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Strong Schools, Strong Communities, Strong Economies—and vice versa.

dv1453015.jpgLast week, I attended another heart wrenching school board meeting (in Amery this time) where, yet again, people mustered their courage and voices to publically support those that nurture, teach, feed and care for our kids during the day.  I don’t teach in Amery, but I felt compelled to support those who do.

Held in an auditorium for the hundreds of people attending, the speeches to the Amery school board were honest impassioned and . . . becoming way too common.  Three years later, more fallout from Walker’s failed Act 10, another painful meeting, and another community torn apart.

The messages to the board that night all had a common theme: If there is indeed no money and you must continue to cut educator’s wages and benefits, please at least do so in a way that is respectful and empathic.  Please at least protect for these people their dignity.  Please talk with them.  Listen to them.

We know.  New laws no longer require our public education officials to do this–to talk to their employees.  But these are real people, living real lives, with real families to support and plan for.  Many are actually quite brilliant, creative and flexible—but the deep cuts combined with the punishing way they are being delivered are really hurtful and unnecessary—both financially and emotionally.  Public teachers and support staff are not monsters.  Really they are not.

As educators on the front lines, we know, as does everyone, that Wisconsin no longer values its schools.  We see it every day in the increased class sizes and workload carried by an ever-shrinking number of staff.  We know that billions have been cut from the education budget.  We know, even with a state surplus, that those dollars will never be restored.  We know school boards must continue to cut wages and benefits.   We know teaching and learning is only going to get harder in Wisconsin.  We know these things.

And we know also that it isn’t only our educators that are hurting in Wisconsin either.  As the most recent federal jobs report illustrates again, WI leads the nation in new jobless claims.

Our governor and local representatives are great at breaking unions and tearing communities apart. Terrible at creating jobs though.   This from the most recently released federal jobs report:

“The largest increases in initial claims for the week ending February 1 were in Wisconsin (+5,041), New York (+4,830), Pennsylvania (+2,448), New Jersey (+1,853), and Ohio (+1,780), while the largest decreases were in California (-9,631), Georgia (-2,558), Indiana (-2,444), Michigan (-2,411), and Florida (-1,387).”

I know . . .it was the weather.   It’s always the weather.  Or something.  It’s always something.

If we had destroyed our schools in order to create jobs, maybe that would be one thing.  I know that was the argument at the time: “Teachers and other public employees, and their unions, are the enemy–the greedy few.  Punish them.”  But it didn’t work.

All that said, I also know none of it matters.  I realize finally, especially at the local level, that we will continue to support our current representatives and their apathetic destruction of our schools and rural communities.  I know that nobody around here understands the link between strong schools and strong economies.  Strong words, maybe.  Still, I had to get them off my chest.  Because all I see in Wisconsin these days is weakness.

Other Shit Teachers Do

Hello B-Wing teachers,

I hate being the guy to go around and ask for money (really hate it), so I’m going to do it this way–via email.  Please find the white envelope labeled, “SCF Teacher Scholarship” in my box.  When you can, drop $20 in it and sign your name.

I know . . .what the hell!?  Right?  Here’s the deal:

For years, we (SCF Teachers–all of us) have provided two $500 dollar scholarships.  This is NOT a union thing.  This is a teacher thing.  In the past we have raised money for this by having chili feeds and working other such pain-in-the-butt-fundraisers.  Eventually (collectively) we decided it was just easier to each donate $20 instead of going through all the hassle.  The nice thing was that we could have this money taken right out of our checks using our union as a vehicle.

Obviously we can’t do that anymore.  We have to collect it the old fashion way.  Grovel for it.  I’ve been assigned to harass the B-Wing teachers.  So that’s the story.

I’m not going to do the face to face thing with my hand out (as I said, I hate that).  Plus I’m sore about all the $$ we are already giving for all sorts of other things yadda yadda yadda–yes, I’m a greedy bastard.   Also, I’m a coward.  So instead, I’m just going to send you regular email reminders.  This is the first one.

So, (ahem) if you please–you will find a white envelope labeled, “SCF Teacher Scholarship” in my box.  When you can, please drop $20 in it and sign your name.


Chris (Chief money groveler for B-Wing)

P.S. Jen, if you’ve already been hit up at the elementary school, you’re free to just tell me to piss off.

The Tao opportunity in Wisconsin

Once, there was a farmer. He might have lived in Wisconsin, or he might have lived in China. I don’t think it matters much. The important thing is, the dude didn’t have much money. I mean he had to plow his fields with an old horse.

One afternoon, while working in the field, the horse dropped dead. Everyone in the village said, “Total Bummer! What are you going to do?.”

The farmer said simply, “We’ll see.” He was so cool about it, that everyone in the village got together and, admiring his attitude, gave him a new horse.

Everyone’s reaction now was, “What a lucky man.”

The farmer said, “We’ll see.”

A couple days later, the new horse jumped a fence and ran off. The villagers shook their heads and said, “Dude! That’s bad luck! You must be pissed.”

The farmer smiled, saying only, “We’ll see.”

Eventually, the horse found his way home. This time everyone was like, “Whew! You must be relieved, huh?”

The farmer said, “We’ll see.”

Later in the year, the farmer’s son went out riding on the horse, fell off, and broke his leg. Everyone in the village said, “Poor fella. He’s such a good ball player. And the season just starting too!”

The farmer said, “We’ll see.”

Two days later, the army came into the village to draft new recruits. When they saw that the farmer’s son had a broken leg, they decided not to recruit him.

Everyone said, “Man, that kid really lucked out! We totally did NOT see that coming!”

The farmer smiled again – and said “We’ll see.”

– Chinese Parable, as told by Eckhart Tolle (and then tweaked a bit by Chris Wondra)

Hang in there everyone! Try to remember, it’s not the losses or wins that you experience (or perceive that you experience) that matter–it’s how you respond to them.

Be patient. Have faith. Love each other.


–Lewis Carroll

“There is no use trying,” said Alice; “one can’t believe impossible things.”

“I dare say you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen.  “When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day.   Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

Best Videos of Democracy in Action

Best Videos of Democracy in Action

“These past years I have found it so easy to be cynical about politics in this country. What the protestors are doing in Madison has given me hope for the first time in a couple of years. Their actions are simply heroic and are truly inspiring. I’ll be turning out this week to stand in solidarity with WI workers and I urge you all to do the same. While it has seemed like this country has been slowly crumbling for a decade or more, the 70k in Madison give me hope for the future.” –comment on second video below.

During this portion of the Assembly Special Floor Session, a quorum call was ordered at 5:00. Roll call was taken. And Voting began BEFORE 5:00 WHEN DEMOCRATS WERE TOLD TO BE THERE.

At 4:57 Assembly Democrats (in orange) begin to show up.

This is the most dramatic footage you will ever see.

Eventually, they are able to stop the voting on Special Session Assembly Bill 11 arguing that they had amendments that needed to be taken up. The Assembly speaker agreed and the floor session adjourned until Tuesday, February 22nd.

We Are Wisconsin from Finn Ryan on Vimeo.

SPOKEN BY THE PEOPLE from Tilt Media on Vimeo.

Wisconsin Congressman Dave Obey could not enter the Wisconsin Capitol despite the claim by the Department of Administration that the building is open.

The Capitol has been a scene of on-going protests in response to legislation proposed by Governor Walker.

Following the lockdown of the building, the Circuit Court issued an injunction to reopen the building to the public.

Rep. Obey served Wisconsin in Congress from 1969 – 2011 and in the State Assembly from 1963 – 1969.

He was met at the doors by Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) and Assistant Minorirty Leader Donna Seidel (D-Wausau).

WISCONSIN from @pawlmadethis on Vimeo.

Thank you! We are so proud of the Fab 14 and their efforts on behalf of the people of Wisconsin. Whatever you feel you need to do going forward, we will stand beside you!

At timeline:

Democratic Assemblyman tackled by police as a result of Walker’s restricting access to the capitol:

WI Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) stands up to Republicans as they try to ram through their budget bill at a meeting called in violation of the state’s open meetings law.

Portrait Of A Protest: Madison, Wisconsin from Kevin J. Miyazaki on Vimeo.

More to come . . . because, surely, there will be more to come.