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Excerpts from recent Wisconsin editorials

October 1, 2018

Wisconsin State Journal, Sept. 30

Let police do their jobs in Madison schools

Having frightened parents for more than a year with talk of pulling police officers out of Madison’s high schools, a school district committee last week finally abandoned its bad idea.

Thank goodness.

Three Madison students in two incidents were injured by gunfire in less than a week near La Follette High School on Madison’s East Side this month. Two teenagers were accidentally shot by another on a bus picking up students at the end of the school day. Another shooting occurred last week during a fight near the high school. Neither shooter was a La Follette student, police said.

La Follette is a good school with lots of smart young people with promising futures. But ongoing and scary incidents of violence there and at other city schools should prompt more security, not less.

Thankfully, La Follette administrators got the message last week. They wisely started screening students with metal-detecting wands as students entered the school building to help ensure guns aren’t brought inside.

Yet the ad hoc school district committee that’s been scrutinizing the role of “educational resource officers” in city high schools continues to push for limits and complications to the school police officers’ difficult jobs.

The committee is suggesting that EROs, as they are called, not enforce school policies or rules, which doesn’t make sense. If an officer spots a student skipping class or causing trouble — even if that doesn’t rise to the level of a crime — the officer should still be able to stop and question the student in the same way a teacher or principal would.

The committee also wants to limit ERO investigations of potentially criminal incidents off campus to only those that could “have significant potential to impact student and/or school safety.” That’s vague and limits the effectiveness of officers near a school.

The most ridiculous suggestion, floated by School Board member Dean Loumos, is to forbid school police officers from parking their police vehicles on school property, which happens to be their work site. Most parents driving past a school are comforted by the sight of a police car in front of a school building. It reassures them, in an era of deadly school shootings across the country, that an officer is present in case of an emergency. A police car in front of a school also encourages motorists to slow down in school zones, which protects pedestrians.

Loumos and other school officials should stop trying to micromanage the very small number of police officers who help keep our high schools safe. The district contracts with the city for a single officer at each high school. With each school educating more than 1,500 students, that’s more people per officer than the population of many small towns in Wisconsin.

A handful of parents and students seem to think school police officers are unfair or even racist in targeting minority students. Yet all of the EROs are black or Latino. They are highly trained professionals and impressive role models. We have yet to hear any credible complaints of misconduct.

The full School Board should emphatically reassure the public that police officers in our high schools will be allowed to continue to do their jobs — without complicated, bureaucratic rules that deter talented people from applying for these crucial positions.

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The Capital Times, Sept. 26

‘Scott-Hole’ Walker always takes the low road

Gov. Scott Walker has never taken much of an interest in the state’s roads, neglecting them to such an extent that the term “Scott-Hole” has entered the lexicon of Wisconsin.

But there is one road that Walker loves: the low road on which candidates attack their opponents with wildly irresponsible charges that are designed to destroy their rivals.

Walker is so committed to the low road that he makes up elaborate lies in order to try to convince voters that they should not believe what they are seeing.

The latest television ad from Walker’s multimillion-dollar re-election campaign provides another example of the governor’s scorching hypocrisy.

The governor looks into the camera and declares: “With all of the attack ads these days, it’s easy to forget” the good things that he says are going on in the state. Then Walker attacks his Democratic challenger, ripping into state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers as an existential threat to Wisconsin who “would put our jobs at risk.”

The ad confirms something known by people who have watched the governor across a three-decade-long political career that has seen him run more than two dozen primary and general election campaigns: Scott Walker cannot go for one minute without going negative.

Walker has a long history claiming that Democrats are “filled with hatred and anger” and then attacking Democrats with ads that are filled with hatred and anger. He went negative against Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett in 2010 and 2012. He went negative against philanthropist Mary Burke in 2014. And he is going negative against Tony Evers this year.

After the Aug. 14 primary identified Evers as his Democratic challenger, Walker unleashed with a wild-eyed assault on the veteran educator — using expensive broadcast advertising and Donald Trump-style social media (including tweets from the governor) to portray Evers as soft on pornography and crime, insufficiently patriotic and a spendthrift. The political operation of the billionaire Koch brothers weighed in with a $1.8 million TV, cable and digital ad buy touting Walker and ripping Evers.

But Wisconsin did not follow Walker down the low road.

In August, immediately after the primary, the highly regarded Marquette Law School poll had Walker and Evers tied at 46 percent. Now, a month later, after all of Walker’s attacks, a fresh Marquette survey has Walker down two points at 44 percent, while Evers has risen three points to 49 percent. The new poll reports that the governor’s job-approval rating has fallen to 45 percent — down from 49 percent in August — while his unfavorable numbers spiked five points to 52 percent.

The deterioration of support for the governor has shaken him. He tweets about a looming blue wave and imagines that he can avert it by going even more negative. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported last week that Walker’s campaign was contacting voters with an “11-minute poll for the second-term Republican governor (that) tests eight lines of attack against his Democratic foe, state Superintendent Tony Evers, possibly offering a window into Walker’s future media strategy.”

Walker’s future media strategy is well established. He has always gone negative in the past. He has gone negative in this year’s campaign. He will keep going negative for as long as there is a dollar in his campaign account — and, thanks to his assiduous courting of the billionaire class, there will always be a dollar in his bank account.

What’s different this time is that the attacks don’t seem to be working against Evers. Indeed, the evidence from the first month of Walker’s race with the veteran educator is that Wisconsinites may finally be figuring out that Scott Walker practices low-road politics in order to distract voters from his own failures — including the decayed condition of Wisconsin’s actual roads.

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Leader-Telegram, Sept. 30

Stacked prep teams a troubling trend

It’s a problem that has no easy solution.

Jalen Johnson, a 6-foot-8 basketball player ranked among the top-10 recruits nationally, led Sun Prairie to the school’s first trip to the state tournament last season. This summer, he and his brother, Kobe, announced they were transferring to Nicolet High School in the suburbs of Milwaukee.

Also on the roster at Nicolet is 6-foot-8 senior Jarrett Henderson, a transfer from Sheboygan South. Another standout, Desmond Polk, planned to transfer from New Berlin West before opting to attend La Lumiere School in Indiana.

The three grew familiar while playing summer basketball together in the Amateur Athletic Union.

″(There have been) some transfers by people trying to form ‘super teams’ or trying to get their AAU team together during the high school season,” Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association executive director Dave Anderson told Wisconsin State Journal reporter Art Kabelowsky.

The overriding concern, Kabelowsky wrote, isn’t that Nicolet could steamroll to the Division 2 state title, though that’s a distinct possibility. It’s that the case “could spark a trend of dozens of athletically motivated moves and transfers that would turn the storied institution of WIAA basketball into an offseason workout league for top AAU programs.”

“On the flip side,” Kabelowsky wrote, “if allowed to become a common issue, super teams could prompt players who aren’t as talented — at the same school or competing schools — to decide that the effort it takes to play high school basketball simply isn’t worth it.”

In a story earlier this year for Forbes magazine, Bob Cook wrote that state high school association rules about recruiting players are rarely enforced. And asking the WIAA to become a policing organization like the NCAA won’t help, he wrote.

“The problem, as I’ve noted for years, is this: legislators have encouraged parents-know-best school choice as a matter of policy,” Cook wrote. “If you’re going to encourage school choice for any reason, it then gets difficult to say, well, except for sports.

“As long as it appears the players live in the school district, and the parents offer a legitimate reason for having moved there ... (any) high school association is powerless to stop it.”

The WIAA, however, is at least trying to prove that comment wrong.

A proposed change to the organization’s constitution would make students who transfer and have a “pre-existing athletic relationship” with someone at the new school miss one calendar year of competition. They would, however, still be allowed to practice with the team.

Yet there are challenges. Enforcement will not be easy, and what does one do if a family whose reasons for relocating are legitimate — say, for a new job — and the children just happen to be standout athletes. Do you make those kids sit out a year? Do you have the resources to make decisions on a case-by-case basis?

Inaction, however, is not an option. The playing field is not always equal in high school sports, but “super teams” should clearly be avoided.

As Kabelowsky wrote about the possibility of the trend growing: “If that’s allowed to happen, it could shake the very foundation of the many of the WIAA’s most popular team sports, such as basketball, volleyball and soccer.”

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