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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Issue of the Week: Saving the Schools

Plus Hero and Jerk of the Week

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Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) Superintendent William Andrekopoulos unveiled his final budget last week, a grim document that notes MPS is “in financial crisis.” The budget was barely introduced before the district sent out postcards asking for voluntary retirements and layoffs. They’ll need a lot. Almost 700 full-time equivalent jobs may be eliminated, affecting more than 6% of MPS workers. And Andrekopoulos’ budget message predicts that funding for the next school year, when incoming superintendent Gregory Thornton takes over, will be even tighter.

That’s why Congress and the Obama administration should support a proposed $23 billion federal education jobs fund, $415 million of which would come to Wisconsin for immediate fiscal relief for school districts. This is an investment in Wisconsin’s future that will result in better jobs and more tax revenues in the years to come. As State Superintendent Tony Evers noted in letters to Sens. Feingold and Kohl, the deep cuts in schools around the country come at the same time the federal government is asking our schools to get better results. Keeping teachers and staff in the classrooms is absolutely necessary in order to support a well-educated, 21st-century workforce.

Hero of the Week

Loyal Mehnert

“Travelanthropy,” which combines travel and philanthropy, may not yet appear in Scrabble’s official dictionary, but for those who practice it, like Milwaukee’s Loyal Mehnert, this service to others can quickly become a way of life.

Mehnert’s passion for helping the less fortunate was sparked while working as a field media spokesperson for Habitat for Humanity. After witnessing the effects of Hurricane Katrina, Mehnert dedicated his life to raising money for Habitat for Humanity and other charities by participating in fund-raising adventure travel, both domestically and abroad. Although his efforts have taken him to more than 20 countries and five continents, Mehnert describes himself as “an ordinary guy who wanted to make a change.”

This July, Mehnert will be participating in the Habitat 500, a seven-day bike ride to benefit the ongoing work of rebuilding homes along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. A launch party and fund-raising event will be held 9:30 p.m. May 22 at Comet Café.

Jerk of the Week

John Chianelli, Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division Chief

John Chianelli should not be in charge of the safety and well-being of the county’s most vulnerable population. In defense of mixed-gender wards at the county’s mental health complex—where sexual assaults have come under scrutiny by everyone except Chianelli and his boss Scott Walker, it seems—Chianelli argues that the possibility of sexual assaults of female patients is a “trade-off” for fights among male patients in gender-segregated wards. In a sense, these women are prey for aggressive men in locked wards. Even worse is Walker’s support for the policy, claiming “many experts believe this policy is good for treatment as clients prepare to return to the community.” Have they no shame?

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