they would not attempt to take away the voice of the community and then retaliate against them when things don't go their way.

A Progressive Vision for our Schools
Instead of playing politics with the future of our children, we have an opportunity to strengthen our education system and provide more support to students. As the lead Democratic member of the Senate Committee on Education last session, I had an opportunity to meet with educators, experts, other legislators, and advocates in order to come up with legislation that puts our kids on the road to opportunity and prosperity. I look forward to supporting these ideas when the next legislative session begins in January 2017, and look forward to hearing from my Wisconsin neighbors about other ideas they have. Some of the legislative ideas are discussed below.

Repealing the MPS Takeover
The answer to making sure all of our public schools are able to provide a quality education in Milwaukee is not to take control away from the community, but to empower them in every way possible to ensure the success of our children. Our neighbors have made it clear they do not want a takeover of MPS schools.

Implementing a "Community Schools" Model
Many schools targeted by the MPS Takeover plan are schools in neighborhoods where families struggle with unemployment, poverty, gun violence, and high infant mortality. Republicans have failed to invest in the services these kids and their families desperately need and have neglected programming that is proven to be beneficial in supporting struggling families and bolstering student performance.

The community schools model takes a wraparound approach, which allows for more comprehensive, individualized services for students, such as academic support and enrichment activities, including expanded learning time and summer or after school enrichment and learning experiences; programs that promote parental involvement and family literacy; job training, internship opportunities, and career counseling services; and health services, including primary health, services by a school nurse, dental care, mental health counseling, and nutrition services.

Under the bill introduced last session, community schools would also provide professional development for school administrators, teachers, and educational support professionals. If we want all of our students to succeed, it is critical that students are provided a well-rounded curriculum by professional teachers who are able to offer individualized learning.

Further, it is crucial that our children have a safe environment and are physically and emotionally prepared to learn. If a student is struggling with homelessness or a severe toothache, they cannot fully thrive in school. Through the holistic approach of community schools, our schools will have the tools to address the complex range of factors that contribute to student learning.

The Milwaukee community has already shown a keen interest in adopting the community schools approach. MPS, in partnership with United Way of Greater Milwaukee, recently announced that two additional schools will transition into being a community school. I'm proud of our Milwaukee neighbors who have worked hard to ensure all of our students have a bright future, not just a select few, and look forward to working with my legislative colleagues to provide state support for these initiatives.

Read more about the community schools announcement, here.

Equal Opportunities Start with Equal Investment
Not only must we take a comprehensive, individualized look at our students and create school environments that will help them reach their full potential, we also must address inequities in the way we invest in our students. "Why is my child worth less than yours?" is a question that many Wisconsin parents find themselves asking.

The current funding formula, created in 1993, for public schools was poorly crafted in a way that has created inequity between low and high revenue school districts, creating an unequal educational experience. Low revenue districts have less resources to provide competitive teacher compensation or advanced classes for students. Overall, the state is not offering the same educational opportunities for each student.

By equally investing in our students, we can achieve greater access to an equal, quality education. Further, our local communities recognize the inequities currently occurring in our neighborhoods. I have met with education leaders in South Milwaukee, St. Francis, and Milwaukee school districts who all want the state Legislature to act and correct the way we are investing in our students. In fact both South Milwaukee and St. Francis school boards have passed resolutions asking for funding fairness.

I look forward to continuing to work my neighbors and colleagues in introducing a bill that will invest in our students across the state equally. The quality of your school should not depend on your geographic location, and fixing this reality should be a priority for state leaders. 

Special Education Restoration Act
Last session, I introduced the Special Education Restoration Act to fairly reimburse school districts for providing special education to students. State aid that supports the education of students with disabilities has remained frozen since the 2008-2009 school year, but the cost to provide this education has continued to rise. This results in a continuing slide in reimbursement rates for special education costs that school districts incur and forces our already underfunded schools to spread their resources dangerously thin to try and accommodate all of the students in the district. For instance, they may have to have one nurse be responsible for several schools. This is problematic, because some students require medications be administered multiple times a day.

The thinner vital school staff are spread, the more likely important student needs may not be met. In the very first year reimbursement rates were established, 1980, school districts were reimbursed at a rate of 66.1%. In the 1999-2000 school year, reimbursement rates were 34.3%. For the 2014-15 school year, the rate fell to just 26.8% of costs. We have an obligation to educate all students, including those with disabilities.

When the state share of this responsibility is held flat or shrinks, the burden to make up the costs land on our local property taxpayers and takes resources away from other students. This puts schools in an unfair situation as they may need to decide to cut down on services offered to students with special needs in order to offer other programs or services to the student majority. For example, a school may have to let go of their speech pathologist in order to maintain their football program. The Special Education Restoration Act would give schools their fair share of funding by bringing us back to reimbursing districts at a very modest 33%.

Ensuring the Safety of Students
Wisconsin Democratic senators will continue to work hard this upcoming session to fight for our students and schools. Last session, Democrats and Republicans were able to come together in order to pass bipartisan legislation to keep students safer when getting on and off school busses.

The new law is now in effect and ensures drivers behind school buses have adequate warning before a bus slows to a stop by requiring the use of amber lights to notify drivers that a school bus is slowing down to pick up or let children off the bus.

School busses made since 2005 now need to have amber lights activated by the driver 300 feet from a stop on roads where the speed limit is 45 miles per hour or greater, and 100 feet from a stop on roads where the speed limit is less than 45 miles per hour. Older school buses are required to have red lights activated by the driver at least 100 feet prior to the bus stopping.

 

 

Investing in the Full Spectrum of Education 
As we discussed in a recent Larson Report, in order to promote healthy, prosperous families as well as educational success, early education and affordable childcare must be part of the equation. Investing in early development offers the best return on our investment. In fact, for every $1 we invest in early childhood, we see $7 in savings. Full-time 4K can offer great, long-term benefits to children. According to the Human Capital Research Collaborative at the University of Minnesota, children in full-day preschool programs scored higher on school readiness indicators and had better attendance than did peers in part-time programs.

Read more about investing in early childcare in this Larson Report Newsletter.

In addition to investing in our young children, we must refocus our efforts in the education of our young adults.

The last Republican state budget imposed a $250 million cut from public universities. Our renowned UW System has suffered from the combination of budget cuts, loss of tenure, and changes to shared governance. As a result, top university professors have opted to leave the UW and pursue positions at other institutions. For example, Professor Amy Ellis left her position at UW-Madison last spring stating, "I could be anywhere, and up until now I chose to stay in Wisconsin, but I no longer feel it is worth it to give my talent and effort to a state that explicitly devalues education."

We cannot afford to push away more faculty, staff, and students or further deter talented individuals from teaching at or attending our traditionally world-class UW System schools. Our UW System is the state's best return on investment -- every public dollar provides at least a $10 return to the Wisconsin economy, according to the UW Board of Regents.

The UW System recently came out with their 2017-2019 budget request. After the disastrous effects of the last state budget, which resulted in the closure of the Center for Urban Initiatives and Research at UW-Milwaukee, bigger class sizes, reductions of faculty and staff, stagnate growth of high-demand programs, as well as millions of dollars of deferred maintenance to university buildings, the UW Board of Regents has requested $42.5 million -- a mere 17% of what was cut. This small but necessary investment will allow our System schools to focus on improving internship and job opportunities for students, expanding college-credit options for high school students, and reducing graduation times, among other goals. The UW System budget request will be considered by Governor Walker for his 2017-2019 state budget proposal, which will likely be introduced in January or February 2017.

With a dismal Walker economy, high poverty rates, and graduates with the third-highest incurred debt in the country, we must refocus our efforts and invest in the UW System.

Additionally, addressing the crippling student debt plaguing our graduates must be a top priority. This week, Governor Walker went to two Wisconsin technical colleges touting a do-nothing position he created under the Department of Financial Institutions that woefully fails to address college affordability. This Student Loan Debt Specialist will perhaps tell students about how much debt they owe, but miserably fails at addressing the rising cost of debt our students are taking on.

Last session, I introduced and supported a number of proposals that would help address the student loan crisis. It is completely counter-productive to our country's and our state's best interests to continue a system that ties the hands of our future leaders. Our shared Wisconsin values insist that the opportunity to succeed is a freedom that hardworking Wisconsinites deserve. We can no longer afford to suffocate our next generation's future with crushing student loan debt, which hinders our state's economic growth and prevents graduates from realizing their dreams.

The Debt Free College Act, introduced by Rep. Melissa Sargent and I would have allowed students who work hard and play by the rules to have a real opportunity to succeed in our state, it applied to students enrolled at least half-time in our state's public technical colleges, four year universities, and tribal colleges. This legislation created a grant program in which students who sign up commit themselves to obtaining a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.0 and remain gainfully employed in Wisconsin for at least three years after graduation. In exchange for this commitment, the state will pay for tuition, housing, fees, and books throughout that student's higher learning. This legislation is a hand up not a hand out. If a student does not fulfill their commitment, their account transfers into a loan at 5% interest.

Under this plan, Wisconsin's youth will have increased freedom that does not exist in our current system plagued by student loan debt. This is not the freedom to live a life of luxury. It is simply the freedom and opportunity to live the American Dream. Less crippling debt would allow our young people to be able to save up to buy a house, a new car, and to spend money in our local communities.

In addition to this debt-free college solution, I supported the Higher Ed, Lower Debt (HELD) bill. HELD would allow graduates to refinance their loan, much like a car or home loan. It would also allow student loan borrowers to deduct their loan payments from their state income tax.

Last session I also introduced a joint resolution to study ways to offer debt-free college to Wisconsinites. Wisconsin's bright and talented students are being prices out of a quality education. This has a negative impact on our state culturally and economically and we owe it to them to dedicate time and efforts into finding innovative solutions to tackling this problem.

 

 

In Case You Missed It
Each week, the Larson Report strives to provide up-to-date, in-depth information to its readers. Between editions, a lot happens in Madison and in our Wisconsin communities. I want to make sure you know the most pressing issues facing our neighborhoods across the state. Below are some of the top stories from the past couple of weeks:
  • GOP Attorney General Brad Schimel asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reject a review of a halted criminal investigation into the governor’s potentially illegal campaign schemes. Last session, legislative Republicans betrayed the public trust and our shared values of good-government, by passing legislation that essentially exempts elected officials from our state's John Doe laws. From the Wisconsin State Journal: "Schimel's filing argues the court should reject the appeal because Walker and the Republican-controlled Legislature have since changed the law making the alleged activity legal and prohibiting the use of secret 'John Doe' proceedings in investigating campaign finance violations." Read more in a Facebook post, here.
  • A federal appeals court blocked a court ruling that would have allowed Wisconsin voters without photo IDs to sign an affidavit and cast a ballot, which will result in continued barriers to voting in our state. Read more, here.
  • More appalling information about our youth corrections system has been uncovered. It was recently unveiled that a person in charge of implementing and reviewing "use-of-force" strategies at Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake was improperly training other staff members and failing to diligently review potentially abusive actions against youth at the centers. Read this article in the Stevens Point Journal, for more information.
  • AARP stood with and for the interests of its members over corporate collusion. AARP took the responsible step in ending its membership with ALEC -- a group that  secretively pushes corporate special interests through boilerplate legislation that scheme to do things like privatize our water, reduce protections for workers, and strip away affordable health care access. Read an article in the LA Times about this topic.

 

Celebrating Wisconsin's Labor History
As we celebrate Labor Day on Monday, September 5, we should take time to remember Wisconsin's deep labor history and the generations of workers and reformers who have made significant contributions to building a middle class across our state.

Our Community Fights for Worker's Rights
Our community played a pivotal role in Wisconsin's labor movement, which began over a century ago. Wisconsin’s first unions were formed in Milwaukee—the bricklayers in 1847 and the carpenters in 1848. In the 1880s, as the eight-hour work day became a central concern across the country, laborers in Milwaukee formed the Milwaukee Labor Reform Association (later the Eight-Hour League) to advocate for the eight-hour day. Milwaukee workers fought for the eight-hour day with a five-day sweeping industrial work stoppage, halting production in factories throughout the city.

During the 20th century, Wisconsin's workforce continued to seek fair treatment and safe working conditions for all under Robert La Follette's progressive movement. In 1911, the State Legislature passed the first workman's compensation law. Then in 1932, our first unemployment compensation laws were enacted. Wisconsin continued to support its workers by passing the Wisconsin Employment Relations Act in 1937, which provided workers with the right to organize.

The labor movement was vital to growing a strong American economy and a solid middle class. The ability to organize, receive fair treatment and work in safe conditions are fundamental values that built our country.

Celebrate Labor Day in Our Community
Annually, we celebrate our hard-working Wisconsinites and the Labor Day holiday with family-friendly neighborhood festivals. Join me in our community this Labor Day weekend as we celebrate Wisconsin's current workforce, as well as those that came before us and fought for better workplace rights for all. See a list of local Labor Day events below.

Oak Creek Lions Labor Day Festival
September 2 through September 5
Attend this annual event and enjoy music, food, rides, and fun and games for all ages at the 52nd annual Oak Creek Lionsfest. Indoor and outdoor stages will feature live music from over 20 bands all weekend long, including the Britins, Mt. Olive and Pat McCurdy. For more information, please click here.

American Legion Festival Grounds (MAP)
9327 S. Shepard Avenue
Oak Creek, WI 53154

LaborFest
September 5 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Watch the annual Labor Day parade that starts at Zeidler Union Square Park at 11 a.m. and works its way to Henry Maier Festival Park. Once at Summerfest, enjoy a free festival that includes music, Bingo, vintage cars, a children's area and much more. Local vendors will also be selling food and drinks throughout the afternoon. Click here for more information.

Zeidler Union Square Park (MAP)
301 W. Michigan Street
Milwaukee, WI 53203

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

St. Francis Days
Thursday, September 1 through Sunday, September 4
This annual four-day music festival is free and open to the public. Visitors should expect to see live musical entertainment, a movie showing, helicopter rides, chicken and rib dinners, and a parade. Click here for more information.

Milton Vretenar Municipal Park (MAP)
4230 S. Kirkwood Avenue
St. Francis, WI 53235

St. Martins Fair
Monday, September 5, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Vendors at this fair sell an assortment of merchandise including clothing, shoes, hardware and household items, paper products, pet supplies, cleaning supplies, sporting equipment, gift items, dried flowers and arrangements, furniture, antiques, shrubs, flowers, fruits and vegetables, prepared food, and other miscellaneous merchandise. Special music groups also entertain the crowd throughout the Labor Day weekend event. This event takes place on St. Martins Road from the intersection of W. Forest Home Avenue to W. Church Street. Click here for more information.

St. Martins Road (MAP)
Franklin WI, 53132

 

 

Neighborhood Survey

I want to hear from you! Therefore, I created a 2016-2017 Neighborhood Survey asking about various issues that are important to our community and our state. Your input is greatly appreciated and will help me prepare for session to resume in the coming months.

My staff and I will be working hard to deliver as many surveys door-to-door as possible during the next couple months. Additionally, 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 take the survey online.

I look forward to hearing your views on these important issues! As always, please do not hesitate to contact me about any state or community matters important to you


 

Seeking Legislative Interns!
I currently have openings for  legislative intern positions in my Madison office. A legislative internship is a great opportunity for students and recent graduates to learn more about the legislative process while gaining practical work experience.

Intern responsibilities vary, but include policy research, summarizing proposed legislation, and responding to constituent inquires. All interns also assist with general office operations, including answering the phone.

Applicants must be able to work during normal business hours, and dedicate a minimum of 10 hours each week to the internship. All intern positions are unpaid.

Click here to learn how to apply!

 

 

To Subscribe to the weekly Larson Report, CLICK HERE.

To Unsubscribe from the weekly Larson Report Newsletter, please reply to this email with the word "Unsubscribe."