The Hispanic Conservative The Hispanic Conservative on Wisconsin Politics and More! Wed, 24 May 2017 09:43:56 +0000 Joomla! 1.5 - Open Source Content Management en-gb Tony Evers Becomes a Moral Philosopher Department of Public Instruction Superintendent Tony Evers made some headlines the other day grousing about the expansion of school choice.  His critique was admittedly more "run-of-the-mill," but his conclusion was both specious and brash.  In Evers' memo he said, "To spend hundreds of millions to expand a 20 year old program that has not improved overall student achievement, while defunding public education, is morally wrong."

Certainly, we've heard arguments about how voucher schools have problems with accountability, they score flat on standardized tests, or that expanding the program would have an attenuating effect on the funding of public schools.  But nobody of real public standing has actually suggested that the program itself was immoral, a suggestion that would inculpate parents, teachers, legislators, and whole organizations.

From Evers' perspective, spending money on a defunct program that could have been spent to fund public education is immoral because it harms the children left in public schools.  The argument is simple in an Occam's Razor sort of way, but it's also very fallacious.

The first premise of Evers' argument is that the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP) has shown no student achievement in 20 years.  This credibility of this premise is vitally important to finish the rest of Evers' argument.

What Evers doesn't tell us is that students in MPCP, according to the University of Minnesota, graduate at rates 19.5% higher than students at MPS.  This is huge problem for Evers, something he has to explain.  Sure, standardized testing shows that students at MPCP and MPS score more equivalently in subjects like math and reading, but the single most important indicator of student achievement is not WKCE scores; it's graduation rates.

When applying for a job, an employer doesn't ask if you took the WKCE, but whether you graduated from high school.  Evers purposely swept MPCP's graduation rates under the rug in order to show that the 20 year program didn't justify its own existence.  What Tony Evers did was not only deliberate, but it was fraudulent.

Evers' second premise, although not explicit, is that funding choice schools comes at the expense of funding public schools.  Imagine a teeter-totter where one seat goes up only when the other end goes down.  This is how Evers sees funding distribution for choice and public schools, which is erroneous.  As McIlheran points out, funding for choice schools doesn't "come out of a public schools' pile."  They are funded entirely apart much like the funding for state patrol and tech colleges.  The problem isn't so much that public schools are seeing a cut, but that choice schools are seeing an expansion.

In his memo, Evers complained that the legislature was considering bills that exempted voucher schools from taking the WKCE; he complained they were removing income eligibility requirements; he complained they were expanding school choice into other cities; and he complained that they considered giving vouchers to disabled children.  With the exception of taking the WKCE, each of Evers' objections were really grumblings about expanding school choice period.  At the end of the memo, Evers says, "I urge you to restore funding for public schools and work collaboratively to improve the quality of all Milwaukee schools before considering any voucher expansion."

I underlined the last part for emphasis.  Evers thinks we should continue waiting for public schools to get their act together before we consider expanding the school choice program.  Someone should ask him how long we're supposed to wait until real reform occurs.  About a dozen or so studies from different universities have shown that the closer voucher schools are to public schools, the better those public schools tend to perform.  That alone shows that school choice is not harmful to children in public schools.  Then we factor in that students in MPCP are graduating at rates 19.5% higher than their public school counterparts.  Together, we have a solid reason to expand the program beyond the confines of Milwaukee.

Evers should stop pretending that his opposition to school choice is about the children in Milwaukee.  If it were, then expanding school choice to all children should be the goal.  What it comes down to is that bureaucrats like Evers think parents aren't perceptive enough to figure out what school is best for their children.  As a community, we need to send a message to bureaucrats like Evers that we're tired of them obstructing education reform simply because it didn't originate in public schools.


]]> (Aaron M. Rodriguez) MPS Mon, 23 May 2011 21:37:42 +0000
Tony Evers Needs a Reality Check on School Choice At a press conference in Racine, DPI Superintendent Tony Evers gave his harshest criticism of school vouchers yet.  Well beyond the typical quibbles over test scores and graduation rates, Evers claimed that school vouchers were de facto "morally wrong."  It's not every day that a State Superintendent of education accuses an education-reform program of being immoral.  In doing so, Tony Evers may have bitten off more than he could chew.

Calling a school voucher program morally wrong inculpates more than just the program, it inculpates parents, teachers, organizations, lawmakers, and a majority of Americans that endorse it.  In fact, one could reasonably argue that Evers' statement makes himself morally culpable since Milwaukee's voucher program operates out of the Department of Public Instruction of which he is the head.  What does it say about the character of a man that knowingly administers an immoral program out of his own department?

In short, Evers' argument goes something like this: voucher programs drain public schools of their financial resources; drained resources hurt children academically; hurting children academically is morally wrong; ergo, voucher programs are morally wrong.

One of the biggest obstacles to Evers' argument are about a dozen academic studies showing that the closer voucher programs are geographically to public schools, the better those public schools tend to perform.  It really isn't much different than moving a Wal-Mart near a Best Buy.  By virtue proximity, free market forces will typically enhance the performance of both competitors and lower product prices as each try to acquire each others' customers.

Part of the problem with public education is the lack of competition.  There are no free market forces that keep them in check; they set their own agenda and their own prices.  For this reason, enrollment in public schools nearly double the cost of enrollment at choice schools.

Evers also mentioned that district resources in Milwaukee were being tapped because students from non-choice private schools were moving to choice private schools.  Forgetting the fact that he's just plain wrong, he's trying to stoke a bitterness between those who have the means to pay for private schools and those who don't.

Even if Evers were right, why hasn't he complained about students with the financial means of enrolling into public schools at the taxpayer expense?  Shouldn't it be just as egregious for millionaires to use taxpayer resources to send their kids to public schools as it is to use the same resources to send their kids to private schools?

Recently, Democrats have argued that removing income limits from Milwaukee's voucher program would allow the children of millionaires to enter the program on taxpayer money.  Of course, this all misses the point that millionaires will choose swanky private schools to under-performing public schools.

At the Walden School in Racine, Tony Evers made an argument he couldn't win.  To date, there is not a single study showing that voucher schools have harmed the quality of public education.  Superintendent Evers, on the basis of no academic research or verifiable data, attempted to diminish an education reform program that produces better graduation rates than public schools.  Evers' remarks are unfortunate, and his view on vouchers undermines his ability to keep education reform a top priority.


]]> (Aaron M. Rodriguez) MPS Sat, 21 May 2011 15:29:46 +0000
MPS Boycott of Arizona is Hypocritical Problems in Our Own Backyard

MPS school boardOn June 17th, the Milwaukee County Board Committee and the Milwaukee School Board endorsed resolutions calling for a boycott of Arizona.  Larry Miller, author of the resolution, called Arizona's immigration law racist and compared it to the apartheid in Africa.  In a statement on his blog, Miller said that as an institution, MPS is obligated to stop the expansion of Arizona's immigration policy.   

As a practical concern, some parents at home wonder why the school board is obligated to address illegal immigration when there are obvious systemic problems at MPS.  For instance, MPS Student attendance is substantially lower than any other school district in Milwaukee County.  Reading scores at MPS are among the lowest in the nation.  Graduation rates at MPS below 50%.  And just recently, 482 teachers were laid off because the teacher's union wouldn't make concessions on their health care insurance.  At what point will the school board take corrective action on any of these important issues?

The Troubles of MPS

In a recent study, MPS was deemed the second worst school district in the nation for reading scores in two different grade levels.   In 2003 and 2004, the graduation rate at MPS was 46% placing MPS 38th of 50 school districts. 

Educational mediocrity isn't MPS' only problem.  The violence at MPS is on an upward trend with 127 MPS employees reported being assaulted by students in a single semester. The number of students expelled for bringing drugs to school has doubled in the past 5 years, and the total MPS expulsions have tripled in the past 15 years.  To put this into proper perspective, more students from MPS are getting expelled for bringing firearms to school than all of Chicago's Public Schools, and Chicago has 4.5 times the population of Milwaukee.  

The recent school board resolution did not address our low reading scores, our paltry graduation rates, the alarming upsurge in school violence, or a school system that now has 482 fewer teachers.  Instead, they spent taxpayer resources to weigh in on state statutes that do not affect Milwaukee and ultimately distracts school board members from dealing with pandemic failure.  

Education in the Hispanic Community

Arguably, there is no greater benefit to the Hispanic community than a good education.  According to the Pew Hispanic Research Center, Hispanics viewed education as the top issue of the day.  It was considered more important than health care, jobs, the economy, and even immigration reform.  Surprisingly, immigration reform ranked 4th on the list of important concerns for the Hispanic community.

Currently, the only educational refuge for the Hispanic community is the school choice program.  Schools like St. Anthony's in Milwaukee for example, provide quality education to low income communities through an innovative voucher program.   The voucher program allows low income parents to send their kids to private schools like St. Anthony's for a better suburban-styled education, a more disciplined environment, and at a more fiscally responsible cost to taxpayers.    


At a time when the threat of mayoral control looms over MPS' school board, it was unwise for them to weigh in on affairs that don't concern or affect them.   The issue of Arizonan immigration, although an important issue for the Hispanic community, has no bearing on the quality of education students receive in here in Milwaukee.  There are better ways to address Arizona's  questionable decisions than to boycott the state.

Economic boycotts financially harm the very people that MPS has proposed to help.  Remember, 30% of Arizona's population is Hispanic, and 10% of Arizona businesses are also Hispanic.  The effect of boycotting Arizona will cause more harm to the Hispanic community and will unlikely push the Arizonan government into repealing their law.

The resolution of the school board should serve as a reminder that they, while failure abounds, cannot bring themselves to let educational priorities supersede personal politics.  School Choice, however, provides Hispanic families an escape from politics and educational mediocrity.  Choice schools are not bound by the same bureaucratic nonsense we see in public schools, and it provides parents an option that puts their children's needs above ideological obstacles.

Wisconsin has a mandated cap or restriction on how many children are eligible to receive school vouchers.  It is important, therefore, that we elect state representatives that understand the importance of promoting a policy that expands school choice.  As a Hispanic community, we cannot afford to elect candidates that will not fight for us and our children.  Hold candidates accountable and ask them if they will fight for the school choice program.  If not, they have no businesses running for office. 


]]> (Aaron M. Rodriguez) MPS Fri, 18 Jun 2010 15:59:56 +0000
Tony Evers the Reformer? My dear friend, George Lightbourn, from WPRI has written a satirical letter to DPI Superintendent Tony Evers which I thought was worthy of a mention.  When I initially saw the title, I thought I fell into a worm hole traveling back in time to earlier this year.  I wrote a lot about Tony Evers in February and March, so I’m familiar with Lightbourn’s topic. 

In Lightbourn’s letter, he questions Tony Evers’ reformist credentials.  After all, he was endorsed by the teachers’ union, so it’s doubtful Evers would ever support tightening the belt strap on teachers’ pay or benefits.  If we're not going to reform MPS' massive costs, then we should focus on education reform.  However, WEAC has traditionally resisted any sort of testing criteria in order to evaluate teacher performance.  Without a standard, how can true reform take place? 

The real reformer wasn’t elected, so Milwaukee is unfortunately stuck with is the status quo.  I could be wrong, but Tony Evers has his work cut out for him.  Like Lightbourn intimated, how is MPS going to qualify for federal funds without real reformation?  Perhaps Evers should adopt Fernandez’ idea of turnaround teams?  In fact, if he gives her a call, I'm sure she would lend him a hand.  Good luck Mr. Evers, you’re going to need it.   


]]> (Aaron M. Rodriguez) MPS Tue, 28 Jul 2009 21:27:57 +0000
The Better DPI Candidate By Aaron M. Rodriguez

Introduction of the Candidates

Rose Fernandez and Tony Evers In the DPI race, we have two candidates that share the same goal of fixing the problems in our school districts, but they differ sharply in their methods. Come April 7th, voters will be asked which candidate is more likely to reform Wisconsin’s schools in a manner that is both timely and cost effective. So, let’s introduce our candidates. Our first candidate has many years of experience in the education establishment. He is pro-spending and innovation, wants to recruit and retain more quality teachers, and aims to increase overall accountability. Our second candidate is an outsider to the education establishment. She expects a good return on investments, prefers funding with fiscal restraint, wants taxpayer protection, thinks teachers should be rewarded for good performance, and wants to provide parents with a variety of school choice options that lie outside of traditional schools. Given the problems we currently face with MPS and school districts like it, who is the better candidate for reform?

The Pluses and Minuses of the Candidates

Evers’ biggest selling point is his “know how,” he doesn’t need a learning curve, and he calls for more rigorous testing standards for school children. By electing him, we will truly have an experienced Superintendent at the helm that will hopefully hold MPS accountable to our parents and the taxpayers. Fernandez’ biggest selling point is her platform of providing more school choices to parents while saving taxpayers a substantial sum of money in the process. If most taxpayers really knew that vouchers would reduce state spending while providing the disenfranchised with equal opportunities for quality education, it’s my belief we wouldn’t have much of a race on our hands.

The biggest problem with Rose Fernandez is her lack of experience. In a time of recession and poor school performance, her detractors will argue that the safest choice is her opponent. The biggest problem with Tony Evers is his lack of a reformist record and his relationship with the teacher’s union. In a time of recession and poor school performance, his detractors will argue that our community cannot withstand higher taxation and receive the same destitution in educational achievement.

The True Reformer

Tony Evers will not consider breaking up MPS into smaller districts for the purposes of efficient manageability. He will not lift enrollment caps on virtual schools, which means that the state will continue to limit the amount of students allowed to enroll in the 18 virtual schools available in Wisconsin. And he will not lift the enrollment caps for the voucher program in Milwaukee. The voucher program provides kids, from low-income families in poverty-ridden areas, an opportunity to receive the same level of education that kids from the suburbs receive. This program not only provides a better education, but it does so at nearly half the cost to the Wisconsin taxpayer.

Rose Fernandez wants to implement a three year turnaround team – an independent group of seven empowered to reform curriculum, reduce overhead, negotiate teachers' pay and benefits, and determine whether MPS should be partitioned into sectors. (Such a concept is valued by business corporations particularly during times of duress in order to stop the bleeding and maximize the return of their investments.) Fernandez is for breaking up MPS into smaller more manageable entities for the purposes of measured control and secured results. She supports merit pay for teachers so that they are rewarded for good performance. She believes that our children deserve the best that the school system has to offer. She is for lifting the caps on virtual schools and the voucher program so parents are ultimately the ones responsible for where their kids go to school, not the government.

It’s clear who the reformist candidate is. Rose Fernandez has the right ideas for DPI, and no amount of “guilt by association” ploys can tarnish the fact that she’s the right candidate for the job. I get a kick watching liberal bloggers make a big deal about Fernandez receiving $1,300 in campaign donations from Virginia based K-12 Inc, when WEAC (Wisconsin’s largest teachers’ union) spent more than $570,000 on Tony Evers in the past couple of months. If I'm not mistaken, that's more than 430 times the amount in campaign donations. And folks, K12 Inc is nothing comparable to the teachers’ union. The teachers’ union will not promote more options for parents or greater school choice opportunities for students, but rather tie the hands of the state superintendent so reform cannot be implemented.

Opponents of Fernandez will be quick to point out her inexperience in the education establishment. They will say it's unwise for unhealthy patients to choose inexperienced doctors for their care, so why would be choose an inexperienced politician? But politics is not medicine. Doctors don't run campaigns, nor are they elected by a public vote. They aren't backed by lobbyists, and they aren't hired based upon their ideology. They are hired because of their license and skill. Only in politics do people have the chance to go from an ordinary plumber to an important public figure. People choose politicians based upon their values and ideas, not based upon expert knowledge of a particular trade or craft. President Obama was a junior senator from the state of Illinois who had no executive experience. Those liberal bloggers jumping on Fernandez' inexperience are the same folks who hypocritically pulled the lever for Obama.

Final Thoughts on the Best Candidate

When it comes to politics, the citizenry are more concerned about ideas and policies, not about how many years a person spent entrenched in a bureaucracy that has done nothing to improve education, but everything to waste taxpayer money. Our education system doesn't need more status quo; it seriously needs change.


]]> (Aaron M. Rodriguez) MPS Mon, 06 Apr 2009 02:28:11 +0000
The Milquetoast Candidate By Aaron M. Rodriguez

An Introduction of Tony Evers

Milquetoast In a few days, voters will have an important decision to make that will ultimately affect children, parents, and taxpayers. In simple terms, a choice will be made between two candidates. One is an underdog reformer running on a platform of increased parental choice, and the other is an experienced insider with an entrenched history in the education bureaucracy. One is relying primarily on a grassroots effort to promote the message of change while the other is relying on the deep pockets of WEAC and other local unions.

One of the biggest red flags concerning Tony Evers is his marital relationship with the local unions. Don’t misunderstand me, unions are an indispensable and vital part of our capitalistic framework; they are a system of checks and balances representing the modern day employee. However, when candidates profess their commitment to the teachers’ union, they are pledging allegiance to an entity whose sole purpose is to fight for the teachers, not for the children, not for their parents, and certainly not for taxpayers. In the arena of public education, teachers are not the only important players in the process.

The Problems of MPS

As noted in my article The Allurement of Tony Evers, 30 years of experience will afford any candidate with an obvious edge. However, the “experience argument” has a downside as well. With a lot of experience comes a record - in particular, a history of past performance. Evers, a participant in the chronic failures of MPS, must logically share in some the blame.

Liberal bloggers have pointed to the fact that MPS scores have improved at a greater rate than the rest of the state. This, of course, would depend on what statistics are being viewed. DPI has released its 2005-2008 proficiency results. And although, there have been some improvements, most of these come in the lower grade levels such as grades 5-8. In the high-school range, arguably the most important period in terms of college preparation, there has been a decline in scores. MPS 10th graders, for instance, have dropped from a 41% to a 38% proficiency in reading, while state 10th graders have improved from a 74% to a 75% proficiency. MPS 10th graders have also dropped from a 31% to a 27% proficiency in Mathematics, whereas state 10th graders have dropped from a 70% to a 69% proficiency. The improvement results are relatively mixed, but as one can see, the disparity in performance between MPS and the rest of the state is rather astonishing.

In another study, the graduation rate of MPS between 2003 and 2004 was 46%. If one wants to quibble with the methodology of the study, then that is certainly within one’s right. However, the same methodology was used to grade 50 other school districts, and MPS placed 38 out of 50. MPS is the bottom of the barrel, and milk-toast ideas will not turn MPS around. In the past 20 years, MPS spending has increased by 58%. This is a substantial amount of money invested in the public school system, so where are the results? After 20 years of increased spending, 10th grade proficiency in math and reading are still deplorable while graduation rates are still among the lowest in the nation. This, of course, doesn’t even include the facts that MPS has tripled their student expulsions in the past 10 years, and high-school truancy has risen up to 72%.

Final Thoughts on Tony Evers

We need to start thinking outside the box. Parents know their children the best, therefore more options for them will produce better results. If a mother is concerned that her kid is unsafe going to a particular school, then aren’t vouchers or virtual schooling a viable option? Sometimes the solution to our education problems, whether they be safety or performance orientated, does not lie in traditional public schools. And unless we are willing to elect candidates who understand this, we will be condemned to repeat the same mistakes of the past 20 years with costly results. Tony Evers is a status quo candidate at best. He has no fresh or bold ideas, just milquetoast proposals that miss the mark of fixing MPS.

]]> (Aaron M. Rodriguez) MPS Wed, 01 Apr 2009 06:00:00 +0000
The Allurement of Tony Evers By Aaron M. Rodriguez

Image On Tony Evers’ campaign website, he discloses a plan for Wisconsin’s schools that many conservatives can find quite palatable. Who can resist a platform of fair and sustainable funding, safe and respectable schools, innovation that works, the recruitment and retention of good teachers, and maintainable graduation rates. I would hope that every DPI Superintendent would aim for such objectives. What is missing however, are fair and sustainable choices for parents. Evers’ plan presupposes that the most effective way of educating our children lies strictly within the confines of “traditional” public schools. Therefore, his plan is narrow, rigid, and inadaptable to the trending of socioeconomic conditions within society.

What one finds on Evers’ website are the generic liberal policies that go hand in hand with the failures we’ve seen in the larger counties of Wisconsin. What we don’t see is the recognition that parents are the key to a child’s education, and therefore empowering them with more choices will lead to uninterrupted educational achievement. The power of choice includes lifting caps on charter and virtual schools, so parents aren’t limited to the traditional schools in their neighborhood. The power of choice includes increasing participation in voucher programs so that children of low income families have an opportunity to receive quality education like kids in the suburbs. Parents want the power of choice now, not a promise that MPS will clean up its act eventually.

A Significant Downfall

The most significant downfall with Evers’ campaign platform is his lack of support for the voucher program. The Milwaukee voucher program started in the 90s and was the first of its kind in the nation. The concept of vouchers is fairly simple. It gives parents a choice to send their kids to a school best fit for them, not being forced by the government to send their kids to the most geographically proximate school in the area. Not only does the voucher program free the hands of parents, but it saves the government a substantial amount of money.

Currently, it costs taxpayers roughly $13,000 to send a single kid to a public school. The value of a voucher made redeemable at a private school is about $6,000. Therefore, a single student using the voucher program will save the government close to $4,000 to $5,000. In 2008 alone, 18,500 students (about 2% of the student population) using the expanded voucher program saved state taxpayers 32 million dollars . The voucher program is a cost effective system that provides those on the lowest economic rung of society the power of choice.

JSO Report

Recently, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel published a report by the University of Arkansas that headlined “Study finds results of MPS and voucher school students are similar.” Liberal bloggers jumped on the news with invigorated enthusiasm. Blogger Ed Garvey asserted,


Now that the report on voucher schools is out, the proponents of school vouchers have egg all over themselves. After an unprecedented propaganda blitz and tens of millions of dollars spent on this ideological nonsense, based on assurances that privatization of education (vouchers) would lead us into the promised land, the report finds it is a flop. No difference in performance even though voucher schools have fewer, if any, special needs kids.

One of the things that stuck out as bizarre was the gleeful tone of Mr. Garvey’s comment. He was delighted that the voucher program didn’t produce significantly higher test results for students in the areas of Math, Science, and Reading.

Here’s a thought, how about being delighted that inner city, poverty-stricken families have an equal opportunity to send their kids to the schools of their choice, all the while savings the state millions dollars a year in the process? How about considering the fact that public schools have been around since the late 1800s, and the voucher system is simply in its stage of infancy, Therefore, it is expected that test results will improve as the program is finely tuned.

There is no egg on our faces. JSO's published study is the product of a two-year analysis limited to select students in grade school and junior high. The study itself concludes that the best way to determine effectiveness of the voucher program is through a vigorous longitudinal study “over time,” not based upon a two-year snapshot. Also, the study did not publish findings on the disparity of achievement between MPS and Voucher students in high-school. It may very well be the case that a study on the voucher program focusing on high-school students would show voucher students outscoring MPS much like the 8th graders did.

Tony Evers’ Experience

Undoubtedly, the biggest advantage Evers has on Fernandez is his overarching experience in education. In fact, it is such an obvious edge that liberal bloggers and journalists alike have accentuated this point in their published endorsements. The “experience argument” has always drawn widespread appeal to audiences because of its persuasive power. Experience provides individuals with “know how,” a consequence of learning from mistakes and an aptitude of finding new ways to secure success. The weakness of the experience argument, however, is that experience does not entail good judgment or good leadership.

This weakness was fully exploited during the November election when the U.S. citizenry elected a presidential candidate with indubitably the least amount of legislative and executive experience in U.S. history. In fact, they not only chose a junior senator from Illinois, but they dismissed a high ranking senator with more than 30 years of legislative experience. Why would people overlook McCain’s experience, one might ask? The answer is simple – extensive experience does not entail good judgment or good leadership. This is even clearer when we consider the recent decade of auto manufacturer and banking failures that have transpired under the watch of experienced CEOs. Again, it demonstrates the immutable truth that experience does not entail good leadership.

Tony Evers, the candidate of experience, has spent 7 years as the Deputy Superintendent of DPI – a position second only to the State Superintendent. In the past 10 years, student enrollment has decreased significantly while fringe benefits for teachers have increased disproportionately, MPS expulsions have tripled, high-school truancy has risen to 72%, and graduation rates have dipped down to 46% (among the lowest in the nation). This string of facts shows that Evers' experience has not empowered him to be a good leader. Like John McCain, Tony Evers is entrenched in the same failed policies of the past. MPS is a miserable failure, and everyone knows it.

Concluding Thoughts on Tony Evers

Rose Fernandez is the only candidate in the DPI race that offers solutions to problems not available to candidates married to local unions. Although unions are an integral part in the theatre of fighting for the rights of employees, they have become a stumbling block in opening the door of educational opportunity to struggling families. Liberal bloggers are quick to point out that “voucherizing” is an attack on the public school system while ignoring the fact that it provides disadvantaged families with the same opportunities as the middle and upper class.

The notion that the voucher program is an attack on the public school system is a red herring. The public school system is only a mechanism used for educating our children, it is not an end (in and of itself) that needs saving. Educating our children is the primary objective. If MPS, for example, is not providing parents with an efficient, cost-effective product, then as consumers and taxpayers, parents have the right go elsewhere to get it. This brand of competition will only force the public school system to compete with the private sector ultimately striving to produce a low cost and high quality education.

Rose Fernandez is the ultimate advocate for parents. As the State Superintendent of DPI, she will fight to provide parents with every advantage or edge they desire as guardians of our children. It is only through the power of choice that we, as citizens, have an opportunity to clean up school districts that perform poorly and have continually failed our children.

]]> (Aaron M. Rodriguez) MPS Tue, 31 Mar 2009 02:00:21 +0000
Mr. Evers, Where is our Apology? By Aaron M. Rodriguez

For all I know, Mr. Evers is a well-mannered and articulate man who is serious about our children's education. His years of experience in the Department of Public Instruction leads me to believe that he considers public education to be a top priority. Qualification aside, however, the fact remains that he needs to come forward and publicly apologize for breaking the Wisconsin state law. The apology isn't necessary because the law in question is sacrosanct, or because he needs to appease the righteous anger of the right, but because admission of a mistake is what we expect from our public officials.

Recently, we've acquired knowledge that Tony Evers utilized a government email system to elicit the help of Jeff Dickert, a CESA 7 education administrator, in order to organize a fundraiser on behalf of his campaign. According to Wisconsin state law, section 946.12, it is a class I felony for a state employee to exercise discretionary power in a manner inconsistent with his duties when there is an "intent to obtain a dishonest advantage." It would appear, therefore, that Tony Evers violated such law when he used his government position to secure an unfair advantage over his rival Rose Fernandez.

The Email Exchange

In a debate with Rose Fernandez, Evers defended himself from accusations of misconduct saying,


I never directed anyone else to do things improper. Any e-mails that came from me, came from my home e-mail address

This statement is false. The first email Evers dispatched to Dickert originated from his government account at DPI, which he forwarded to his personal account, and then forwarded it to Dickert's public email address. Essentially, Evers' personal email account was used as a midway conduit for his government account. In this email, Evers asked Dickert to organize a fundraiser.

There are a few complications that arise when Jeff Dickert gets involved. First, the conversation about Evers' candidacy emerged through the public email exchange. The conversation was already political at this point, but when it turned into strategies beneficial to Evers campaign, Evers forwarded the conversation to his personal email account. However, it was already too late. When Evers used his discretionary power to contact Dickert for an unfair advantage, he broke the law. If there are any doubts about Evers' intent to secure an unfair advantage, here is an email he sent to Dickert:

Whatever you can do to get the word out would be appreciated. Hopefully, CESA 7 employees and CESA 7 area districts will be well-represented.

CESA 7 is a Green Bay school district. And Jeff Dickert is the state administrator of CESA 7. There is no reasonable explanation why Evers would choose Dickert to dispatch news about the Green Bay fundraising event if it weren't to utilize Dickert's office in a way that is unavailable to people like Rose Fernandez. Evers wanted Dickert to use his administrator status to persuade CESA 7 employees and CESA 7 business officials to attend the event. It is apparent, therefore, that Evers not only broke the law by dispatching his first email to Dickert, but he also made Dickert an accomplice in the commission of a felony. This is what Rose Fernandez referred to in her debate with Evers when she said,


Certainly didn't bank on the fact that public resources would be involved in advancing my opponent's campaign.
The second problem is that Evers was apparently crafty enough to change email addresses, but allowed Dickert to continue the exchange from his public account. Why didn't he instruct Dickert to stop using his public account? The answer is that Evers expected that Dickert would use his government account to "get the word out." How else would Dickert get access to the specific email addresses of CESA 7 superintendents and business officials? Evers didn't give Dickert the warning because it would have defeated the purpose of contacting Dickert to begin with, which was to use CESA to raise money for his campaign.

Personal Ethics

When the news broke on the Belling show that Dickert violated state law, Dickert accepted the blame and apologized for his misconduct. However, Tony Evers, who was the prime mover behind the ordeal, was nowhere to be found.

Belling had petitioned an open records request, so Evers knew that the truth would eventually surface. And yet he still allowed Dickert be his fall guy. But Dickert wasn't the only one hung out to dry. Evers' campaign staffers told Blogger Jay Bullock that they “wouldn’t recognize Dickert if they saw him.” This implied that Evers couldn't be involved in Dickert's email dispatch because Evers doesn't personally know Dickert.

As a result, Jay Bullock publishes a counterfactual article riddled with unfounded assertions and erroneous conclusions. I've listed some of Bullock's falsehoods below:

1. The [Evers'] "campaign had nothing to do with Dickert's email"

2. "Fernandezistas [Fernandez supporters] are not shy about throwing around unfounded and often clearly false charges"

3. "Dickert is not a 'player' in the campaign"

4. "Evers and his campaign violated no laws at all"

5. "Fernandez supporters would rather waste time spreading outright lies about Evers"

Based upon Belling's open records request, each of the 5 assertions above are factually incorrect. They are the product of poor journalism because Bullock prematurely interpreted the lack of email exchanges from Evers as evidence that Evers wasn't involved. When the evidence finally surfaced demonstrating that Evers participated in the email exchange, thus using public resources to secure an unfair advantage, Bullock's conclusion was thrown on its head. And I'm still wondering when Mr. Bullock will publish an article correcting his mistakes and apologize to those conservative bloggers he unfairly accused of lying. Perhaps a timely publication is in order?

Final Thoughts on Tony Evers

The title of this article underscores the ethics of Tony Evers. It was Evers’ idea to elicit the help of Jeff Dickert, not the other way around. When Dickert got into hot water, Evers hung him out to dry. And now that the truth is out, the Evers’ campaign has yet to apologize publicly for the scandal. This string of ethical failures is not the best way to secure the trust of Wisconsin’s parents. Wisconsin deserves an apology.

]]> (Aaron M. Rodriguez) MPS Fri, 27 Mar 2009 00:52:24 +0000
Fernandez' Response to Evers' Scandal Press Release By Rose Fernandez

"This is exactly why we need to change DPI.

Image"I was dismayed to hear that my opponent may have broken state law by soliciting campaign funds and other forms of support from a public official via taxpayer-funded resources; and, that he apparently asked that same official to use his position and state resources to bring even more funds into his vast campaign war chest. This 'win at all cost' mentality is a poor example to set for our state's schoolchildren.

"Democrats, Republicans and Independents are supporting my candidacy because I can bring an independent voice and a fresh perspective to the Department of Public Instruction. Despite my broad coalition of support, I knew going into this race that with the Madison-based teachers' union throwing hundreds of thousands of dollars behind my opponent, we would be the underdog in this race. However, I had not counted on Mr. Evers also having the use of public employees and taxpayer resources to raise campaign money for him.

"Despite these odds, I still have faith in the voters of Wisconsin. We came in a close second in the Primary despite being vastly outspent. Voters have been invigorated by my positive call for higher academic standards, merit pay for teachers, and honest educational reform. With two weeks left, this race is tied, and despite the looming special interest TV ads and Mr. Evers' apparent abuse of the public trust and public resources, we continue our campaign to change DPI.

"Those who are interested in leveling the playing field can legally contribute to our campaign at Change DPI"


]]> (Aaron M. Rodriguez) MPS Thu, 26 Mar 2009 04:21:02 +0000
Breaking News on Tony Evers By Aaron M. Rodriguez

Tony Evers On Friday, February 27th, Mark Belling issued a news report that DPI candidate Tony Evers used state resources to promote a March fundraising event for his campaign. According to Belling, Evers prompted Jeff Dickert to use a government email account to advertise the Green Bay event. At the time, however, there was no hard evidence that Evers was actually involved. So on March 1st, I published an article entertaining the question of whether Tony Evers could be involved in the scandal and what sort of impact it would have on his campaign. As it were, just entertaining the idea inspired leftist blogger Jay Bullock to accuse me of “spreading outright lies” about Evers. Below is an excerpt from his blog:

In sum, rather than talk about the issues of the campaign (unlike some of us) or ponder why the "liberal" candidates outpolled the "conservative" candidates in the February primary almost 3-2, Fernandez supporters would rather waste time spreading outright lies about Evers. Way to go, guys!

The Breaking Story

On Tuesday, March 23, Mark Belling issued another news release on Evers’ email controversy. He stated that on January 12th, DPI candidate Tony Evers used his government email account to elicit Jeff Dickert to host a Green Bay funding raising event. Tony Evers said this in his email to Jeff Dickert:


I will be having several visits to the Green Bay area, some before the primary, any chance you can help to organize a fundraiser? Thanks Tony.

On January 13th, the day after Evers’ email, Dickert replied agreeing to organize the fundraiser. In a follow up email, Evers said:


Jeff, I will call about this, but I will need your help getting the word out. This is our one chance to do an event in Green Bay. I know the date is soon, but it can’t be helped. Whatever you can do to get the word out will be appreciated. Hopefully CESA 7 employees and CESA area districts will be well represented. I will call to follow up, but wanted to get this to you ASAP. Tony.

Now, it's clear that Tony Evers used his office to acquire email addresses not accessible to people like Rose Fernandez. He specifically asked Dickert to get the word out to government employees and government administrators to ensure that the fundraiser was fully attended. This is no longer speculation or rumor, but rather a hard fact.

In early March, Jay Bullock published an article on WisOpinion stating that he spoke with a staffer from the Evers’ campaign:

"Dickert is not a ‘player’ in the campaign, real or not, just one of Evers' many supporters. And as an Evers campaign staffer told me, the campaign wouldn't recognize Dickert if they saw him."

The implication of the above quote is that Belling’s accusation was absurdly false. Either Bullock is making up the fact he had a conversation an Evers’ staffer, or the staffer lied to Bullock about not knowing Dickert. In either case, someone is lying.

As for Bullock’s candidate of choice, Evers not only abused his public office, broke the law, and asked others to do so was well, but he was dishonest about the entire chain of events. After Belling broke the story, Evers had an opportunity to come clean. He knew about Belling’s radio broadcast because his campaign had to field several inquiries as a result of it. He also knew that Belling had made an open records request to view the emails in question. And since it was only a matter of time before the truth surfaced, why didn’t the campaign come clean? When bloggers like Jay Bullock called the campaign office looking for the truth, why did they lie to him, hanging him out to dry.

Right now, Mr. Bullock looks even more foolish than he usually does. He is on public record stating that the Evers’ campaign was truthful with their denials, while publicly accusing me of lying and "dancing up the line of libel." Where is my apology, Jay?

Final Thoughts on the Breaking News

With two weeks left in the campaign, this is a serious setback for Evers. In an election where the vote tally was close in the primaries, a controversy like this is enough to put Fernandez over the top, and rightfully so. The left has tried to drag Fernandez through the mud with false accusations about her alleged ties with K12 Inc., meanwhile their own candidate is breaking the law while actively exploiting government resources for his political ambitions.

The left will characterize this as an incidental email mishap - a technical mishap that anyone can make. However, this isn't just an issue of abusing government privilege, but rather a problem of character. Tony Evers emailed Jeff Dickert and asked him to host a fundraiser for him on short notice. As the news originally broke on the Belling Show, Dickert took the heat for violating the law while Evers was nowhere to be found. That's some character. This is not the change Wisconsin wants. In the next few weeks, we will see what sort of damage this story causes and whether the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Capital Times, and the Racine Journal Times will publish the results.

]]> (Aaron M. Rodriguez) MPS Wed, 25 Mar 2009 02:42:46 +0000