Excerpts from recent Wisconsin editorials
Wisconsin State Journal, July 7
Madison referendum should include neighborhood schools
Madison is talking about a potential school referendum with a price tag as high as $280 million.
That’s a lot of money. Such a plan would cost the owner of a $300,000 home more than $150 a year in property taxes.
Yet the average age of the district’s school buildings is 55 years, according to the district, with the city’s four main high schools built between 1922 and 1966. So some maintenance and modernization is justified. Needed repairs and upgrades at the high schools alone are estimated at $154 million, according to a 2017 study.
If you’ve been inside one of Madison’s high schools recently, you know that, like an old home, they’ve got some character but need a lot of work.
Taxpayers should be willing to entertain a substantial school referendum, which school officials have talked about scheduling for November 2020 to coincide with the next presidential election, when most people vote. Lots of public information and input will be needed. The district should welcome scrutiny and be transparent and flexible with its plans.
And as part of that discussion, building one or more elementary schools in neighborhoods that don’t have one should be seriously considered.
We’ve been calling for a neighborhood school on Allied Drive for years, and the district has expressed interest. Many lower-income families live on and around Allied Drive, just south of Madison’s Beltline and east of Verona Road. Hundreds of children bus out of their neighborhood to several other schools, making it harder for parents — especially those without cars — to attend school activities and teacher conferences.
A walkable and shared school in the Allied Drive area would help improve parent and community involvement in public education, and build more cohesion in the neighborhood. The school could be a rallying point of pride, improving student performance.
Justified Anger, a group of influential black leaders in Madison, has called for less busing of black students to predominantly white schools — even if that runs counter to desegregation efforts. The Rev. Alex Gee of Justified Anger has made a convincing case that busing hasn’t worked. Madison suffers large achievement gaps along racial and economic lines, with just 66 percent of black students graduating in four years.
Besides building on Allied Drive, district officials have talked about putting an elementary school in the Rimrock Road area south of the Beltline. Hundreds of students there now bus to Allis Elementary on the East Side or Nuestro Mundo Community School in leased space in Monona. We like this idea, too, which would allow Nuestro Mundo, a popular dual-language charter school, to move into the Allis building.
Strong schools are key to keeping Madison an attractive and modern city that thrives in the global economy. Yet any request for additional money from taxpayers must be vetted and justified to help limit the rising cost of housing in the city.
So far, the district is approaching a possible referendum with lots of advance notice and plans for public hearings. That’s good. If the price tag is going to be large, the evidence of need and public buy-in must be substantial, too.
The district must show it’s moving our schools into the future while helping more students succeed.
The Journal Times of Racine, July 8
State Legislature should approve bill to help families of fallen officers
If a police officer should lose his or her life in the line of duty, the loss experienced by the officer’s family can go beyond that of the death a loved one. In some cases, the officer’s death means the family loses health insurance.
In the Wisconsin Legislature Senate Bill 266 and Assembly Bill 300, which were introduced on June 7, would provide insurance to the spouses and children of officers who have died in the line of duty.
The bills have bipartisan support; the Senate bill is co-authored by Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, and Janet Bewley, D-Mason.
Wanggaard said the bill would only apply to officers who lose their life responding to an emergency, and the bill could be modified to apply retroactively to the beginning of 2019 so the families of the fallen officers in Milwaukee and Racine Police Officer John Hetland’s family could be compensated.
If passed, the insurance would be paid for by the police and fire fee on phone bills.
In the current system, Wanggaard said that fee is distributed to municipalities through shared revenue and it is up to the municipalities to decide if they want to use that money for their local police and fire departments or for some other use.
Wanggaard, himself a former Racine police officer, said that some larger departments have policies that provide insurance to families if a loved one is killed in the line of duty, but many smaller departments do not have such an arrangement. “If we lose an officer from a smaller department, that’s still a loss to the state,” Wanggaard said.
The bill is still in the committee process, but it’s one that we hope will receive strong bipartisan support.
Sturtevant Police Chief Sean Marschke, who is president of the Wisconsin Chiefs of Police Association, said it’s time for public officials to show their commitment to law enforcement.
“We are asking the Wisconsin Legislature to support those who give the ultimate sacrifice to keep our communities safe and our loved ones secure,” Marschke said in a statement. “This bill will give the families of fallen officers the same protections of those in the military and in firefighting. It is the right thing to do and the right time to do it.”
Agreed, Chief Marschke.
Beloit Daily News, July 8
America’s best; time to say so
Recognition for Vietnam service was long overdue.
There were plenty of reasons the Vietnam War was controversial and highly unpopular in America.
But there were never good reasons for disrespecting the individuals in uniform who answered their nation’s call and served the country during the Vietnam era. Yet disrespected they were, becoming the visible targets for other contemporary Americans who believed this country was in the wrong in Southeast Asia.
Such political differences are what makes America a free nation. In this country citizens are sovereign, and through the Founders’ wisdom have the constitutional right to dissent and press the government to change policies. America has learned the hard way that fighting wars without the consent and approval of the people is a recipe for disaster.
Nevertheless, hundreds of thousands ably and honorably served during the Vietnam era and did not deserve to become political casualties when they returned home.
Some 50 years later, during a moving ceremony July 4 at Beloit’s Riverside Park, around 150 Vietnam veterans and Gold Star families were recognized with a special “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans” event. There were many moist eyes, in the crowd, and among the veterans.
It was long overdue, and Beloiters should be proud that it happened here — a community trying to set things right for the sons and daughters who bore the burden of war.
The political questions and issues were not their questions and issues. They served America, just like their counterparts in the Revolution, or World War II, or Korea, or any other conflict. They are America’s best, and it was high time to say so.