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May 27, 2015

Evers says teacher licensing change ‘breathtaking in its stupidity’ (AUDIO)

State Superintendent Tony Evers (Photo: DPI)

State Superintendent Tony Evers (Photo: DPI)

Wisconsin’s top education official is offering up harsh criticism for a state budget provision that would relax state standards for obtaining a teaching license.

The measure, added to the budget last week by the legislature’s Joint Finance Committee, would allow anyone with a bachelor’s degree to be licensed to teach math, social studies, science, or English in Wisconsin schools. Anyone with relevant experience, but not necessarily a degree, could teach other subjects. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers says it’s a terrible idea that is just “breathtaking in its stupidity.”

AUDIO: Sup. Tony Evers (:26)

The language was added to the budget as part of a large omnibus motion taken up by the Joint Finance Committee late at night.

The measure did not indicate who requested its inclusion, but the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said it came at the request of Rep. Mary Czaja (R-Irma), who argued it’s intended to make it easier for rural school districts to fill vacant positions. Evers says there are other ways to address that issue though, and the budget proposal would cause far more harm to the quality of education in Wisconsin if it’s allowed to stay.

Czaja’s office did not respond to a message seeking comment.

Evers argues the change would give Wisconsin the most relaxed licensing standards for teachers in the nation and would be a recipe for disaster. “It essentially says whoever you hire will be licensed, and for me that’s a huge step in the wrong direction.”

Hearing scheduled for Wisconsin 20 week abortion ban

Wisconsin state Capitol (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

Wisconsin state Capitol (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

A public hearing has been scheduled for next week at the state Capitol, on a fast-moving bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks into a pregnancy.

The Assembly and Senate health committees will hold a joint hearing on the measure next week. Supporters have said they want to move the bill through the legislature before lawmakers open debate on the proposed state budget next month.

Senate President Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin), a main sponsor of the measure, has argued it’s needed to protect fetuses from being exposed to the pain of abortion. She claims medical research has shown they are capable of being able to feel pain at 20 weeks gestation, although several members of the medical community have disputed that claim.

The proposed abortion ban does not include an exceptions for rape or incest, but does provide one for cases where the life of the mother is at risk. Doctors who perform abortions after 20 weeks could be convicted of felonies.

Walker rallies Wisconsin Republicans at state convention

Gov. Scott Walker addresses convention delegates (Photo: Andrew Beckett)

Gov. Scott Walker addresses convention delegates (Photo: Andrew Beckett)

Governor Scott Walker says Republicans will have to stay mobilized in 2016, if they want to maintain control of the Wisconsin legislature and hang on to one of the state’s U.S. Senate seats.

Speaking to delegates at the Republican Party of Wisconsin’s state convention in La Crosse this weekend, Walker said there are many people who will try to take advantage of 2016 to take aim at those upset with his agenda. “Without a governor on the ballot…a lot of those groups that went after me are going to go after members of the Assembly and the Senate, because they’re fighting mad about some of the reforms we’ve done,” Walker said.

The governor made note in particular of U.S. Senator Ron Johnson’s (R-WI) likely rematch with Democrat Russ Feingold. Walker talked about Johnson as someone who is not a career politician, so he will help defending his seat. He said, “We need to make sure that in 2016 we do everything this required to make sure he comes back to the United States Senate.”

While most convention speakers addressed the crowd from a large stage, Walker favored a closer interaction. He gave his speech from a smaller stage set up in the center of the crowd, with delegates seated around him.

One detail missing from Walker’s convention speech was much of a mention about his potential plans in 2016. The governor, who continues to consider a presidential run, made no mention about that possibility. The closest he came was when mentioning that Wisconsin has not backed a Republican presidential candidate since 1984, something Walker said “we’re going to change” next year.

The governor left the convention in La Crosse to head to Iowa, where he had multiple visits scheduled for Saturday.

Protesters return to the streets following Tony Robinson decision

Demonstrators march for Tony Robinson (Photo: WRN)

Demonstrators march for Tony Robinson (Photo: WRN)

With chants of “no justice, no peace” and “we don’t want no killer cops,” hundreds of demonstrators again took to the streets of Madison Wednesday morning to protest a decision by the Dane County district attorney not to file charges in the shooting death of Tony Robinson, Jr.

District Attorney Ismael Ozanne announced Tuesday that he would not be charging Madison Police Officer Matt Kenny in the fatal shooting of the unarmed black teen on March 6. An investigation found Kenny shot Robinson during a confrontation in the stairway of a Madison apartment building, after Robinson attacked the officer. Ozanne found it was a justified use of lethal force.

A crowd of over 200 gathered outside the building where Robinson was killed to demand justice in the case and changes in the tactics used by Madison Police. Led by the Young Gifted & Black Coalition, they marched to the Dane County courthouse to hold a “people’s court” hearing of the case.

The protest snarled traffic through much of downtown Madison, as the group marched along major roads behind banners of “Black Lives Matter” and “Justice For Tony.”

Brandi Grayson with YGB helped list the group’s demands, which include releasing 350 black inmates from the Dane County Jail, a United Nations investigation of the Robinson shooting, and more community control of the Madison police force. Grayson said “what we need is power, to hire and fire…to set priorities, to set policies, and to say what kind of police model we want in our community.”

Protesters then occupied the street in front of the neighboring Dane County Jail and formed a “human chain” in front of a garage door entry way used to bring inmates in and out of the jail. They stayed in the space for several hours, before police began making arrests late Wednesday afternoon. A Madison Police spokesman says about 25 people were arrested and cited for blocking the intersection.

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin also said Wednesday morning that he recognizes the need for there to be protests by those who wanted to see criminal charges filed against Officer Kenny, and that the city needs to rebuild trust where it’s been lost and to “invest in equity and social justice.”

No charges filed in Madison officer’s shooting of Tony Robinson

Ozanne press conference

Ozanne press conference

A white Madison police officer, Matt Kenny, who shot and killed Tony Robinson, an unarmed black teenager, will not face criminal charges. “I conclude that this tragic and unfortunate death was the result of a lawful use of police force,” said Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne at the conclusion of a Tuesday afternoon press conference.

Ozanne’s decision not charge Kenny followed an investigation into the March 6th shooting, which was conducted by the Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigation.

During his press conference, Ozanne related some of the findings of the investigation. Kenny was responding. The DA said that three 911 calls were made prior to Robinson’s death. The first was from a friend who said that the 19 year-old was “tweaking,” a second from a man who said he was punched by a person who matched Robinson’s description, and a third which said Robinson was yelling and had punched the caller.

Robinson was also reported to be shirtless, and running in traffic on Williamson Street.  Toxicology reports showed that Robinson had taken mushrooms, Xanax and marijuana, according to Ozanne.

Kenny shot Robinson 7 times at close range in a time frame of 3 seconds, and all shots struck Robinson front to back, Ozanne said. The shots were fired in the stairwell of a residence, after Kenny entered with his weapon drawn. Kenny said he feared he would lose consciousness if Kenny struck him a second time.

Ozanne, who is Wisconsin’s first Black District Attorney, made a point of asking for peace on Madison streets in the wake of his decision.

“I am concerned that recent violence around our nation is giving some in our communities a justification for fear, hatred and violence,” Ozanne said. “I am reminded that true and lasting change does not come from violence, but from exercising our voices and our votes.”

Following the press conference, Michael Johnson of the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County led a prayer for peace in a hallway of the Dane County Public Safety Building. Local clergy and faith leaders also gathered outside the Williamson Street apartment where the shooting took place. Robinson’s family was expected to address the DA’s decision later Tuesday afternoon.

Madison’s Young Gifted and Black coalition has announced plans for action on Wednesday, beginning with a rally at the scene of the shooting, and marching to the Dane County Courthouse.