Sunday, December 16, 2012

First we mourn, then we organize

Educators across the nation will enter school with heavy hearts on Monday. Beneath flags at half-mast and between hugs of staff and students, teachers will navigate through difficult questions and raw fears as we remember and honor the victims of the Sandy Hook School tragedy.

First, we mourn.

We mourn for the victims, for their families, for the heroic Sandy Hook staff, and for the entire community of Newtown, Connecticut.

We also mourn for this nation and for the tens of thousands of people whose lives have been affected by this country’s epidemic of mass killings and incessant gun violence.

We also grieve.

As professional educators, we will help our students process their grief and fears. Using social media, teacher unions, school districts and individual teachers have provided resources on how to guide conversations.

Six educators (all women), twelve girls and eight boys (all 1st graders) were killed in the massacre. Our grieving will never completely end.

We also honor. And the best way to do so is to organize against senseless gun violence.

There are some commentators who say, “No, you can’t take on the gun lobby, you will never win. Talk about keeping children safe, yes. But don’t talk about gun control.”

But, as Nicholas Kristof wrote in Sunday’s New York Times, “What do we make of the contrast between heroic teachers who stand up to a gunman and craven, feckless politicians who won't stand up to the N.R.A.?”

We can hope that our political leaders will, in future weeks, take “meaningful action” against gun violence. We can also hope that this country begins to address the crisis in mental health services.

But the only way to make sure our hopes come true is to organize.

It will take nothing less than a mass movement to ensure that our political leaders fulfill their responsibilities and actually do something rather than lament the power of the pro-gun lobby.

Given the events of Sandy Hook, parents and educators have a particular role to play, including the NEA and AFT leadership. Likewise, community leaders must demand a community-wide response, and religious and business leaders must call  upon their colleagues. Together, we all must demand that our elected leaders address the epidemic of gun violence and the crisis in mental health care.

In the coming days, we will mourn the victims of the Sandy Hook tragedy.

But we must also organize to prevent future such tragedies. We have no choice.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Superintendent Calls for Testing Moratorium

It's rare for a school superintendent to speak truth to power. But that's exactly what Montgomery County Superintendent Joshua Starr did.

According to Valerie Strauss's blog in The Washington Post Starr stated:

  • That the nation needs a three year moratorium on standardized testing.
  • That the nation "stop the insanity" of  evaluating teachers according to student test scores because it is “bad science.” 
  • That the best education reform in country has been Obama's health-care reform.
  • That a good way to create assessments for Common Core-aligned curriculum would be to crowd-source the development and let teachers design them rather than have corporations do it. 
Joshua Starr leads the 17th largest school district in the country.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Worthwhile Quick Reads

Obama & Schools, Walker’s National Ambitions, and Charter schools in Milwaukee – three blog posts worth reading.

An Open Letter to President Obama from Bill Ayers. Congratulating Obama on his November victory, Ayers raises three deep concerns about the educational policies the administration pursued the last four years. He criticizes “turning over public assets and spaces to private management; dismantling and opposing any independent, collective voice of teachers; and reducing education to a single narrow metric that claims to recognize an educated person through a test score.”

Lincoln and Walker: Why they do – and don’t – belong in the same headline, by Barbara Miner. Taking off from Steven Spielberg’s new movie Lincoln, Miner reflects on the essential role of African Americans in U.S history—and the GOP’s continual dismissal of the African American vote. She also looks at glaring problems with Walker’s national ambitions. She writes, “Walker has shown little ability to win over voters now coveted by the GOP: young people and women, in particular. And he’s got a horrific record with African Americans.”

Questionable Quality at American Quality Schools, by Terry Falk. Milwaukee has become the target of national charter operations that have few connections to our city, besides the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce. These operations and their supporters offer junkets to local politicians and produce slick power points. Unfortunately, the City and University officials in their rush to support such operations, too often leave the children behind. In the case of American Quality Schools, Milwaukee School Board member Terry Falk explains some of the reasons behind the recent school decision to not charter the AQS. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Wear Red on Nov. 14 – National Education Support Professionals Day

The 3 million plus education support professionals who work in the nation’s public schools deserve everyone’s support. In Milwaukee, this Wednesday, Nov. 14, I ask educators to wear red as a sign of thanks and solidarity with these important education workers.

In the past 18 months teachers and educational assistants often had “wear red” days as we fought against Gov. Scott Walker’s attacks on public schools, public services, and public sector unions.  

This Wednesday, on national Education Support Professionals Day, please wear red again. Wearing red sends a simple message of solidarity with our fellow workers. Please also take the time to personally thank the educational assistants, the safeties, the health care assistants, the secretaries, the cooks, and all the other workers in our school system. You might want to write them a note or card, and encourage students and colleagues to do the same.

The Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association proudly stands with our paraprofessionals, general aides, interpreters, and safeties, who are members of our union. We also stand with the cooks, food service workers, health care aides, secretaries, engineers, and building helpers who are represented by other unions, or in the case of bus drivers not represented by any union. We stand for strong public institutions that are held accountable through the democratic process.

We wear red and thank education support professionals on Wednesday, and in the days ahead we will support our EAs as they bargain with the school district and fight for respect and justice. Because our educational assistants are among the lowest paid workers in the district and have absorbed the equivalent of a 10% pay cut due to health insurance and retirement benefit changes, it is all the more important for educators, parents and our community to support our educational assistants.

We stand for strong public institutions. They are the building blocks of a democratic society. A key feature of such institutions is treating public sector workers with dignity and respect.

Wear red on Wednesday in solidarity with all Education Support Professionals.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Vote Tuesday - Our Future Depends on It

A couple of election related items worth checking out –

1) Milwaukee Vota 2012 -- A group of high school age youth from Milwaukee put together a great 41-second get-out-the-vote video (English and Spanish). Check it out – appropriate for all age levels.

2) Why can’t felons vote? The question is long overdue – a MJS blog post by Barbara Miner. Miner writes “The United States has more restrictions on voting rights than any other democratic nation in the world, according to Marc Mauer of the highly respected Sentencing Project.” She points out that “Almost 7.7 percent of blacks of voting age cannot [vote] because of their criminal records, compared to 1.8 percent of non-African Americans. In three states — Florida, Kentucky and Virginia — one out of five African Americans is not allowed to vote.” Miner’s essay would be a great discussion started in a high school civics or social studies class.

3) Does Romney love teachers? At the end of the third debate, Mitt Romney said that “he loves teachers.” The President of the Massachusetts Teachers Association has a response worth reading.

4) Tuesday night victory party in Milwaukee. After the final two days of canvassing, phone calling and encouraging everyone we know to vote, consider joining supporters of President Obama and Tammy Baldwin after 8:15 PM on Tuesday night at the Hyatt Regency, 333 W. Kilbourn Ave.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Derek Williams’s Homicide: A Concern for the Entire Community

Derek Williams’s homicide should be a wake up call to the entire Milwaukee community.
Educators should be particularly concerned. The level of racial segregation, disparity, and discrimination in many institutions in metropolitan Milwaukee is intolerable and directly affects the students we teach. We should not be silent on these issues.
Late last month the Milwaukee County medical examiner changed the cause of death of Derek Williams from natural causes to homicide. Williams died in police custody more than a year ago. The original internal police investigation failed to thoroughly examine the evidence. They disregarded the horrific squad car video of Derek’s final minutes in which police officers ignored Derek’s pleas for help as he squirmed in the back seat, hands cuffed behind his back, slowly suffocating.
Williams’s death was a reminder of the sorry history of police discrimination and brutality against the African American community. This includes:
  • Black Milwaukee drivers are seven times as likely to be stopped by city police as white resident drivers, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. (Hispanics were stopped four times as often). 
  • Police conducted illegal strip searches of community members. 
  • The 1958 police killing of Daniel Bell.
  • The 1981 police killing of Ernie Lacy.
  • The 2004, beating of Frank Jude Jr., self-described as biracial, by off-duty white policeman. (For information on these incidents click here).

And now the death of Derek Williams, the 22-year old father of three.
These matters should concern educators.
William’s death and community/police relations are emblematic of deeper divisions and problems in our community. These include Milwaukee’s hyper-segregation, lack of low-income housing, depression-level jobless rate among African-American males, high infant mortality rates, skyrocketing child poverty rates, and racial gaps in school attendance, graduation, and achievement.
Teachers daily see how poverty and racism affect our community’s children and compromise their future.
We need to demand that city leaders put these issues of race and poverty on the table and lead frank community-wide discussions about them. The discussions, in turn, must result in action.
Educators also know that students should have the opportunity to voice their own concerns and fears and to discuss difficult issues. Schools should be places where children can feel safe, and in age-appropriate ways, share opinions and think critically about problems that our community faces. School curriculum should reflect and build on the backgrounds, heritages and strengths of our students’ families.
We need to stand for justice in our community as we teach about justice in our classrooms.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Inspiring a new teacher union movement – Thank you Chicago teachers

The seven-day Chicago teacher strike was historic. 

It showed the nation that despite months of bullying by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and others, educators will not remain silent. It also signaled that a new teacher union movement is in the making.

In the spring of 2011, tens of thousands of Wisconsin teachers surprised the nation with weeks of massive protests at the state capital. A year and a half later, the Chicago teachers built on this momentum when they raised picket signs and struck in favor of their students, their profession, and public education.

In both struggles, teachers and their allies defended public education. They stood against pro-corporate, pro-privatization educational “reform” agendas. A key feature of those agendas is to scapegoat teachers and vilify their unions.

As the teacher union president in Milwaukee just 90 miles north, I was proud to go to Chicago last Saturday with two busloads of teachers and supporters to stand with Chicago teachers. We received a warm welcome and a chorus of thank-yous. The feeling of gratitude is mutual.

Thank you, CTU, for standing up to corporate education reformers who are attempting to privatize the public schools of our large cities.

Thank you for demanding that children not suffer from an apartheid-like educational system. Whether in Wisconsin or Chicago – Little Rock or Los Angeles – students deserve the same resources as their affluent counter parts. Our students deserve an education that is rich in the arts, strong in physical education and rigorous in study. They do not deserve a dumbed-down, data drenched, test driven curriculum.

And thank you, Chicago teachers, for providing an example of an activist, democratic union that works closely with parents and community, fights for equal, quality public education, and is part of the larger movement for social justice.

I believe that the Chicago teacher strike of 2012 will be looked back on as a turning point in a new kind of teacher unionism, something that rank and file union activists have been advocating for years. Some people describe this new unionism as an “organizing” model, rather than a service/business model. Others have called it “social justice unionism” or “social movement unionism.” Regardless, the Chicago teachers demonstrated its main features:

  • Unapologetically defending wages and working conditions of public school educators
  • Standing up for students, the teaching profession, and an equal and humane education that educates the whole child
  • Defending public education – the only educational institutions in our communities that has the capacity, commitment, and legal obligation to serve all children
  • Forging alliances with parents and community organizations to work for better schools and for social justice in the entire community.
  • Building a democratic union structure that encourages members to be organizers and active participants in their union.

Teachers from Chicago stood with the teachers of Wisconsin in the spring of 2011. Wisconsin teachers stood with the Chicago teachers this fall. 

It's time to use the energy and lessons from Wisconsin and Chicago to transform the national narrative on education, strengthen our union organizing work, and broaden the fight for quality education for all.

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Bob Peterson's short solidarity speech that he gave at the Chicago solidarity rally on September 15 can be downloaded for listening or for reading.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Stand in Solidarity with the Chicago Teachers Union

On Monday I am wearing red in solidarity with the Chicago Teachers Union. I hope thousands of other teachers across the country do so as well.

I support the Chicago teachers because their union, under the leadership of CTU President Karen Lewis, is standing up and saying what teachers throughout this country would like to say:

Enough is enough!

Enough scape-goating and bullying of teachers and their unions.

Enough of legislators and policy makers who know so little about classroom realities, but have so much power to determine what goes on in the classroom.

Enough of business and government leaders refusing to adequately address the social and economic factors that weigh so heavily on our students.

Enough of laws and policies that reduce student success to scores on questionable standardized tests, while limiting rigor and deep learning, and ignoring art, physical education, social studies, character-building, and social skills.

Enough of over-crowded classes.

Enough of private charter and voucher schools that siphon money from public school systems – the only community institutions that have the capacity, commitment, and legal obligation to serve ALL students.

Regardless of whether the CTU actually strikes tomorrow, I will be wearing red in solidarity with my colleagues to the south.

Their actions remind all educators that we must use multiple forms of collective action to win what is best for our students, our communities, and our profession.

We have been too quiet for too long.

On Monday, stand with the Chicago Teachers Union.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Honor Labor Day – On Teaching Who Really Built This Country?

Chanting “We built it,” thousands of delegates to the Republican National Convention provided a distorted bumper-sticker summary of U.S. history. 

Like the chorus in a Greek tragedy, the overwhelmingly white crowd embraced unrestrained free-market ideology and cheered the inaccuracies of keynote speakers.

The crowd was particularly fired up by vice presidential candidate Paul “Pinocchio” Ryan’s speech. One Fox News commentator described the speech as an attempt “to set the world record for the greatest number of blatant lies and misrepresentations slipped into a single political speech.”

The Republican Party’s “We Built It” mantra inevitably leads to two key questions: Who is “we?” What is “it?” These are important questions for children and teachers to examine together.

As these questions are studied, the “we” should not be limited to famous business people. Equally important, the “it” should go beyond railroads and factories and include our country’s all-important democratic institutions.

Stepping beyond the textbook
Teachers have a responsibility to teach the story of our nation in all its complexity and contradictions. That’s not easy, considering that most social studies text books at best obfuscate and at worst lie about the role enslaved Africans, immigrants, and working men, women and children of all races have played in building this nation.

As a teacher, I try to teach my students to not automatically believe everything they read or hear. I have them consider multiple points of view, investigate a variety of sources, and ask questions such as: “In whose self interest is one version of history versus another?” “What assumptions underlie a particular point of view?”

If I were in my fifth grade classroom this year, on the first day of school I’d probably show photos of the “We Built It” manifestations at the Republican National Convention. After explaining the context, I’d pose the questions: Who is the “we”? What is the “it?”

In hopes of whetting my students’ appetite for a year-long study of U.S. history – a requirement in most 5th grades – I’d lay out questions we would likely cover in the coming year, tying the questions to that day’s issue of “Who built it?” Some of questions I might ask:

  • Who were the first ones to cultivate the land in North America?
  • Who continues to harvest the vegetables and fruit of our nation?
  • Who built the plantations in the South?
  • Who built the skyscrapers of New York?
  • Who built the U.S. Capitol Building? (FYI, for teachers who might want to pursue this topic: the United States Capitol was built by enslaved Africans. See PBS, VOA and Politifact.)
  • Who fought for the rights of women to vote?
  • Who fought for Voting Rights and Civil Rights?
  • Who fought for the right of workers to organize unions at their workplace? For the eight-hour day? The right to collectively bargain?

As I tell my students as we study U.S. history, there have been great movements for social justice in the past, they exist now in the present, and they’ll exist in the future. Each of us must decide whether to participate in such movements to help make our nation and our world a more just place.

As we celebrate this Labor Day, I encourage teachers to be a part of our country’s strong tradition of social movements for justice. A first step is to teach about such movements — and about who really built “it.”

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A few sites for resources and ideas on teaching labor history:

For teaching about social justice movements see

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In case you missed it. According to the New York Times, the platform of the 1980 Republic Party supported the right to collectively bargain, while the current one does not. Other rightward shifts were made this year as well.
1980: We reaffirm our commitment to the fundamental principle of fairness in labor relations, including the legal right of unions to organize workers and to represent them through collective bargaining ...

Current: We salute the Republican governors and state legislators who have saved their states from fiscal disaster by reforming their laws governing public employee unions.

A question teachers might ask: Whose interests are served by the change in that particular platform?

Sunday, August 5, 2012

We are one with the Sikh community

I join with thousands of other Milwaukeeans to express my grief at the shootings today at the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek.

As president of the Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association, I am confident that I speak on behalf of all educators to express our heart-felt sorrow for the individuals, families, and communities that have been affected by this tragedy.

We are one community. We stand, united, in respect for diversity and in condemning senseless violence.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

For reforms to work, listen to the teachers

The Milwaukee teachers union is committed to working with any and all community members who believe in public education.
We welcome the support of the GE Foundation, which has set an admirable standard for the business community's involvement in Milwaukee Public Schools. We are actively partnering with both the GE Foundation and the MPS administration to ensure that the GE grant not only helps MPS students develop a love of learning but also prepares them for college, careers and their civic responsibilities.
Many reforms are being discussed: the Common Core State Standards, a new teacher evaluation system, new curriculum and a longer school day. All these reforms have significant potential.
They also share a common denominator: Their success will depend on ensuring that classroom teachers are intimately involved - from the planning of the reform to the final implementation.
In this era of Act 10, it is more important than ever that teachers are respected, valued and included in reform discussions.
Traditionally, the contract has provided a mechanism for ensuring teacher input. Under Act 10, most collective bargaining is prohibited. Unfortunately, some school boards have used Act 10 to adopt a top-down, do-what-I-say-or-else approach to education. That's a recipe for educational failure.
The teachers union and MPS administration have had their differences. But we also have worked together on important and contentious issues. The TEAM program, a contractually negotiated agreement, is a good example.
TEAM stands for Teacher Evaluation And Mentoring and is a collaborative effort between MPS and the teachers union. For more than a decade, we have worked together to assist struggling teachers, helping them to "realize their maximum potential" in either the classroom or some other career.
Because MPS teachers will no longer have a traditional contract in another year, it is more important than ever that collaboration be built into any reform effort.
One of the reforms under discussion is a longer school day. It is a perfect example of the need for teacher input.
I do not know of any teacher who opposes the idea of children spending more time with caring and competent adults. But the devil is in the details.
Will a longer school day ensure that students will now receive physical education, art, music, and library classes taught by certified specialists? More hand-on projects that challenge them to think? More field trips to explore the city and broaden their experiences?
Or will a longer school day mean more drill-and-kill test preparation, given the excessive pressures that are placed on teachers and principals to raise test scores?
If a longer school day means more time for teachers to prepare, more time to collaborate and learn from colleagues, more time to help children learn to love learning - great. But if it means more of the same, only faster and longer at the same pay, then the reform is merely a form of speed up and burn out.
These are just a few of the questions that need to be addressed.
I have been a teacher for more than 30 years. Teachers want children to succeed. They want a successful school district. They want reforms that are actual reforms. And they want to use their knowledge of children and classroom realities to help ensure that reforms succeed.
Teachers are an invaluable resource. Let's make sure that we listen to them, respect them and involve them in reform.
This opinion appeared in the August 2, 2012 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
In case you missed it, internationally acclaimed author Jared Diamond tells Mitt Romney to do his homework. Check out Diamond's New York Times essay where he challenges Romney's recent statements about world history. 

Friday, July 6, 2012

NEA leader says social justice key to teacher unionism

Calling for the National Education Association to deepen its commitment to social justice and equal opportunity, NEA Executive Director John Stocks, received an enthusiastic reception from the nearly 9,000 delegates gathered from across the nation at the organization’s 150th annual convention.

Stocks recounted a long history of progressive stands taken by the NEA, and encouraged local and state leaders to continue that the tradition of standing on “the right side of history” and to "make America a more just society."

“We as a progressive labor union and social justice organization have to say, “No more” [to injustice,] Stocks declared.

He called on the audience to “challenge our country to be better, but also challenge ourselves as individuals to do better” and become "social justice patriots."

Covering a range of issues including voter suppression laws, Citizens United, inequality and poverty, immigration, stop and frisk police practices, and racial profiling, Stocks explained how the union has begun to deepen its ties to national civil rights and faith organizations to act against injustice.

At one point in his 28-minute speech after explaining the problem of racial profiling Stocks asked members to think about three questions:

“Does racial profiling start in our schools?”
“Does the pipeline to prison for minority students begin in our schools?”
“And if it does, what are we going to do about it?”

He recounted his and other NEA members’ participation in a recent march in New York City against the NYC police policy of “stop and frisk.”

 “It’s wrong, it’s unjust, and it’s not just happening in New York City,” Stocks declared. The NEA is developing in conjunction with the NAACP a racial profiling curriculum for educators, students and community leaders. Stocks added, “We must ensure that this topic is discussed responsibly and constructively in American schools so we can begin to end this behavior.”

He ended his speech to a thunderous applause saying, “It’s time now for another generation of NEA leaders and activists to … defend democracy, to fight for equal opportunity, to create a more just society to be activists for social justice and equal opportunity in America.”

To hear and view John Stock's entire speech click here.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Teacher Unionism: Standing Up for Children and the Teaching Profession

Teachers and educational workers throughout the country are standing up for children and the teaching profession.

How we do so varies from state to state, locale to locale.

In Chicago, teachers are engaged in a struggle against privatization, gentrification and an attack on basic working conditions. Recently the leadership of the Chicago Teachers Union held a strike authorization vote and nearly 90% of the teachers voted yes.

In Milwaukee educators and many other public and private sector workers and community members got out the vote and registered voters in unprecedented numbers for the recall election of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. Even though the grassroots organizing was unprecedented, Walker and his financial backers from around the country, survived the recall attempt.

For us in the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association the recall election means a recommitment to our work to reimagine and reinvent our union around the following principles:

  • Move from collective bargaining to collective action
  • Reclaim our classrooms and reclaim our profession
  • Build collaborative public schools that serve all students
  • Work with parents and community to promote democracy and justice
  • Improve our union’s internal communication, public relations, and capacity to organize and mobilize our members

We are moving forward on these fronts.

The MTEA has taken up the issue of reclaiming our classrooms and our profession. We are opening the MTEA Center for Teaching, Learning, and Public Education. We have launched a new e-newsletter “Re-imagine: the MTEA Teaching and Learning newsletter.” (Click here to see a copy. ) We have started a campaign to ensure that developmentally appropriate practices are used in early childhood classrooms. We are partnering with the MPS administration to improve professional development and teacher evaluation.

In our continuing work to support democracy and social justice, the MTEA Executive Board voted to donate $350 to the strike support fund of the Palermo's Pizza workers who are struggling for union recognition and safe working conditions. Our members have joined their picket lines.

Conditions (and collective bargaining laws) differ in Chicago and Milwaukee. Yet the the activism in both teacher unions flows from a belief that teacher unions need to be more than just service unions focusing on narrow workplace issues. We must move from a “service model” to an organizing model. We have to not only be concerned about issues of wages, hours and benefits, but also issues of teaching and learning, professionalism, our community and justice. Put simply, we must put children first.

A recent article describing the work of  the Caucus of Rank-and-File Educators (CORE) and their leadership within the Chicago Teachers Union sums up some of this new perspective. James Cersonsky writes:

“While the city shutters, charterizes, segregates, gentrifies, intimidates, and fires, the union has created a member organizing department where one didn’t exist before, trained over 200 shop stewards, held countless public meetings and protests against school closings, and organized in hand with parents, students, community groups, and other unions-altogether, a new vision for twenty-first century teacher unionism.”

A similar vision is taking take root in the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association. The MTEA is Reimagining and Reinventing itself, moving from a service to an organizing model.

This year saw an unprecedented level of activism among MTEA members. Hundreds mobilized for the recall campaign, including groups of teachers and educational assistants who canvassed the neighborhoods around their schools in the evenings and on weekends.

This year the MTEA also more systematically trained building leaders and expanded member involvement through school-based advocate positions including Teaching and Learning, Parent/Community, Social Justice, and Democracy Advocates.

In 1998 as a rank-and-file union activist I wrote an article "Survival and Justice: Rethinking Teacher Union Strategy" in the magazine Rethinking Schools, "Never in the history of our nation have public schools been under such relentless attack. Never in the history of teacher unionism has there been a greater urgency to rethink strategy."

Fourteen years later those words are now more true than ever.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Gov. Walker Transfers $100,000 More into Criminal Defense Fund

According to campaign finance reports released Tuesday night, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker transferred an additional $100,000 to his criminal defense fund.


Milwaukee Co. District Attorney John Chisholm is conducting a John Doe investigation into illegal activities by Walker's aides while Walker was Milwaukee County Executive. So far the investigation has led to the filing of criminal charges against three of Walker's county aides, one former appointee and a major campaign contributor. 

  • On April 13, Walker transferred $60,000 from his campaign war chest to his criminal defense fund.
  • On May 3, Walker transferred $70,000 more.
  • On May 17, Walker transferred $30,000 more.

Walker is the only standing Governor in the United States with a legal defense fund.

Why does he need a $160,000 defense fund? 

Walker has hired criminal defense lawyers, including former US Attorney Steven Biskupic. 

Walker says he is not under investigation, but according to state regulations state officeholders may set up legal defense funds only if they or an agent of their campaign have been charged with or are under investigation for election or campaign violations.


State law requires that Walker get permission from his campaign contributors to move their money to his criminal legal defense fund. Walker has refused repeated requests to make public which of his rich donors have agreed to fund his defense fund. He has a lot of rich patrons to ask.

According to Walker's campaign finance report Christy Walton, a Walmart heiress active in the school voucher movement, gave Walker $50,000, the report shows. Forbes lists Walton as the richest woman in the world, with a net worth of $25.3 billion. Perhaps he asked her.


Why doesn't Walker come clean? Why doesn't he release the secret emails? Why doesn't tell the public who is financing his legal defense fund?

What can you do?

Vote June 5. Make history.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Endorses Wrong Candidate

Few people were surprised with the May 20 endorsement of Gov. Scott Walker by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Many people, however, were upset and know it's not in the best interest of the people of Wisconsin.

I encourage you to read the following statement of Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Mike Tate:

"It saddens, but does not surprise, that the state's largest newspaper would continue to support the most divisive, and possibly most corrupt, governor in Wisconsin history.

"The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has supported Scott Walker in its editorial and news pages for years, has seriously underplayed the scandals of his various administrations, has treated the historic recall movement with small-minded contempt and will, therefore be judged harshly if remembered at all, in Wisconsin's history.

"One need only read the Milwaukee Sentinel editorials AGAINST the Civil Rights Movement and FOR Joe McCarthy to remember how silly and reactionary a news organization can look in the hindsight of the ages.

"And so it will be with Scott Walker, who has been treated with the embarrassing kindnesses of the Journal Communications empire, which props up the Walker agenda with a daily and unrelenting stream of propaganda via right-wing extremists Charlie Sykes and Jeff Wagner.

"But it is not merely the editorial support that is so troubling.

"Scott Walker not only owns the back editorial pages of the paper — he also owns the front pages of the paper with what is is supposed to remain a neutral forum for actual news. In this case, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has practiced repeated journalistic lapses, underplaying the shocking criminal corruption scandal in Walker's midst, downplaying the enormity of the division and dishonesty emanating from this administration and hyping up and adopting a shocking re-engineering of the truth by Walker on everything from jobs numbers to government transparency.

"This endorsement is also troubling given that it is a blatant about-face to their previous editorial policy of not endorsing in recall elections, having not endorsed in any of the recall elections of last summer.

"In the end, time will tell whether the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's snide and small support for Scott Walker and against the average citizens of Wisconsin will make the difference on June 5th. But by turning such a blind eye to facts in the service of an ideology so extreme and an administration so corrupt, the paper has made yet another backward stand against history."

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Also check out how a conservative Milwaukee group has brazenly attacked teachers in Janesville, WI, especially those who signed the Recall Walker petition. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Bullies, Lies, and Videotape

A quarter century ago, director Steven Soderburgh coupled innovative film-making with a great title: Sex, Lies, and Videotape.

Now, in an era where Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has become the poster boy of a mean-spirited Republican agenda across the country, we have what I call Bullies, Lies and Videotape.

First for the videotape.

In a videotape released on May 10, but filmed 16 months earlier shortly after Gov Scott Walker took office, a Wisconsin billionaire asked Walker what he would do to help make Wisconsin “a completely red state and work on these unions and become a right-to-work?”

Walker’s response? He says that he has planned a “divide and conquer” anti-union strategy with a “first step” of denying collective bargaining right to public sector works. (Wisconsinites are now well aware of the videotape, but unfortunately it failed to make national news. Make sure to check below for more details on this video.)

Second, for the lie.

For the last 18 months, Walker has claimed that while campaigning for governor he made clear his anti-union agenda. It is now common knowledge that the claim is false. Or, as some might say, Walker is lying. He never told Wisconsin voters that if elected he would gut collective bargaining for public workers.

Third, for the bullies.

Here we have not only Walker but the presumptive Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney.

According to Webster’s dictionary a bully is “a person who hurt, frightens, or tyrannizes over those who are smaller or weaker.”

Put together Walker’s anti-union Act 10, his budget cuts of social services and public education, his corporate tax breaks and his unprecedented out-of-state fundraising from the likes of the Koch brothers and other billionaires, and the “bully” definition is more than apt. (Not to be forgotten, Walker’s threat when he first announced his attack on collective bargaining that he was prepared to call out the National Guard.)

While Walker’s true colors were being exposed by videotape, a report in the Washington Post revealed that Mitt Romney bullied a classmate 50 years ago while at Michigan's prestigious Cranbrook prep school.

Romney targeted a new student with long dyed blond hair presumed to be gay. Leading a group of bullies, he chased the boy, tackled him and while others pinned the blond-haired boy down, Romney forcibly cut his hair with scissors while the student cried and screamed for help.

Five of Romney’s classmates involved in the bullying matured enough to be remorseful, and they told their story to the Washington Post. One of the former bullies called their youthful attack “bullying supreme” and told ABC News: ‘It's a haunting memory, when you see somebody who is simply different taken down that way and is terrified and you see that look in their eye, you never forget it.’”

In an interview on Fox Radio, Romney laughed when asked about the incident. He said he didn’t remember it.

New York Times columnist Gail Collins was one of many commentators who expressed disbelief at Romney’s selective memory, and concluded that Romney “is lying through his teeth.”

Bullies who lie, whether Mitt Romney or Scott Walker, should not be in positions of political leadership. Wisconsin voters will have the chance to throw Walker out of office on June 5. Nationwide, voters will have the chance to thwart Romney’s ambitions on November 6.
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Now, some details on that Walker videotape.

The clip, filmed in January 2011, shows Walker confiding to a billionaire donor about his strategy to attack unions. He kept that plan secret for nearly a month before he announced his “budget repair bill” to eliminate collective bargaining rights for all public sector workers (except the police and firefighter unions that had endorsed him for governor the previous year). His anti-collective bargaining plan spurred the largest workers’ protest in Wisconsin’s history.  

Walker’s comments were in response to billionaire Diane Hendricks asking him if he can help make Wisconsin into “a completely red state and work on these unions and become a right-to-work?” Walker interrupted her saying, “Oh yeah” and then explained his “divide and conquer strategy.”

“Well, we’re going to start in a couple weeks with our budget adjustment bill.” Walker explained. “The first step is we're going to deal with collective bargaining for all public employee unions, because you use divide and conquer,” he told Hendricks, who according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has “given $510,000 to the governor’s campaign – making her Walker’s single-largest donor and the largest known donor to a candidate in state history.”

The video clip is part of a movie trailer for a documentary “As Goes Janesville” that will premiere this summer. The movie, by documentary filmmaker Brad Lichtenstein, depicts the devastating impact of the closing of a massive General Motors plant on a small industrial city in southern Wisconsin.