- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Eau Claire Leader-Telegram, Feb. 24

Racist emails reflect poorly on Walker

It seems some of Gov. Scott Walker’s former staff members forgot the first rule of email, and it has cast them in a very bad light that also has embarrassed Walker.

The rule: Don’t ever send an email to anyone that you wouldn’t mind the whole world reading. Once you hit the send button, the shelf life of that communication is out of your hands.

This lapse of judgment or just plain stupidity has a couple of former Walker aides looking like racist fools.

The embarrassing correspondence is part of nearly 28,000 pages of records released recently relating to an investigation into Walker aide Kelly Rindfleisch, who served as deputy chief of staff to Walker when he was Milwaukee County executive. Rindfleisch was convicted in 2012 of misconduct in office and sentenced to jail for doing campaign work for Republicans on government time.

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, among the many records released was one in which Rindfleisch received an emailed joke from a friend about someone whose dogs supposedly qualified for welfare because they are “mixed in color, unemployed, lazy, can’t speak English and have no frigging clue who their Daddys are.”

Rindfleisch wrote back: “That is hilarious. And so true!”

In another email, sent in July 2010, the Journal Sentinel reported, Thomas Nardelli, Walker’s chief of staff at Milwaukee County, forwarded Rindfleisch and others a joke about someone who has what he calls a “nightmare” about turning into a black, Jewish, disabled gay man who is unemployed.

“Oh God, please don’t tell me I’m a Democrat,” the email concludes.

Rindfleisch’s lawyer argues that many of the emails released were personal and should not have been made public. That’s an argument for open records experts to decide, but they were released, and there’s no taking them back.

The greater concern is that someone openly expressing such views is in public service to begin with. None of us can control the content of emails sent to us, but we have total control over what we do with them. And by responding to the “joke” from a friend the way she did provides shocking insight into Rindfleisch’s shallow views toward minorities.

Walker needs to be more careful who he surrounds himself with. First his staff patches him through to a fake “Koch brother,” and now revelations that some of his inner circle are racists are laid bare.

If Walker truly has presidential aspirations, he’ll have to run a much tighter ship and be far more careful about who he lets on board.


Green Bay Press-Gazette, Feb. 24

Scrap Senate bill, not Common Core

A proposal in the state Senate would establish a board to set state academic standards, effectively ending the Common Core.

Adopted four years ago by state Department of Public Instruction Superintendent Tony Evers, the Common Core sets academic standards for public school districts in the state. Wisconsin is one of 45 states that have signed on.

Wisconsin schools are in their second year of teaching a curriculum that meets the rigorous standards for math and reading. Tests are scheduled for fall 2014 to assess the progress. (The science and social studies standards have been put on hold as costs are examined.)

Now some Republican legislators want to undo what has been in place in classrooms the last two years and the very standards the DPI has been using since 2010 to guide its curriculum and education decisions.

The Common Core standards have had their opponents, both in the Legislature and in the classroom, but it would be unwise and premature to scrap them now. It appears that politics, not education, is the driving force

Gov. Scott Walker has supported the Common Core in the past. In 2012 in the governor’s Read to Lead Task Force report, Walker wrote how the state adopted the Common Core “in response to the need to improve state standards and create a common set of expectations for children across the country.” He called the new standards “more rigorous.”

Since then, it appears he has backed off that claim and now backs this current Senate proposal.

Under SB 619, a 15-member Model Academic Standards Board of educators, parents and people with an education background would be created to draft standards. The DPI superintendent would serve on the board as well as four people he or should would appoint; the governor would name six members; the Senate majority and minority leaders would appoint one each; and the Assembly speaker and the minority leader would each appoint one.

If this is truly to be objective and nonpolitical, why does the governor appoint more members than the DPI chief?

Critics of the Common Core cite the loss of local control and the lowering of standards.

First of all, the Common Core wasn’t required by the federal government. It wasn’t even produced by the federal government. It was developed by a national group of state school officials with leadership from the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.

Plus, it sets a baseline for standards. Schools can exceed the standards if they decide. Also, the schools set the curriculum; the Common Core doesn’t.

Green Bay School District Superintendent Michelle Langenfeld wrote to legislators that the Common Core “closely aligns with the skills our partners in higher education and the business community identify as necessary to ensure college and career readiness” through a “rigorous and relevant curriculum.”

Second, how does the Common Core lower academic standards? By all accounts, the standards are higher. At a hearing on Common Core, West Bend School District Superintendent Ted Nietzke called them “the highest standards I’ve seen.”

Walker has called for “higher and more rigorous” academic standards, without stating what that means. In fact, the standards are more rigorous.

What opponents don’t mention is the cost. Schools in Wisconsin have already spent $25 million to adopt the Common Core standards. Langenfeld’s letter to legislators says that educators here have put in time, energy and resources in “implementing curriculum, instruction and measures aligned to the Common Core.”

If the Common Core were an absolute failure, we’d support changing course. But there’s no evidence of that. What we do see is a minority viewpoint that strikes the popular chord of loss of local control, something we haven’t seen.

These academic standards haven’t even had a time to work, and it would be unwise to scrap them for a more politicized approach in these times of hyper-partisanship.


Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Feb. 23

Legislature should not undercut Common Core standards

The state Legislature is expected this week to take up a bill aimed at derailing implementation of nationally aligned reading and math academic standards that Wisconsin adopted three years ago. Passing this measure would be a mistake; it could seriously hurt efforts in school districts across the state to raise student achievement and to benchmark those achievements against districts across the country.

State School Superintendent Tony Evers told us Friday the bill was “a power grab” by the Legislature, which could end up writing its own standards for schools. The bills he said would set back reform efforts, especially in Milwaukee, designed to raise student achievement.

Actually, the power grab appears to be coming from Gov. Scott Walker, whose staff wrote the bill, as revealed by documents released thanks to an open records request by the Journal Sentinel.

The Journal Sentinel has reported that a bill introduced in the Senate last week, and a companion measure that was pulled from a vote in the Assembly Education Committee Thursday, calls for the creation of a state academic standards board that would have authority to recommend new standards for public schools in academic subjects such as math, reading and science.

The state board would be mostly made up of political appointees, and lawmakers could adopt standards the board recommended, even if the state superintendent disagreed.

The Common Core State Standards these bills would undercut have the general support of educators and the business community. The goal is worthwhile: uniform standards for districts across the country. There apparently have been some problems with implementation is some states, and perhaps tweaks are warranted.

But this bill doesn’t merely tweak. It seeks to overturn the standards. Much of the resistance to the standards comes from tea party groups that fear the intrusion of the federal government into local schools. As we noted in an editorial in December, some critics have spread unfounded rumors that Common Core standards could lead to such alarming tests as retinal scans, fingerprint scans, blood-pressure cuffs or posture chairs for kids. There also have been allegations that the federal government coerced states into approving the standards. Nonsense. These are merely scare tactics meant to arouse fear.

The standards were developed by state superintendents, governors and curriculum experts; they simply set national standards that districts should strive to meet. In a global economy that requires a skilled workforce, this just makes sense.

Here’s hoping cooler heads will prevail and turn aside this effort to set back educational reform in Wisconsin.

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