Friday, June 01, 2007

Sweatin' through another forum

The high school kids in "Student Advocates for Waukesha Schools" hosted a "forum" tonight where some in the audience wished they could feed State Representative Bill Kramer (R-Waukesha) to the lions. More than a few questions were shouted with the intent to heckle the state representative. Much to their disappointment Kramer didn't back down, concluding the evening with a long soliloquy on how he wasn't going to be a typical politician and tell the audience just what they want to hear: a bunch of empty promises.

This was in stark contrast to the other state representative in attendance, Sondy Pope-Roberts (D-Middleton). Because Kramer could not arrive until after the first hour, Pope-Roberts took the time to use to partisan advantage, attacking local state legislators for not being in attendance. Never mind that they already sat through one of these things before, never mind the crowd was uglier than the Detroit Airport, never mind that Kramer had committed to attend and was en route, Pope-Roberts blamed politics for the local state legislators not attending the event.

I kept waiting for the moderator South High School senior Josh Carter to call her on it, but then that was probably too much to expect out of a kid and it's a reminder why children should be seen and not heard.

Pope-Roberts kept touting her empty resolution that promises (threatens) that sometime before July 2009 the state legislature will change the state school funding formula. As for her own plan, she has a secret plan locked in her desk in her office that she won't reveal because "it will get torn apart." That's a profile in courage and leadership.

She repeated her line about her super-secret funding plan so many times I thought I was listening to Richard Nixon in 1968 with his plan to end the Vietnam War.

Later when Kramer was asked about her resolution, he pointed out correctly that it doesn't do anything. He also pointed out that while its possible a new funding formula might help the Waukesha schools, it's more likely they would get shorted because everytime Waukesha County goes to the state for funding relief it actually costs us more.

Pope-Roberts was forced to agree and admitted that under her super-duper, top-secret, written-in-invisible-ink funding plan would cause Waukesha residents to pay more to fund other school districts. Referring to Waukesha, she said, "Some school districts might not get the same money they're getting now under a new funding plan."

That's right. More redistribution of school property tax money, less money for Waukesha.

Pope-Roberts also defended teacher pay and benefits by repeatedly saying, "I couldn't do the job they do." Pope-Roberts did not address if that meant she was in favor of bringing illegal aliens in to do the job she couldn't do. Pope-Roberts complained later to Kramer she has not had a single bill pass in the legislature. Since she can't do that job either, should Kramer be paid more and get better benefits?

The mostly partisan Democrat crowd didn't want to hear it, but the state legislator in the room that has actually done something to help the public school system in Waukesha is State Representative Bill Kramer, who again pushed for a bill that would separate the choice of insurance carriers from the collective bargaining agreement and allow the savings to be passed on to the school system.

(We should note there was a public hearing on Wednesday and nobody from the Waukesha school system showed up. Even the Racine Unified School District sent a representative.)

At the beginning of the program, Waukesha Mayor Larry Nelson again repeated his offer to not only raise taxes in the city but also to lead the charge for a referendum to raise the school property tax in the district. Even most of the members of the audience were realistic enough not to expect a referendum to pass.

At least the crowd can't claim they couldn't speak to the legislators. More than a few of them shouted questions just to be abusive. Finally Mr. Carter intervened and asked the crowd to be nice, prompting a few of them to decide to walk out.

What were they hoping for, a dunk tank?

Update! The Waukesha Freeman was there with some more details and pictures (ht: Spring City Chronicle).

The Waukesha School District is most likely not going to benefit from any potential changes to the state’s school funding formula because the district is propertyrich and therefore is pegged as a cash donor for other districts, a local state representative said Thursday. State Rep. Bill Kramer, R-Waukesha, said if the district chose not to remain under the two-thirds funding formula, local tax dollars would go into the district as opposed to funding other districts across the state, especially Milwaukee.

“There are quite a few districts out there that do not do the two-thirds funding and they are glad not to,” Kramer said. “When we get $1 from the state, we pay out $1.31, so we are losing money when we go to the state.”

Kramer said the comments as part of a forum with State Rep. Sondy Pope-Roberts, D-Middleton, at Waukesha South High School on Thursday night in an effort by the group Student Advocates for Waukesha Schools to give community members a chance to voice their concerns about the school funding problem Waukesha is facing.
The Freeman also caught the references to Pope-Roberts' super-terrific secret school funding plan. Shhh, it's a secret.
Pope-Roberts said she has put together a funding solution for the state, but partisan politics prevents her from unveiling it because the bill would be ripped apart by other legislators for political gains.
Heck, I bet we could rip it apart for blog traffic gains, but to pretend you have a plan that you can't show anyone for fear the sunlight would make it disappear like Nosferatu is not only silly but blatant demogoguery. As John Lennon sang so long ago, "You say you want a revolution / we'd all love to see the plan."

Let me apologize to County Supervisor/Alderman Kathleen Cummings for walking out when she began to speak. It had to be 90 degrees in the Waukesha South High School auditorium and I needed some air. Don't blame school funding issues for the lack of air conditioning. The air conditioning was installed as part of the last referendum that passed in Waukesha. So unless the money was stolen to pay for the pool, I don't want to hear any excuses.

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