Guy Johnson responds..

Assembly Race, Election, Wasserman

Third in a series of letting candidates for Tuesday's Democratic primary get some pub here on the blog.. I have an email from Guy Johnson.

As I wrote a few days ago, I think Johnson got shafted when the Milwaukee Area Jewish Committee chose a public forum date they knew he could not attend.  (No answer from MAJC, concerning the scheduling issue.)

So I'm pleased Johnson wrote something for us .. and to further help the readers know the Guy, in light of his forced absence from the WFB forum last week, I'm including some comments he made at this morning's Education forum at Nicolet HS.

Subject: Blog response
Date:     Fri, 5 Sep 2008 17:43:25 -0500   
From:     Guy Johnson <>

Kevin .. thanks for this opportunity:

A few thoughts on Tuesday's election:

1.    A big thing that I bring to the table in this election is my experience as president of the Shorewood Village Board.  I've actually shepherded legislation that got a smoking ban passed in Shorewood; that passed an environmental shoreland ordinance that recently won an award from Citizens for a Scenic Wisconsin for outstanding work in beautification of the Milwaukee River; and that implemented a master plan for our business district that serves as a guide for development for the next 20 years.  These examples are not just things that were talked about, but rather sealed with votes after extensive deliberations that I oversaw as board president.  

2.    Moderation is in order as it relates to Tuesday's primary election. I budgeted $15,000 for my effort to win the seat, figuring to spend $5,000 for the primary, and then, if chosen to be in the general election, another $10,000.  But the ante went up.  As of last week's reporting, the four candidates have expended over $200,000!  This is just for a primary election for one of ninety-nine state assembly seats.  The expenditure breakdown is $131K for Kohl, $45K for Feldman, $28K for Pasch and $4K for Johnson.  A neighbor who brings me the daily barrage of glossy colored campaign flyers that fill his mailbox every day says he will feel like the honeymoon will be over next Tuesday when his mailbox goes empty except for a few bills and catalogues.  I can hardly imagine the amount of paper used over the past few months to feed this frenzy.

3.    We've had a few candidates' forums over the past month.  I want to especially mention one that took place this week at Nicolet High School cosponsored by the Southeast Wisconsin Schools Alliance and the various north shore school districts.  The format of this event allowed for ample response time by the candidates and the questions were extremely well thought out.  In the postscript below, I offer a sample of the questions with my own responses.  

I look forward to serving you in the state assembly.  Please contact me if you have any questions.  Don't forget to vote on Tuesday.


Guy Johnson   --   332-2475   --   --


Nicolet Education Forum Questions:

What are the strengths and weaknesses in Wisconsin's funding of public education? Are there improvements you would support?

Guy Johnson: The greatest strengths, oddly enough, are it is legal and fair.  Some may argue about "fair", since the formula calls for property-rich districts to help fund property-poor districts.  The taxpayer has to remember that it is a statewide system and children who graduate from out state school districts come to our area to work and live.  We want them to be well-educated too.

We have to be extremely careful in making any changes to the formula.  When such changes occur they will inevitably be followed with action in court.  The courts in Wisconsin have found the current funding system to be legal.  Pretend we were to change any aspect of the system.  Let's take the example of the "tertiary aid" portion, the one that causes richer districts to support poorer ones.  Let's fiddle with the formula so Shorewood will receive a greater benefit.  Oconto Falls will be hurt by it unless we funnel more money into the entire system and that won't happen; there is already a looming budget deficit.  Thus, Oconto Falls will have to ask whether the new formula is legal—does it provide equity across the state.  On the other hand, I will not advocate any reduction in spending for schools.  We're stuck with the status quo for now.  Two governors, McCallum and Doyle, put together blue ribbon panels to look at the formula, one headed by Morris Andrews (WEA) and one headed by Mike Specter (Quarles and Brady and prior Shorewood School Board President).  Both advised some changes, the legislature stayed put.  Let's get them both out, bring together a panel of school board members (out state and local), legislative representatives (out-state and local) and some business managers of school districts and let's focus on this with vigor for six months.  Then let's make new legislation.  I will warn you—someone's ox will be gored!
Large urban school districts, like Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS), face different challenges than do the suburban school districts represented at this forum. In your opinion, what challenges does MPS face? What specific initiatives would you support to strengthen MPS?

GJ:  Let's start by recognizing the racial and economic difficulties here.  Milwaukee faces huge problems brought on by rust-belt economics that have not been fixed.  There are not enough jobs available for families in the inner city that pay a living wage.  The schools are faced with children who come through the doors who are impoverished.  There must be wrap-around programs for pre-schoolers through high school aged students.  Strong curriculum and teacher training programs have to be linked to strong after school programming that supports reading and mathematics for children in grades pre-K through 6 and reading in the content areas for children in grades 6-12.  This will cost money.  It is a program that has begun to see some success (see KIPP Schools) in some urban centers.  We have to bring it here. 

Neighborhood schools really took a hit in the Journal Sentinel articles recently, but they are conceptually best idea.  If your child goes to a strong pre-school program that feeds into a strong elementary program that feeds into a strong middle/high school program, the neighborhood will begin to see schools as central to redevelopment.  Pair this with other neighborhood redevelopment issues and you will see success in the long run.  Add pre-schools and wrap-around programs for small children and you have made a real difference.  This will cost money.  We should spend it.  I'd rather fund this than Choice.
Chapter 220, the voluntary integration program between Milwaukee and its suburbs, comes under scrutiny during each budget debate.
a.      What impact has the Chapter 220 program had on public education in Wisconsin?
b.      What do you think the Chapter 220 program should look like in the future? What changes would you like to make to the program?

  a.  It is a program that supports cultural diversity.  It has done so.  Also, children in the Chapter 220 program attending suburban schools have very high post-high school attendance rates.  Shorewood has huge success in reading and mathematics at the elementary level.  Minority children in Shorewood are very successful students.  This is because the focus of the Chapter 220 program there is "teach all children to be successful readers and mathematicians". 

b.  The Chapter 220 program has been seeing a steady decline in numbers of participating students.  Parents have more choices now than before with both Charter and Choice programs.  Chapter 220 should remain in existence as another choice for parents.  It is much less expensive than the Choice programs, and has a proven success rate where Choice schools have, at best, a spotty record.

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