Common Core Debate: The Voice of Educators

By John Forester | August 7, 2014

Erin Richards of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has penned this interesting article on what educators think about the Common Core.  It includes lots of flat and straight comments from school administrators.

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Analysis: Wisconsin Supreme Court Finds Act 10 Constitutional

By John Forester | August 1, 2014

Late yesterday, the Boardman & Clark law firm posted an analysis of the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s Act 10 decision.  The SAA believes this is valuable information for SAA members.  We regularly receive these updates and have chosen to distribute this information to the SAA membership with the permission of the Boardman & Clark law firm.

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Ruling Likely Closes Door on Act 10 Debate

By John Forester | August 1, 2014

From …

Both sides of the Act 10 debate said yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling upholding the guv’s collective bargaining changes likely closes the door to any more legal challenges on the constitutionality of the law.

Gov. Scott Walker hailed both the court’s ruling upholding voter ID and Act 10. He said Act 10 has saved Wisconsin taxpayers more than $3 billion.

“Today’s ruling is a victory for those hard-working taxpayers,” said the Republican guv, up for re-election this year.

The 5-2 ruling by the conservative-tilting court upheld Act 10 in its entirety, bringing to a close a more than three-year fight over a limit on collective bargaining powers for most public employees. Walker proposed the changes just a month into office, touching off a series of protests that generated national headlines and led to a series of recall elections, including a failed attempt in 2012 to boot him from office.

Lester Pines, the attorney for the unions in the case, said any remaining legal challenges would likely not be successful in light of the Supreme Court’s decision, noting all other attempts to challenge Act 10 had failed.

But Pines said although no one was surprised at the court’s decision, “anyone who thinks that this is a death knell for municipal employee unions is wrong.”

“Act 10 … was designed not to save money, it was designed to cause municipal public employee unions and state public employee unions to go away,” Pines said in a conference call with reporters, suggesting the law had instead allowed unions to find “alternative mechanisms to work with their employers.”

“Many unions have recertified and now, in order to be recertified, the unions had to work hard to maintain their memberships, and they have done that,” Pines said.

Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, argued the Act 10 ruling and decisions the court released today in the voter ID cases are a blow to the middle class.

“The middle class is at risk in this state and this country, and these decisions make it worse,” Barca said, warning GOP lawmakers will look next session at expanding Act 10 changes to police and firefighters.

Pines said he doesn’t think the ruling will affect existing collective bargaining agreements, including the contract signed by plaintiffs Madison Teachers Inc.

He thinks be unconstitutional if the district in those agreements attempted to walk away from its contract, but he doesn’t see that as likely. Instead, Pines questioned whether an Act 10 proponent — such as the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty — is “going to start lawsuits about that.”

“Do I anticipate that some billionaire foundation is going to stick its nose into Madison’s contract?” Pines asked. “Maybe.”

Dane County workers have contracts in place through 2016, the same year the latest contract extension for Madison teachers expires.

WILL President and General Counsel Rick Esenberg acknowledged the conservative group is looking at contracts such as those Madison teachers and Dane County employees signed while the lawsuit was pending before the state Supreme Court. He said a taxpayer in those municipalities or a public employee required to pay union dues may have grounds to sue in light of today’s decision.

“We’re certainly looking very closely at that question,” Esenberg said. “Certainly we’d be interested in talking to anybody who feels aggrieved by the situation.”

Walker’s campaign took a jab at Dem rival and Madison School Board member Mary Burke for the contract with the union.

“The hard working taxpayers deserve answers from Mary Burke as to why she won’t use Governor Walker’s reforms to save, potentially, millions of dollars,” communications director Tom Evenson said. “After today’s Supreme Court decision, the only thing left that can undo the $3 billion in savings from Governor Walker’s reforms is the election of Mary Burke.”

Burke spokesman Joe Zepecki said today’s decision doesn’t change the fact that the fall election is about jobs.

“Mary supports the right of workers to collectively bargain, and believes that the concessions on health care and pension were fair, but should have been reached through the collective bargaining process,” he said. “She knows that collective bargaining rights don’t stand in the way of effective, accountable government, and that working together is the best way to address the challenges we face.”

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said he’s not sure whether GOP lawmakers will push to expand Act 10 to police and firefighters, who were largely exempt from the guv’s plan.

Considering the number of new members set to join the Legislature after the November elections, the Juneau Republican said he wouldn’t try to anticipate what direction the body will go on the issue. He said he hasn’t personally taken a stance, while adding he’s heard from mayors who want it as well as police officers and firefighters opposed to it.

“We’ll see what the makeup of the Legislature is based on the November election and see if there’s a willingness to go there,” he said.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said Act 10 works as it is, but he’d be open to looking at expanding the changes to police and firefighters if there’s a “compelling reason.”

“I always want to be open enough to say, ‘hey, if acts change or if there’s some reason, of course,’” said the Rochester Republican.

Vos also said he doesn’t intend to pursue right-to-work legislation next session impacting private sector unions, though he personally supports it.

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Court Upholds Act 10 In Its Entirety

By John Forester | July 31, 2014 is reporting that the Wisconsin Supreme Court today upheld Act 10 in its entirety in a 5-2 decision.

The conservative majority rejected the unions’ arguments that collective bargaining changes infringe on their constitutional right to freedom of association or violates equal protection requirements.

“No matter the limitations or ‘burdens’ a legislative enactment places on the collective bargaining process, collective bargaining remains a creation of legislative grace and not constitutional obligation,” Justice Michael Gableman wrote for the majority. “The First Amendment cannot be used as a vehicle to expand the parameters of a benefit that it does not itself protect.”

Crooks wrote a concurring opinion, while Abrahamson and Bradley dissented.

The SAA’s legal consultants are at work analyzing the decision.  When their analysis is available we will forward it to SAA members.  Stay tuned.

Read the Act 10 decision

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Political “Noise” on Common Core Not Helpful

By John Forester | July 29, 2014

In a Madison Cap Times news article posted today,  Madison schools Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham commented that the political “noise” on Common Core is not helping schools improve student performance.  Great comments from Jennifer and others.

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Supreme Court to Issue Act 10 Decision July 31st

By John Forester | July 29, 2014

On Thursday, July 31, 2014, the Wisconsin Supreme Court will issue its decision on MTI v. Walker, the state court action challenging aspects of 2011 Wisconsin Acts 10 and 32.  The Wisconsin Supreme Court issued a memorandum today announcing its intent to release the decision.  After the release of this decision, the SAA will collaborate with our legal consultants to forward to you up-to-date legal analysis of this important decision.  Stay tuned.

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Can Legislators Repeal the Common Core?

By John Forester | July 29, 2014

A memo from the Wisconsin Legislative Council says “yes,” but . . . its complicated.  See this interesting Milwaukee Journal Sentinel news article for more details.


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Wisconsin State Journal: Don’t Waste Common Core Effort

By John Forester | July 25, 2014

The Wisconsin State Journal ripped Governor Walker’s call for repealing the Common Core State Standards in this editorial.

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The Week in Common Core

By John Forester | July 21, 2014

Yes, sometimes ignorance is bliss . . . at least for a little while.  Such was the case this past week when I took my kids on vacation to Door County.  I was extremely successful at totally unplugging.  I mean no news, no emails, no texts, no phone calls, no nothing.  Imagine my surprise (and yes, chagrin) this weekend as I started catching up on all of the Common Core news from the week.

First was Governor Walker’s announcement calling on the Legislature to pass a bill repealing the Common Core.  In this one-sentence statement, Walker said the Legislature should repeal the Common Core and “replace it with standards set by people in Wisconsin.”

As partisan sparring ensued, State Superintendent Tony Evers issued a news release supporting the Common Core State Standards and pleading with state policymakers to “keep politics out of the classroom and remain focused on what’s most important — delivering a college and career ready education to Wisconsin’s students.”

Little noticed was an editorial from the Beloit Daily News that called the outlandish claims about the Common Core made by radical politicians “nonsense.”  The paper went on to say that the reasons behind the development of the Common Core continue to make sense.

Then, we were treated to Republican legislators trading jabs over the Common Core and the Governor’s statement, as captured in these articles from the Madison Cap Times and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Finally, long-time Journal Sentinel education reporter and columnist Alan Borsuk batted clean-up with a column that is must reading for all SAA members.  In it Borsuk claims that Walker’s Common Core statement and the ensuing furor indicates that the “silly season is in full swing.”

Ah yes.  The bliss of an unplugged vacation was good while it lasted, but now it’s over.  More to come on the continuing “silly season.”  Thanks for listening and, as always, thanks for all that you do on behalf of Wisconsin school children.

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Assembly Republicans Brace for War on Common Core

By John Forester | July 8, 2014

Veteran political news reporter and columnist Steven Walters has penned an interesting, and somewhat alarming, column on Assembly Republicans’ preparations for continuing the war on the Common Core.  It’s recommended reading for all SAA members.

See the column here.

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