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Excerpts from recent Wisconsin editorials

November 25, 2019 GMT

Wisconsin State Journal, Madison, Nov. 24

More minority teachers are on the way to Madison’s schools

One way to help more black students succeed in Madison schools — and across Wisconsin — is to hire more black teachers.

They can better relate, in many cases, to the culture of minority students, and provide strong role models to inspire achievement.

That’s why a law signed last week by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and approved by the Republican-led Legislature is significant and praiseworthy.

The law will expand the state’s far-too-restrictive loan program that was supposed to help minority high-school graduates attend Wisconsin universities and enter the teaching profession. The program forgives college debt — up to $30,000 — if participants stay in Wisconsin to teach in high-demand fields at schools with lots of black, Latino, American Indian and Southeast Asian students.

The state’s minority teacher loan program has attracted few applicants in recent years. That’s because it was limited to teachers who agreed to work in Milwaukee.

Thanks to Act 35, signed by the governor Thursday, the program will now expand to some 25 school districts — including Madison’s — that have 40% or more students of color.

In Madison, 58% of students represent minority groups, compared to only 13% of teachers, according to the state Department of Public Instruction. Even more disproportionately, 18% of Madison students are black, compared to less than 3% of teachers.

Across Wisconsin, about 30% of students are in minority groups, while only 5% of teachers are. African Americans are 9% of students and less than 2% of teachers.

Because Wisconsin has the largest racial achievement gap in the nation, more teachers who can better connect with and encourage black students will be crucial.

School officials should widely publicize the opportunities for young people of color to pursue teaching careers. The loan program also should expand beyond high-demand teaching fields such as special education, math and bilingual teaching to include other subjects. A teacher can be a vital role model regardless of what’s being taught.

The state’s minority loan program alone won’t fix disparities, of course.

School districts with lots of minority students also must encourage greater parent involvement. They must continue to help disadvantaged students learn study skills and see paths to careers and higher education.

Madison is trying to turn more of its minority students into teachers. In exchange for training at UW-Madison’s School of Education, participants agree to teach in the Madison district for at least two years after graduating from college.

We’re not convinced lowering standards for grading is the answer. Yet offering students more chances to retake tests and get some credit for late work sounds fair and could help more freshmen advance. A smooth transition from middle to high school is crucial. So is good attendance.

High-quality teaching through professional development, peer coaching and better evaluations are important. Despite its flaws, the Act 10 limits on unions have given school principals more flexibility to consider and hire minority applicants.

Districts such as Madison should allow more charter and specialty schools. A year-round schedule would stop the summer slide in learning.

Our schools need more minority teachers and other enhancements to bolster success.

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The Journal Times of Racine, Nov. 25

Let’s have up-or-down votes on gun legislation

Gov. Tony Evers ordered a special session of the Legislature on the topic of gun control.

The respective sessions of the Assembly and Senate lasted less than a minute.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, called the session to order with no other lawmakers in the room on Nov. 7. He adjourned the session a few seconds later, avoiding debate or a vote on the gun control measures Democratic lawmakers had been advocating for throughout the day, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.

The Assembly, where state Rep. Robin Vos, R-Rochester is speaker, also began and quickly closed its special session immediately after finishing its regular session at about 9:30 p.m. Throughout the more than 8-hour regular session, Republicans declined multiple Democratic requests to break into special session, while also debating the merits of the legislation.

We’d understand the legislative Republicans’ refusal to do more than pay lip service to the order by Evers, a Democrat, if they were in the minority. But the GOP controls both houses. To put it bluntly, they have the votes.

“We are better than just inaction on these issues,” said Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh. “Failing to act on basic public safety measures is accepting that there is nothing that we can do to make our communities safer.”

In a statement later that week, Vos said: “Gov. Evers knows that we won’t waver on protecting our Second Amendment rights, it’s a position our constituents overwhelmingly support.”

Here’s the thing about the Second Amendment.

Gun-rights supporters point to the end of it: “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Gun-control supporters point out that the words before that are “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State.”

We’re left to conclude that the Founders enshrined a “right to keep and bear Arms” but also understood that regulation was necessary, especially since they put that part first.

What does “well-regulated” mean? That is for state and federal legislatures to debate and vote upon.

We’re certain that Republican legislators don’t want to see Americans shot at high schools (as happened in Santa Clarita, California, on Nov. 14), at football games (Pleasantville, New Jersey, on Nov. 15), at movie theaters (Aurora, Colorado, in 2012) or in their houses of worship (Pittsburgh, 2018, and nearby Oak Creek, in 2012).

We’re certain that, as is often stated by gun-rights supporters, gun legislation won’t do anything about crimes committed with illegally purchased guns. It’s here that we point out that the guns used in the massacres at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 and in the Aurora movie theater were legally obtained.

We’re also certain that not even having debates, much less votes, on gun-control legislation isn’t making Americans, and Wisconsinites in particular, any safer.

It seems as though not taking any action on guns in the name of the Second Amendment comes into conflict with rights declared “unalienable” in our nation’s Declaration of Independence: “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

This is also part of our continuing criticism of our legislators at the state and federal levels, and of both Democrats and Republicans: An apparent unwillingness to put legislation from the other side, or the other house, to a vote.

Republican leaders in Madison have stated their principles with regard to gun rights. Democrats have stated their interest in seeing action on guns as a matter of public safety, to strive to make our communities safer.

Let’s have a debate on those principles.

Let’s have up-or-down votes on gun legislation.

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Kenosha News, Nov. 25

Here in Wisconsin, we’re good with money

Like most Americans, residents of the Badger State like to take out the measuring stick and see how we rank against other states — especially when it puts us in a good light.

Yes, that applies to sports, where we follow the ups and downs of the Packers, Badgers, Brewers and Bucks. We track their rankings (and argue about them) with typical cheesehead sports frenzy.

But it extends to other areas as well, so we took note when we saw a report last week that put Wisconsin right near the tippy top of the country when it comes to money management.

We were ranked tied for third in the U.S. in a study by CreditCards.com that looked at income and average FICO scores in 50 states and the District of Columbia.

FICO scores are important because they are used by lenders to determine credit worthiness and risk — and can affect the interest rate a consumer pays. The name FICO is actually a mash-up of the names Bill Fair and Earl Isaac, the founders of a company in 1956 that was the first to offer a credit risk model with a score. It is used by 90 percent of top lenders.

So, puff up your chest, Wisconsin: We’re Number 3.

We were topped in the money management ranking by South Dakota, which had a modest median income rank of 33, but was tied for second in average credit score rank — giving it the top ranking.

Montana was second with a median income rank of 39 and an average credit rank score tied for 11th.

Then comes the Badger State with a median income rank at 24th and an average credit score rank of 5th. That put us in a trio with Maine and Vermont.

Notably, the top five was dominated by states with large rural populations — and not states with higher personal incomes. And, in fact, the District of Columbia was tops in median income, but had an average credit score risk of 32 and was ranked at the bottom of the money management study.

That was a bit of a surprise to CreditCards.com. The report said: “The hypothesis was that states with higher incomes would have higher credit scores. It didn’t always turn out that way, however.”

“It shows that it’s not just about how much you have, but also how you manage it,” said CreditCards.com industry analyst Ted Rossman, according to news reports on the study. “In some of these high-cost states, even though they make more, it goes right out the window. In D.C., they have the highest income in the country, but they also have more debt than anyone else.”

“Lifestyle creep, and a high cost of living can drag you down. These places with higher credit scores have lower delinquencies. They’re paying their bills on time,” he said.

Ah, yes. Making things stretch; paying your bills on time. We’re no strangers to that.

That’s called being frugal and prudent — and that’s something that has never gone out of style here in the Heartland. It’s about getting, and giving, good value. That’s part of the DNA of the Badger State, it’s right up there with neighborliness.

So, no, we were not surprised by this high ranking for our money management skills — but we do take pride in it. And we’ll keep it in mind as we head out in the snow and cold to get started on our Christmas shopping.

We know those charge cards will have to be paid off in short order by January — and we have our national reputation as solid money managers to protect.