- Associated Press - Friday, January 24, 2014
Walker proposes commission on academic standards

MILWAUKEE (AP) - Republican Gov. Scott Walker said Friday he will back legislation creating a commission to review and recommend changes to the state’s academic standards, adding that he believes they will end up being tougher than national benchmarks.

Wisconsin adopted the Common Core academic standards for reading and math in 2010, and schools gradually have been aligning with them. However, tea party conservatives and others object to the standards and have urged Walker and Republicans to scrap them.

Walker said legislation that he hopes to see approved in the next month or two would create a commission to review the state’s standards and recommend changes to Department of Public Instruction Superintendent Tony Evers, who oversaw adoption of the Common Core.

Evers would chair the commission, and his agency would be responsible for implementing any changes. Evers said the state is not abandoning the Common Core, which is used in 45 states, but the commission may recommend additions that school districts eventually could adopt. The standardized tests that go into effect next fall in Wisconsin still will be based on the Common Core.

Evers noted the state’s voluntary standards are “a floor,” not goals for its highest-achieving students. School districts already can add to them.

Walker compared the formation of the commission to the process that eventually led Wisconsin to obtain a waiver for federal No Child Left Behind requirements. The law signed by President George W. Bush in 2002 requires all students to be proficient in reading and math by 2014, a goal many educators have said is impossible.

Walker said plans call for the commission to have 13 members, one being Evers. Walker and the Department of Public Instruction would each appoint four members, and the four top legislative leaders would each appoint one member. Walker said he hoped to see local school superintendents, principals, parents and others invested in education on the commission.


Cold, short supply drive higher Wis. propane costs

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Wisconsin propane users are bundling up and watching their money fly out the door as prices skyrocket amid a vicious combination of ultra-cold weather, depleted storage reservoirs and pipeline problems.

Propane prices have jumped across the country since the heating season began in October. According to the latest figures from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, wholesale prices have climbed 28 percent nationally between mid-December and Jan. 20, including a 23 percent jump between Jan. 13 and Jan. 20. Residential prices, meanwhile, have gone up 9 percent over the last month.

In Wisconsin, wholesale propane cost an average of $2.26 per gallon on Jan. 20, up 35 percent since mid-December. Wisconsin residential prices averaged $2.30 per gallon on Jan. 20, up 13 percent from a month earlier. That means a person with a 500-gallon propane tank is suddenly paying $135 more to fill it than he or she did in December.

Gov. Scott Walker has been issuing orders since October lifting truckers’ hour limits in hopes of moving more propane faster. He plans to meet with propane industry stakeholders on Monday to discuss the problem. But propane distributors and the 250,000 or so people Walker’s office estimates rely on their product may have to pinch their pennies until spring.

“This is a major, major crisis,” said Brandon Scholz, managing director of the Wisconsin Propane Gas Association. “Everybody’s first question is ‘what’s the solution?’ There is not a short-term solution here.”

The shortage began to form in October, according to a statement on the National Propane Gas Association’s website. States across the Upper Midwest completed large corn harvests almost simultaneously rather than in the usual stages, requiring huge amounts of propane to dry the corn before it could be stored. Growing propane exports - more than 20 percent of domestic propane was exported in 2013, according to the NPGA - also led to smaller reserves.

Pipeline work slowed efforts to replenish wholesalers’ reserves. The Cochin pipeline, which provides about 40 percent of Minnesota suppliers’ propane, was shut down for most of December for repairs, triggering a chain reaction through the distribution system as suppliers traveled further to find gas. Then a brutal cold snap hit the eastern United States, driving up demand.


Wis. judge orders Schaffhausen to pay restitution

HUDSON, Wis. (AP) - A judge on Friday ordered a man convicted of killing his three daughters to pay more than $25,000 in restitution and court costs.

St. Croix County Circuit Judge Howard Cameron ruled Friday that Aaron Schaffhausen must pay more than $14,000 in restitution to Jessica Peterson. The money would compensate her for an emergency room visit the day of the killings, counseling and lost wages, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported (https://bit.ly/1aQ5eVphttps://bit.ly/1aQ5eVp ).

The judge also ordered him to pay over $10,000 for witness costs.

Schaffhausen is serving three life sentences for killing his three girls - Amara, 11, Sophie, 8, and Cecilia, 5 - at their home in River Falls in western Wisconsin in July 2012, in what prosecutors said was an effort to get revenge against his ex-wife. The defense claimed insanity during his trial. A jury found last May that he had a mental defect but still understood he was doing something wrong when he slashed his girls’ throats, then tucked their bodies into bed.

Schaffhausen is not currently working in prison, and prosecutor Gary Freyberg said it remains to be seen if Schaffhausen will ever pay the money in full.

Schaffhausen, who was shackled and wearing orange jail garb, did not speak during the hearing. Peterson did not attend.



Cold weather leads to cancelations in Wisconsin

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - A cold, windy forecast has led the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to cancel several events this weekend.

The events include a Winter Fest set for Saturday at Perrot State Park near Trempealeau; a skiing, hiking and snowshoeing event at Governor Dodge State Park near Dodgeville; and candlelight events at Lake Wissota State Park near Chippewa Falls and Whitefish Dunes State Park near Sturgeon Bay.

The DNR recommends checking its website to make sure other events are still scheduled.

In Green Bay, several of Saturday’s Winterfest events have been called off.

Even colder weather is on tap for early next week. Some Wisconsin school districts are considering whether to cancel classes Monday. Wind chills in Madison, for example are forecast for minus-33 early Monday and 41 below early Tuesday.



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