This is another in the continuing series of informative, stimulating, and exciting meetings being hosted monthly by the Green Lake County Dems & Friends.
This Saturday, March 7, we’ll hear from Mary Allen, the district administrator of Schools in Green Lake, and Nate Zimdars, an announced candidate for the state Senate seat being vacated by long-time Republican Luther Olsen.
Allen will explain why the Green Lake School District is asking voters to approve a $4.3 million (over four years) referendum on April 7. Zimdars will discuss his desire to represent us in Madison.
Green Lake School District Administrator Mary Allen
While Allen’s presentation will zero in on the district’s needs, her presentation’s backdrop is the fact that unlike most of the state’s school districts, the Green Lake District does not receive school aid funding from the state.
Additionally, since the GOP-led legislature, under the leadership of former Republican Governor Scott Walker capped the amount a district could raise annually, districts across the state have not been able to pay for needed physical plant improvements without going to referenda.
Nate Zimdars spoke at an earlier Green Lake County Dems & Friends meeting.
The question voters in the district are being asked is: “Shall the School District of Green Lake, Green Lake County, Wisconsin be authorized to exceed the revenue limit specified in Section 121.91, Wisconsin Statutes, by $810,000 for the 2020-2021 school year, by $975,000 for the 2021-2022 school year, by $1,200,000 for the 2022-2023 school year and by $1,400,000 for the 2023-2024 school year, for non-recurring purposes consisting of operational costs to maintain instruction programs, staffing, and technology and capital project costs associated with facilities maintenance?”
Come to our meeting tomorrow to learn why Allen and the Green Lake School District want an affirmative answer to the question.
Zimdars, from Ripon, will explain why he is seeking election in a district that has been gerrymandered by Republicans to favor their party.
Supporters of public education demonstrated last year in when Education Secretary Betsy DeVos visited a school in Adams County.
Funding of public education in Wisconsin still lags behind after a decade of Republican-led cuts. A recent report by the Wisconsin Budget Project says that, “Despite recent increases, Wisconsin’s public K-12 school districts still receive less in state aid than they did a decade ago, prior to historic cuts to education.”
The report doesn’t name names as it is officially a nonpartisan organization, but the decade in question was controlled by Republican lawmakers, with support from former Republican Gov. Scott Walker.
The report continues: “During that time frame, state lawmakers chose to pass large tax cuts instead of investing the money in local schools. Lawmakers are also increasingly diverting resources allocated for education to private schools and independent charter schools, reducing the resources available for public school districts, which educate the vast majority of Wisconsin students.
“Deep funding cuts threaten Wisconsin’s tradition of high-quality public schools, which have long been an engine of Wisconsin’s economic growth. Wisconsin depends on a well-educated workforce, shaped by outstanding public schools, to lay the foundation for a shared prosperity. To ensure that Wisconsin is competitive in the future, Wisconsin schools must have the resources to offer students a first-rate education.
“The Wisconsin Budget Project is an initiative of Kids Forward engaged in analysis and education on state budget and tax issues, particularly those relating to low- and moderate-income families. The Budget Project seeks to broaden the debate on budget and tax policy through public education and by encouraging civic engagement on these issues.
Republican Rep Glenn Grothman, who represents us in Congress, rose to the defense of beleaguered Education Secretary Betsy Devos this week during a hearing on why her department has not helped students who were defrauded by defunct for-profit educational providers, leaving the students with student loans that DeVos’ department was aggressively trying to collect.
The testimony came during a U.S. House and Education and Labor Committee hearing. Grothman is a member of the committee. In his comments, reported in an article from the Wisconsin Examiner, Grothman reportedly said, “She’s doing what she can,” adding, “She had a couple of employees who screwed up.”
Grothman then did what he does regularly: He attacked former President Obama, a Democrat: “You gotta remember that student loan debt more than doubled under Obama, and doubled under Bush.”
Grothman said he found the comments in the hearing “unusually nasty,” and said “people are blaming her for problems she inherited.”
Grothman did not ask DeVos why her department was not helping the students who were left students loans they could not pay back because they did not have degrees required by potential employers.
Green Lake School District Board of Education. Ron Triemstra is on the left in the photo.
Longtime Green Lake School Board of Education member Ron Triemstra announced this week that he will not seek re-election on April 7, 2020. Triemstra is a past president, vice president, and clerk of the board.
This means voters will elect three board members. Previously, current board members Andy Gryske and Loni Meiborg have indicated they will seek election.
In an article in the Oct. 31 Ripon Commonwealth Press, Triemstra, who is also a supervisor for the Town of Brooklyn Board, was quoted as saying, “What I want people to know is that it is important that some residents of the district take enough interest that somebody would run for the School Board. It is not as demanding as some people think.” The board meets once a month.
Individuals interested in running for the open position or against Gryske or Meiborg must file out a campaign registration form and a declaration of candidacy. Both forms must be filed with the Green Lake School District office no later than 5 p.m. on Tuesday, January 7.
The forms can be picked up at the district office, 612 Mill Street, or the district will mail the forms to candidates if requested. The forms are also available on the district website.
To be eligible for election to the school board, individuals must pay taxes within the district. When filing papers, candidates should bring proof of residency within the district, such as a copy of their tax bill.
A spokesperson for the district said potential candidates should be aware that the district offices are closed during Christmas week.
The final results are in and as expected, Health Care and the Environment, the early leaders in the Green Lake County Dems & Friends poll of attendees at the just concluded Green Lake County Fair, were the final two top issues of concern.
The poll, admittedly unscientific and definitely unofficial, but lots of fun, closed Sunday at the end of the 4-day fair run.
So, who participated in our poll? Well, young and old, male and female, Democrat and Republican (including 6th District Congressman Glen Grothman, a Republican and a good sport), and a group of young 4-Hers who, while too young to vote in real elections, cared enough about the issues to register their votes with us.
As indicated, Health Care, with 168 votes, was the top issue of concern, with the Environment close behind at 160. The Environment, as the table below shows, was the leader after the first day, but Health Care rallied and led the rest of the way.
Education finished third with 129 votes.
Agriculture was third with 65 votes, followed closely by Voting Rights with 60.
Everyone who voted was encouraged to make two choices with the provided smiley faces; most did.
While the rain Saturday night ended the polling prematurely, attendees at the Green Lake County Fair still demonstrated a lot of interest in Green Lake County Dems & Friends’ unscientific, completely unofficial poll to learn what issues were of the most concern to voters heading into the 2020 election year.
Health Care, the No. 2 issue after the first two days of voting–the Environment was No. 1–is the new leader with a three-day total of 145 votes. The Environment is now No. 2 with 136 votes.
Helping Health Care take over the top spot was a relatively large margin on Saturday. Health Care had 52 votes Saturday before the rain came, while the environment had 33 votes Saturday.
The No. 3 top issue after three days? Education with 111 votes.
Check out the table below for the day-by-day totals, plus the grand totals for the first three days of the four-day event.
Fairgoers participating in the Green Lake County Dems & Friends poll on Friday said that Health Care was their top issue or concern. Second was the Environment.
This is a reversal of Thursday’s results, where the Environment was the first day leader with 44 votes
Health Care earned 63 votes Friday, the largest one-day total so far. A close second on Friday, was the Environment with 59 votes.
This means that after two days, the Environment is still the overall leader with 103 votes. Health Care’s two-day total is 93.
See the table below for more information on the vote totals. Our poll, which is new this year, is an admittedly unscientific and unofficial undertaking. So, what. We and the fairgoers participating in the poll are having fun, while also gaining some insights into the opinions of those attending the fair.
The early results are in and attendees at the Green Lake County Fair have spoken.
Their top issues of concern heading into the 2020 elections are (drum roll please) the Environment and Health Care.
Next up: Voting rights and education.
Although it was expected to be one of the leaders, the Environment, with 44 votes, had a 14-point lead over Health Care’s 30 after the first day of the fair in this unscientific, unofficial, but extremely fun poll.
Although the big lead for the Environment and Health Care was a bit of a surprise (some observers felt it would be closer), these vote totals are only for day one of the four-day annual event.
Today’s results could end up making the race closer. Today could also see voting rights (and its allied issues, such as redistricting) and education close the gap.
Trailing the leaders, after the first day, was Agriculture with 12, Infrastructure with 8 and Other with 5.
In total, 140 votes were cast on Thursday, the fair’s opening day.
Voting (such as it is) continues today, Saturday, and Sunday. Look for the final results Sunday night.
Gov. Tony Evers is proposing that property tax bills to show how money is being spent on voucher schools. Currently, property tax bills do not break out this spending. Supporters of Evers’ plan say that public schools are being hurt by the movement of funds from public schools to the voucher schools and as a result, public education suffers from a funding deficiency.
In his first state budget, Gov. Tony Evers plans to undo expansions of private school vouchers and independent charter schools passed by Republicans in the last decade. As expected, Republicans in the state legislature say they’ll block all the measures Evers wants.
Funding for public education in Wisconsin is often confusing and complex. A 2019 report from the Wisconsin Policy Forum, “Special Education Funding in Wisconsin: How it Works and Why it Matters,” examines the way we fund special education services to pupils in the state. It is an eye-opener and if you are concerned about education in general and the challenges state taxpayers (and school districts) face in providing these services, this is a must read.
The Wisconsin Policy Forum was created on Jan. 1, 2018, by the merger of the Madison-based Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance and the Milwaukee-based Public Policy Forum.
State Senator Luther Olsen, right, with Representative Joan Ballweg, left.
In his weekly newsletter to constituents, dated Feb. 8, State Sen. Luther Olsen reports the following:
“I am introducing two new pieces of legislation along with Representatives Mark Born and John Jagler regarding school operations and pupil data.
The first bill would allow a school administrator to warn a student before a fire, tornado or school safety drill, if it is in the best interest of the student. Under current law, these drills must be conducted without prior warning, but school administrators have highlighted that a warning would be helpful for students with disabilities, for example.
The second bill adds parents and guardians’ names to the statutory list of directory data. Under current law, information contained within a pupil’s record is confidential. School boards are permitted to disclose what is known as “directory data” without first getting permission from parents or guardians. The state law defines what is considered directory data. This includes a pupil’s name, address, phone number, date and place of birth, major field of study, participation in officially recognized activities and sports, weight and height of members of athletic teams, dates of attendance, photographs, degrees and awards received and the name of the school most recently previously attended by the pupil.
Schools are not required to include all of these items in their directory data list, but they cannot add any items that are not specified by law.
Missing from that list, under current law, are the names of the pupil’s parents or guardians. For safety reasons, there are scenarios where law enforcement or child welfare agencies might need to access that information. While there are limited circumstances under current law in which law enforcement and child welfare agencies can access additional information beyond what is considered directory data, by adding parent and guardian names to the directory data list, they will be able to access the information in a more timely manner.
We are currently circulating both bills for co-sponsorship and hope to introduce them shortly.”
One of the strengths of an organization is its ability to marshal resources for the common good. In our case, our members are alerting us to information on issues and elected officials through two new sections of our website: Issues and We’re Watching … If you have not visited them, click on their links.
Additionally, members and friends alert us to new, addition sources of information. For example, Ken Knight recently sent us information on the Wisconsin Budget Project, an independent Madison-based research group that focuses on tax and budget policy. The group also works with Kids Forward (formerly the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families) which looks at issues important to families and kids, through the lens of how taxes and how the state budget impacts them.
Here is a link to the Wisconsin Budget Project website and one to its Facebook Page. We think you will find both to be of considerable value. Note that you can also sign up on its website to receive email updates (something you can also do here if you want to receive email updates for our website).
Policy areas that are included on its website include:
Newly elected Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers is expected to prioritize education when it comes to his first budget.
Speaking Tuesday at a Wispolitics forum in Madison, Maggie Gau, Evers chief of staff, said Evers’ budget would have the state pay for two-thirds of the cost of public schools and increase state spending on special education by $600 million.