KATHLEEN VINEHOUT
PEOPLE FIRST

School Funding: It’s about More than Money

“Public education in Wisconsin should provide high quality learning for ALL children no matter who they are or where they live,” Eau Claire School Board President Chris Hambuch-Boyle recently told me.

Chris and education leaders across the state read with interest details of the Governor’s plan for our next state budget. Governor Walker gave money to a number of new initiatives and reaped the praise of some education leaders.

The plan picks and chooses among various proposals advanced over the last few years. Some new programs are funded and some existing programs get more money. The plan is a compromise.

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Who Has Been Watching Spending at DOT?

“Let me see how much you spent,” my mother said when I returned from the store. As the oldest of five children, I was often sent to the store to buy groceries. When I returned home, my mother checked the grocery bag, the receipt and counted the change.

I knew I could buy no more than exactly what was on her list. She knew how much everything should cost. I needed to answer for every penny I spent. Everything needed to add up.

This simple accountability seems to be completely missing at our Department of transportation (DOT).

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Audits Raise Cautions about Pension Fund Management

“GOOD NEWS” read the text with a short article about how our pension funds grew 8.5%. My friend forwarded the article with a cryptic note, “apparently the lies keep working.”

In what seems to me to be an effort to get ahead of a bad story, the agency responsible for investing almost $100 billion in pension funds – the largest single pot of money anywhere in state government - issued a press release touting an 8.5% increase in its core fund.

As radio commentator Paul Harvey used to say, here’s the rest of the story.

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School Visit to the “ARCTIC Zone” Prompts Thinking Anew about Education

Two six-graders recently showed me around their classrooms. Desks were not in straight rows. Students were not waiting their turn with raised hands. I looked around the room. There actually were no desks at all, but tables and different types of chairs.

One student was actually writing on a table with a red marker. I must have looked aghast. The table was designed to be written on, teacher Ali McMahon told me. “We use the table as a way to think out complex ideas,” she said. With a white boardtabletop everyone sees the ideas and adds to them.

I recently visited Northstar Middle School in Eau Claire.

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