January 30, 2014
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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.
End of the Rainbow
through Sun., February 9
Andy Warhol: 10
Portraits of Jews of the Twentieth Century
Trains that Passed
in the Night--Railroad Photographs of O. Winston Link
Museum Free Admission
Bay View Winter Blast
Date: Sun., February 16 from Noon to 4 p.m.
Location: Bay View
Description: Every winter, the Bay View Neighborhood Association hosts a warming event for neighbors to get together and have a blast. This is a luau-themed party that will boast a Hawaiian shirt contest, hula hoop and limbo contests, spam carving, and face-painting. A tiki photo booth will also be available to take memorable photos. Live music, delicious food from local restaurants, and booths from numerous community and neighborhood groups are just a part of what to expect at this year's Winter Blast. CLICK HERE for more information about this event.
South Shore Park Pavillion (MAP)
2900 South Shore Drive
Milwaukee, WI 53207
Dear Wisconsin Neighbor,
The Senate Committee on Education was slated to vote on a proposal that could force closures of our local public schools. This week's newsletter will discuss this concerning legislation whose vote has since been delayed. Continue reading for more on this and other important issues such as the annual State of the Union address, the propane shortage, and upcoming community meetings.
Proposal Could Force Local School Closures
started out as a bill to finally provide transparency in the
unaccountable voucher system may morph into a proposal that threatens to
close local public schools if a proposed substitute amendment is
adopted. The Senate Committee on Education was slated to vote on this
legislation, Senate Bill 286, this Thursday. The original version of the
bill, which contained voucher accountability and transparency measures,
received a public hearing on September 12, 2014. The substitute
amendment, on the other hand, has not received a public hearing or even
been discussed before this week. Unlike simple amendments, which change
certain sentences or provisions of a bill, a substitute amendment
replaces the current language of a bill in its entirety. This is why the
lack of a public hearing on this proposal is so concerning for our
community and state.
It all sounds like a step in the right direction, especially for bringing transparency to the unaccountable voucher program. But the bill takes a terrifying turn when it lays out what happens to "failing schools." Schools that receive F's for three consecutive years or D's and F's for a total of five years and do not show high achievement growth would be forced to contract with a charter-management organization rather than working with the school district or the elected school board to improve student performance and school quality. Further, Milwaukee is once again singled out since Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) would have only one year before sanctions kick in, while all other districts would get a three-year grace period once the system is in place in the 2015-2016 school year. Additionally, the grading system requires that 5% of all schools must be given an "F." So even if all schools are performing well, 5% will have to be listed as failing.
Essentially, the ability of the
school, the district, elected officials, students, parents, and
taxpayers to have a say in how their local schools are run is completely
taken away and handed over to an independent charter organization. As a
result, this bill creates another voucher-like program, just with a
Join Me at Upcoming Community Meetings
will be hosting a number of town halls during February 2014. Attending
these listening sessions is a great opportunity to talk to me about
issues facing our community and state, or to listen to the concerns and
thoughts of our neighbors.
5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
(Representative Jon Richards and
Alderman Nik Kovac also attending)
State of the Union: A Year of Action
This Tuesday, President Obama delivered the annual State of the Union address. It is evident that our country has made significant strides in recent years, including creating 8 million jobs over the past four years. Further, the United States has seen:
In addition, emphasis was placed on now being the time to take action on proposals that will benefit the average American. Below are some of the issues President Obama highlighted that we should pursue on behalf of middle-class individuals and families both nationally and right here in Wisconsin.
Paying Workers a Fair, Living Wage
It has been seven years since Congress last acted to increase the minimum wage. As a result, when adjusted for inflation, today's real minimum wage value is about the same as what it was in the 1950s. Workers making the current minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, including those in Wisconsin, only bring in $14,500 annually despite working full-time. This includes our family, friends, and neighbors working in the food industry, sales, office administration, health care, farming, and construction. It is unacceptable that there are Wisconsinites working full-time who are experiencing poverty rather than the American Dream.
Therefore, President Obama will use his executive authority to initiate a minimum wage increase to $10.10 for those working on new federal service contracts. He is also encouraging Congress to follow his lead by passing the Harkin-Miller bill that would raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 for all working Americans and index it to inflation from here on out.
The benefits of adopting a higher minimum wage are vast. For example, such an increase ensures that low wage workers are rewarded fairly by their employers with pay close to a living wage. Additionally, strengthening the middle class through a modest minimum wage increase is economically proven to reduce poverty without jeopardizing employment, which means a stronger Wisconsin economy. Further, low wages decrease employee morale, lower productivity, and lead to frequent employee turnover, which can be costly to businesses.
The minimum wage debate has also made
its way to Wisconsin. Recently, my Democratic colleagues and I used
procedural rules to bring legislation, Senate Bill 4, which would
increase the minimum wage for Wisconsin's workers, to a vote. Under this
proposal, the current minimum wage would be increased from $7.25 per
hour to a very modest $7.60 per hour. Although this bill was introduced
a year ago, Republicans have yet to schedule a public hearing leaving it
stalled in the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Labor. While every
Democratic senator voted "yes" to raising the minimum wage, every
Republican senator voted against it. As a result, this bill failed.
Increasing Income Equality
President Obama also addressed the issue of income inequality in his State of the Union address saying that women deserve equal pay for equal work. He encouraged Congress to come together to do away with the policies that have kept women as the majority shareholders of lower-wage jobs.
According to the most recently
available statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor, the average
American woman working full-time, year-round was paid just 77 cents for
every dollar earned by their male counterparts for the same work.
Unfortunately, Wisconsin is not doing much better than the national
average. According to the American Association of University Women, men
in Wisconsin working a full-time job earned $46,214 on average compared
to women doing equal work, who earned just $35,890 on average for an
earnings ratio of just 78%.
Unfortunately, while the federal
government is looking to move forward with policies that increase income
equality, Wisconsin has recently moved backwards in this area. In 2009,
Wisconsin led the nation by passing the Equal Pay Enforcement Act,
legislation to give gender discrimination victims an avenue on the state
level to recoup damages and deter bad actors from such undesirable
actions. Before the Act, Wisconsin ranked 36th in the country when it
came to closing the gender pay gap. Just a year after the law passed,
Wisconsin's ranking improved by 12 spots, moving to 24th in the nation.
Making Higher Education Affordable
Exponential increases in tuition and fees coupled with challenging economic times over the years have made it nearly impossible for students to work their way through school, as was commonplace in the past. In fact, nearly 40 million Americans now hold over $1.2 trillion in student loan debt nationally.
In his speech, President Obama highlighted recent efforts to increase access and affordability to higher education. His administration has prioritized giving parents more information, offering colleges incentives to provide a better value, and creating a cap for monthly student loan payments to 10% of a graduate's income. The president also expressed his desire to work with Congress to see how they can help Americans even more with their student loan debt.
The student debt crisis has also become apparent in Wisconsin. Our state currently ranks 10th in the nation for number of college students with debt, with 67% of graduates from four-year schools having loans to repay. According to the U.S. Federal Reserve System there are 753,000 Wisconsin residents with federal student loan debt (this does not include those with private student loan debt). Further, college tuition costs have doubled over the last 12 years and Wisconsin's student loan borrowers have an average debt of $22,400. It is estimated that Wisconsin residents paying student loans from obtaining a bachelor's degree are currently paying an average of $388 per month for about 18.7 years.
Student debt is the only kind of household debt that continued to rise through the Great Recession, and is now the second largest consumer debt in our country, more than credit cards or auto loans. Having this money tied up in debt is a huge drain on our already struggling Wisconsin economy as the money spent on student loans could instead be spent on cars, new homes, and at local businesses in our communities.
Because of recent gridlock in Congress, Wisconsin has taken up the challenge to decrease student loan debt for recent graduates. Senate Democrats have all signed on on to the Higher Ed, Lower Debt bill, authored by Senator Dave Hansen and Representative Cory Mason, which would do the following:
As you can see, this legislation offers common sense solutions for real savings on behalf of Wisconsinites managing student loan debt. I hope legislative Republicans will see the economic value of moving forward with such a proposal. Therefore, I encourage them to join me in supporting the Higher Ed, Lower Debt bill this session.
If you would like to see the Higher
Ed, Lower Debt bill become law, I encourage you to sign onto the Higher
Ed, Lower Debt petition. The petition states the following:
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.
Did You Know...?
You are probably aware that the 56th Annual Grammy Awards show happened this past Sunday, either from watching it yourself or hearing about it via the news and social media. But did you know that two Grammy winners were from right here in Wisconsin?
Viroqua native Butch Vig walked away with his third Grammy, this time in the category of Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media for his role as compilation producer on "Sound City: Real to Reel," which was the soundtrack for a documentary titled "Sound City." Vig studied at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and also founded a recording studio, Smart Studios, in the city. He went on to become a professional drummer in the Madison-based, but internationally-known band Garbage, as well as a music producer.
Mike Maher of Wauwatosa is another Wisconsin native that received a Grammy this year for his work in music. Maher--a 2000 Marquette University High School graduate--plays the trumpet in a band named Snarky Puppy. They received the award for Best R&B Performance for the song "Something" from the band's 2013 album titled "Family Dinner--Volume 1."
Congratulations to Vig and Maher are
in order for their hard work in the field of music. Also a big thank you
to them for representing Wisconsin well at this year's Grammy awards.
Take the 2013-2014 Neighborhood Survey
I created a survey for the 2013-2014
Legislative Session asking about various issues that are important to
our community and our state. The input of neighbors is greatly
appreciated. My staff and I will be working hard to deliver as many
surveys door to door as possible before winter arrives. In addition, I
have also made this survey available online.
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