Revisions/extensions (6:16 pm 7/30/2007) – I was a bit harsh on Jason Fields. The editorial didn’t have the extended quote from Fields, which provides a reason for his lack of ideas, and I failed to pick it up in the extended excerpt linked to below. Here it is:
Here’s what bothers me whenever we talk about these issues, because I respect and admire everyone in this room. We all agree that it should be about valuing kids, it should be about the child’s education. But once we leave here, we get into these political battles between opponents, but everybody’s saying it’s about the kids, it’s about the kids.
But if I go back and say, “Listen, we need to break up MPS; we need to make it smaller,” I’ll get raked over the coals for saying something like that, even though we all know at this table that’s probably the best idea. . . .
Of course, that brings up a couple of other issues, namely the stranglehold the teachers’ unions have on the ‘Rats, and the lack of courage on the part of Fields to buck that stranglehold.
(H/T – Reaganite)
While everybody’s favorite croc merely focuses on the “metropolitan fiscal control board” portion of this morning’s editorial on the latest round table of community leaders. Let’s expand the focus some and do some fisking (since it’s been, what, 2 weeks since I took a machete to one of their editorials):
The amazing thing was how fast the conversation turned to education. In a discussion last week among key area leaders on regional cooperation, education quickly became the topic of discussion.
The importance of an educated work force, of good schools and of a regional community that places a high value on education was stressed again and again by the nine speakers in a round-table discussion hosted by the Editorial Board. What became immediately clear is that education is not just an issue faced by one school district – Milwaukee Public Schools – or one community.
So why the focus on MPS?
Failure at MPS or any other district affects communities and businesses throughout the region. Everyone in southeastern Wisconsin has a stake in what happens in MPS, in Racine Unified, in the Waukesha School District and in all of the other school districts in the area.
AHHROOOOOGAH! AHHROOOOOOGAH! The BOHICA siren is going off; I hope you’re listening out in Brookfield, Mequon, Germantown, and other assorted out-of-Milwaukee-County locations.
What’s needed is a regional response, which should include more involvement of businesses outside Milwaukee County in MPS and other school districts’ programs, more collaborative efforts such as the Kern Family Foundation and the Greater Milwaukee Foundation’s Lead the Way program and a debate on what fundamental changes need to be made at MPS and other troubled districts, including whether to change their governing structure. Such a debate should be considered for other local governments, the idea being to make them more manageable, more accountable and more in control of their own affairs and budgets.
After all, it is all the gubmint’s money, and there’s no bigger gubmint outside of Madistan than in Milwaukee, so they need EVERYBODY’S cash.
Businessman Sheldon Lubar of the Greater Milwaukee Committee put his finger on the problem early in the discussion: “You cannot reach the levels that I think all of you want to see us reach if you have a dropout rate of 50% of your high school students.”
I’ll point out that the problem isn’t the lack of money. If money is what solves education problems, MPS, RUSD, and the like would be the best districts in the state.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said one of his biggest surprises after taking office was the need to improve work force development. “If there’s one issue where I would love to take this community and shake it by the shoulders, it is how important education is in this world economy now,” he said.
How could he be surprised? Before taking the job of milk-carton photographee, he had spent a bunch of years in perhaps the only city with worse schools than Milwaukee.
Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker talked about breaking up MPS into several districts; Waukesha County Executive Dan Vrakas argued for the need to reduce health care costs, the single biggest driver of government and school district costs; state Rep. Jason Fields (D-Milwaukee) talked about the politics of changing the educational system.
“This issue has been occurring for the last 20 years, but nothing’s been done about it,” Fields said. “If I sit at this table and we all agree that we need to do something, when we leave this room not a damn thing will change, and those black kids, kids in my neighborhood and my community, will still be in the same position.”
Irony, thy name is Jason Fields. Walker suggested something potentially constructive. Vrakas, who doesn’t really have a dog in the MPS fight, suggested something that would free up money. Fields blathered on without any suggestions. Guess who got the extended quote?
That needs to change for the sake of giving those kids a reasonable chance at a better life but also for the sake of southeastern Wisconsin’s ability to compete in the global marketplace.
Again, mo’ money is not the solution.
Other things need to change, too, as the discussion made clear:
Transportation: Barrett and Walker need to come to terms on transportation issues and how to spend $91.5 million in federal funds that has been sitting unused for 16 years. Bringing in a mediator or transportation experts to resolve the dispute, as suggested by Lubar, makes sense. The onus for compromise lies more on Walker, who supports some rail components such as KRM and a regional approach but who needs to push harder for his ideas and who still remains stubbornly opposed to other rail components. Rosemary Potter of Transit NOW was right when she argued that the area needs a truly regional transit system governed by a regional authority and funded in a way that takes the burden off property taxpayers. But judging by the discussion, compromise on transportation issues is a ways off.
No, the onus is on the free-spending choo-choo fans because rail, whether it’s the Milk Carton’s light-rail-lite or the KRM, is not an answer. I’ve previously gone on the record as saying that $91.5 million would be better spent retiring some of the bonds held by Red China, and I’m sticking with it.
Did I not sound the BOHICA alarm? That “truly regional transit system” governed by a “regional authority” is code for Milwaukee dominating everything while the burbs feed the bottomless pit. Morever, we do not need a RTA, especially one which spent all of its money trying to get more.
Water: Compromise needs to be reached on water quality and supply issues; the region can start with the request of New Berlin to obtain Lake Michigan water. Water, as state Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) pointed out, is “our oil” and critical for economic health. There is a good model for agreement – worked out by William Mielke of the Waukesha engineering firm Ruekert & Mielke Inc. – in Racine County for supplying services and sharing the benefits of growth. To his credit, Barrett said such an agreement was possible involving Milwaukee and New Berlin.
Before I comment, I need to find out more about that. Considering the Journtinel supports it, it sounds like BOHICA. Fred? Unreal? Peter? Another of the Racine readers? Could you provide some missing info on this?
Governance: Lubar’s insistence on the need to change the state’s governance structure brought to light a critical issue. Wisconsin’s system of governance is out of date and out of touch. Too many decisions that affect taxes are made by bodies with little or no accountability to the public. Elected officials often have too little say over their costs and revenue. He suggested creating a metropolitan fiscal control board that would have budgetary control over certain entities, such as Milwaukee Public Schools, Miller Park, Milwaukee Area Technical College and the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District. Margaret Farrow, former lieutenant governor and president of the Waukesha County Action Network, pointed out that a review of the state constitution and of how government works and is paid for in Wisconsin is long overdue.
STOP THE TAPE! There’s so much to hammer here, and Reaganite only hammered one small part. I don’t have time to deliver a lengthy beatdown, so I’ll be brief. The problem is shared revenue, and a metropolitan fiscal control board, dominated by the city of Milwaukee, doling out the cash to “everybody” (I note that only Milwaukee-specific entities are listed) would only make it worse.
Specifically with regard to MPS, I refer you to the title of this piece. All that state aid those of you in Glendale, River Hills, Oak Creek, Brookfield, Thiensville, New Berlin, Union Grove, West Bend, and Oconomowoc (among others) send to MPS isn’t enough for the monster.
Oh, and those of you in Mequon and Germantown can forget about getting out of MATC. Not only aren’t you getting out, everybody else is getting sucked in.
Maybe if we stick Racine, western Waukesha, and northern Ozaukee and Washington Counties in MMSD’s taxing reach, they’ll finally build a deep-enough tunnel. NAH!
Economic development and basic cooperation: Asked what he’d like to point to as an achievement a year from now, attorney and former state Commerce Secretary Cory Nettles suggested creating a “regional top 10 collaborative list, and to make the list, you would have to very clearly demonstrate your impact in creating jobs within the region and reducing the cost of government.”
Allow me to start – lower spending. Oh, that’s right; we’re talking about PIGs in gubmint.
A good idea. What’s needed, as several speakers pointed out, are fewer words and more action. Certainly, the work of the Milwaukee 7 on regional economic development has been groundbreaking, but regional leaders have to build on those efforts to keep that momentum going.
Oh, it’s been groundbreaking all right. Everybody out of state is breaking ground…
Bickering among ourselves in southeastern Wisconsin does nothing to help us compete against Southeast Asia or the rest of the world. We must get our act together.
…especially in Southeast Asia. Part of that’s federal because they’ve listened to the likes of the Journtinel idiotorial board for many moons. Do we want to listen to that kind of advice and turn southeast WisTAXsin into so much a tax hell, the rest of the state looks attractive by comparison?