July 24, 2014

UW System president touts UW research

UW System President Raymond Cross

UW System President Raymond Cross

The President of the University of Wisconsin System called on technology business and education leaders to promote UW research.

Speaking at the Science and Technology Symposium held at UW-Eau Claire, UW System President Ray Cross said university-based research affects our daily lives in many ways.

Cross said the research is a major factor in the state’s economy, drawing nearly $790 million in federal and private investment last year. “Using a conservative economic multiplier the economic impact of that investment in university-based research for just one year was more than $1.4 billion.”

Cross called on the business and education leaders to help form a coalition to convince the public and lawmakers that supporting research is one of the most transformative investments they can make.

Dan Lea, WAYY

Evers defends Common Core

State Superintendent Tony Evers (Photo: DPI)

State Superintendent Tony Evers (Photo: DPI)

As Republicans echoed Governor Scott Walker’s call for the Legislature to take action quickly next session to repeal the use of Common Core educations standards in Wisconsin, the state’s chief education official argued for the need to stay the course.

In a statement released Friday morning, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers says that Wisconsin’s Common Core Standard in English language arts and mathematics still have strong support among K-12 education leaders, teachers, and the business community. Evers says “Wisconsin’s teachers, parents, and children have spent the past four years implementing these standards, which our educators indisputably agree are more rigorous than our previous standards and still provide districts with the ability to select a local curriculum that fits their needs.”

Evers chalked up the renewed call to repeal Common Core, which came in a one line statement released by Governor Scott Walker on Thursday, to campaign season. “Not surprisingly,” Evers says, “politics trumps sound policy.”

Walker and opponents of Common Core have argued the state should abandon the national standards and craft a system that is tailored specifically for Wisconsin. However, Evers says “the notion that Wisconsin could simply repeal our standards or take a two year time out on our assessments not only runs counter to both state and federal law, it jeopardizes important reforms like educator effectiveness and school and district accountability. But most importantly, it brings chaos to our children and our classrooms.”

Evers says he will continue to stand with the state’s educators and focus on doing what’s best for Wisconsin students. “It’s time to keep politics out of the classroom and remain focused on what’s most important — delivering a college and career ready education to Wisconsin’s students.”

Walker calls on lawmakers to repeal Common Core

WRN file photo

WRN file photo

Governor Scott Walker says he wants lawmakers to move quickly next year to repeal the use of Common Core education standards in Wisconsin. In a one line statement put out late Thursday afternoon, Walker called on “members of the State Legislature to pass a bill in early January to repeal Common Core and replace it with standards set by people in Wisconsin.”

Wisconsin endorsed Common Core several years ago, but the debate over it didn’t heat up until last year — when tea party conservatives argued it could lead to a national education system. Other critics say Common Core departs from traditional methods of teaching math, it relies too heavily on student test scores, and smaller schools may not have the technology to administer the new online tests that are due to begin next spring in Wisconsin. Supporters say the tougher standards are needed to get students ready for a more complex world.

Majority Republicans in the Legislature proposed multiple bills this spring that would have repealed Common Core, although all of them failed to win the support needed to pass in both chambers.

As expected, Walker’s request was met with a largely partisan response. A spokeswoman for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said “the Speaker supports Governor Walker’s call for strong Wisconsin-based standards. This past session, several reforms were put forward after a special task force met and took public input. The Speaker was disappointed the proposals didn’t pass. He looks forward to working again on replacing Common Core with higher standards that are developed in our state.”

Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) said the request is a sign that Walker is out of touch with Wisconsin educators. The Kenosha Democrat accused the governor of “playing to extreme elements in his party,” and argued that lawmakers “should not politicize our education standards to cater to extreme political viewpoints. Our future depends on our students’ ability to succeed in higher education and their careers in this 21st Century economy. We need to make sure that each and every student has the tools to succeed and compete against our neighboring states and the world.”

Supreme Court says protester can be banned from UW campuses

The Wisconsin Supreme Court (Photo: Andrew Beckett)

The Wisconsin Supreme Court (Photo: Andrew Beckett)

The State Supreme Court has ruled that student-protester Jeffery Decker can be banned from University of Wisconsin campuses. However, the court also agreed, in its unanimous ruling handed down Wednesday morning, that an injunction from a Dane County judge was overly broad and must be re-written.

Decker, the son of former state senate majority leader Russ Decker, has protested the way the UW system uses student fees. He claims the money is inappropriately used for construction projects and other items that should be funded through the regular university budget. UW officials said Decker’s protests included a series of threats and amounted to harassment.

In one instance, UW officials claimed Decker was seen stabbing a stack of papers using a pen as a knife during a signing ceremony, while the UW also claims his emails demanding meetings with university officials were threatening. Decker has also attended some events in a homemade dragon costume to protest.

Decker re-enrolled in 2010 to give him access to the campuses to protest. University officials expelled him. In 2011, the UW went to court and won an order barring him from all school grounds. Decker has been removed from UW property several times since the injunction was issued.

Decker maintains his position and innocence, despite today’s ruling.


Future of broadband, access in rural areas

Computer mouse

Computer mouse

University of Wisconsin System President Ray Cross calls it the “broadband imperative.” He explains at a broadband symposium in Madison, “Big transformation coming. Highly dependent on the ability to move data between different sources … fast.”

Wisconsin’s economic future depends on widely available, high-speed Internet access for everyone, Cross says, citing examples of driverless cars, smart clothes, and the infinite possibilities in the area of health care.

And, he says, it’s important to teach people what they can do and what the possibilities are, even at a basic level. “People don’t know how to use it or how it might be used or can’t conceive its value.” Cross says education is perhaps more important than the technology.

AUDIO: Cross says progress depends on thinking outside the box, experimenting, and “accidental discovery.” :12

Also, public-private partnerships must be formed, he says, “otherwise we’ll fail.”

Rural Wisconsin

High speed Internet access is no longer just a luxury; it’s a necessity, according to panel members , the Madison meeting last week. It is needed for public safety, job creation, and to help students learn.

Senator Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse) says broadband needs to be considered a big part of a city’s infrastructure, just like roads, bridges, water, and sewer. “It’s critical, because many of these small businesses … these entrepreneurs are beginning and they say ‘we want to establish a business here, we want to grow our business here, and one of the hurdles that we have is bandwidth and access to the Internet.”

Shilling says tourism and agriculture thrive when broadband is abundant, and many farmers are dependent on high speed access, saying today’s tractor is an “office on wheels.”

State Representative Rob Swearingen (R-Rhinelander), chair of the the Speaker’s Task Force on Rural Schools, was frustrated that there were no legislative members from urban areas on that taskforce. “Even my own colleagues in the southern part of the state do not realize that we still have dial-up in the farthest areas of the northwoods. I wish we had had some urban legislators to fully understand not only what our rural schools are going through, but what our communities are going through.”

AUDIO: And satellite doesn’t work through dense hills and trees. Kara O’Connor, government relations director with Wisconsin Farmers Union, says residents are relying on the hope of fiber optic cable. :57

Panel members stress the need for private-public partnerships and a “significant infusion of capital from state and federal governments” as “critical parts of the solution.”

Shilling and Swearingen agree that broadband is necessary for the growth of agri-tourism — self-pick strawberry patches and apple orchards, bed and breakfasts, and other tourist destinations that are becoming more popular.


Brett Hulsey, longshot gubernatorial candidate in the Democratic primary, is quick to blame the governor for the lack of high speed Internet, reminding us of what he calls a lost opportunity. “Governor Walker gave away almost $23 million of upgrade grants that would have gone to 385 libraries and more than 80 schools and technical colleges in under-served parts of the state.”

Hulsey says that money also could have been applied toward improving communications in rural police, fire department, hospitals, job creation, and to “help students learn.” He says if he is elected to the governorship, “I’m gonna restore the Internet money.”

Wisconsin had received a $23 million grant in 2010 from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. That money was intended to build broadband connections in hundreds of Wisconsin communities, but the state returned that cash to the feds. State officials had said there were too many strings attached to the federal money.