Major changes to school report card proposed, including closing poorly performing schools

2014-01-28T10:30:00Z Major changes to school report card proposed, including closing poorly performing schoolsMATTHEW DeFOUR and MOLLY BECK | Wisconsin State Journal

Wisconsin’s lowest-performing public schools would be forced to close or reopen as charter schools and the state’s 2-year-old accountability report card would be revamped under a bill unveiled Monday.

The proposal also would require testing for taxpayer-subsidized students at private voucher schools while barring the lowest-performing schools from enrolling new voucher students. Participating private schools also could test all students for accountability purposes.

“We’re going to start holding anybody who gets public money accountable for getting results. That is the bottom line,” said Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, which plans to vote on the amended bill Thursday.

The bill makes several changes to the state’s K-12 school accountability system — including assigning schools letter grades — which itself recently replaced a decade-old system under the federal No Child Left Behind law.

The proposal is an updated version of bills introduced last September by Olsen and Rep. Steve Kestell, R-Elkhart Lake, chairman of the Assembly Education Committee. It would go into effect for the 2015-16 school year.

The Senate version received a public hearing on Sept. 12. Since then, legislative staff have been working on changes with the Department of Public Instruction, representing public schools, and voucher and charter school lobbyists.

Wisconsin Education Association Council president Betsy Kippers, a Racine teacher, said the “fingerprints of the voucher and privately run charter lobbyists are all over this.”

Olsen said his hope is the bill gets a vote in the Senate when it next meets on Feb. 11.

DPI officials and legislative leadership were reviewing the proposal Monday night and declined comment on the details. A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said he would wait to see what happens in committee before saying when it would come up for a vote.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, wants to take up an accountability bill this session, spokeswoman Kit Beyer said.

“He supports more accountability measures for every school that receives public funding,” Beyer said.

Gov. Scott Walker would like to see a school accountability bill on his desk that he could sign by the end of this term, spokesman Tom Evenson said. He did not have a specific comment on the latest draft.

Among the changes, schools would receive letter grades on an A-F grading scale, rather than the current five phrases ranging from “significantly exceeds expectations” to “fails to meet expectations.”

The grades would continue to be based on a numeric score ranging from 0-100, but a different formula than the one DPI created in 2012 would be used for calculating the score.

The current formula bases the score on test results broken down into four categories — achievement, growth, closing scores between minority and majority student groups and college readiness — with deductions for poor test participation, dropout and graduation rates.

The new formula still uses the achievement and achievement gap score categories. But it would use a method of calculating student growth developed at UW-Madison, known as “value-added,” which seeks to evaluate school performance while accounting for student demographics. It also would no longer double-count third-grade reading scores, eighth-grade math scores and dropout rates as part of the calculation.

Olsen said the changes in the formula are intended to address one of the biggest flaws of the current report cards — that schools with the best scores tend to be the ones with the fewest low-income students.

“You can’t get good grades because you’re lucky to have a whole bunch of high-income students,” Olsen said. “That’s not fair.”

Under the proposal, schools that receive an F for three consecutive years, or a combination of Ds and Fs with weak growth scores for five consecutive years, would be closed or turned over to a private charter management organization. Eligible organizations would have to operate existing charter schools with better test results than district schools.

“We’re not going to allow some fly-by-night folks to come in here and run schools,” Olsen said. “You have to have a proven track record.”

A school district could not employ any of the staff at the charter school, though it would have to pay at least 90 percent of its own per-pupil cost for each student attending the charter school.

Kippers said the plan removes DPI oversight. Currently, DPI can direct districts to change instruction or create an improvement council at poorly performing schools.

Public charter schools with similar poor performance would have their charters revoked and wouldn’t be allowed to participate in the voucher program if they reopen as private schools.

Private voucher schools that don’t perform would not be allowed to accept new students or reopen as a charter school. But those schools would have the option of having students take the state test or a different one.

Kippers said a previous version of the bill kicked poor voucher schools out of the program, leaving taxpayers “still on the hook.”

The bill also requires that the lowest-performing 5 percent of schools in the state automatically receive an F rating through the 2018-19 school year.

Madison School Board president Ed Hughes, speaking after a reporter summarized the legislation, said he is confident the board would oppose any measures that would remove their authority over district schools.

“I don’t know what the grading scale will be, but in general, people on school boards are against proposals that take away school board authority,” he said. “If there is a way to grade schools that can realistically take into account different demographics of schools, that’s one thing, but that’s still attaching Draconian consequences to what are inevitably somewhat arbitrary scores.”

Contact Matthew DeFour at or 608-252-6144; contact Molly Beck at or 608-252-6135.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(33) Comments

  1. 196ski
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    196ski - January 29, 2014 12:48 pm
    "I'm sure it's not too long before schools spend a majority of their instructional day on math and English so that their scores go up or stay high so they don't fall to the bottom 5 percent. Who needs science, social studies, music or art, anyway?"

    No one if you can't read or understand math.
  2. commonsense7474
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    commonsense7474 - January 29, 2014 12:12 pm
    "The bill also requires that the lowest-performing 5 percent of schools in the state automatically receive an F rating through the 2018-19 school year."

    So even if all Wisconsin schools were doing well, the bottom 5 percent automatically fail? This seems to be a perfect scenario for districts to start cheating and teaching to the test. I'm sure it's not too long before schools spend a majority of their instructional day on math and English so that their scores go up or stay high so they don't fall to the bottom 5 percent. Who needs science, social studies, music or art, anyway?
  3. bookman21
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    bookman21 - January 28, 2014 5:19 pm
    The misinformation being foisted onto the public by the GOP never ends. The biggest lie was trickle down economics, followed the one percent are the job creators, tax cuts create jobs, and our public schools are failing.
    Our schools aren't failing, they are being dismantled by the followers of privatization.
  4. bookman21
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    bookman21 - January 28, 2014 5:09 pm
    And in worse governments.
  5. HockeyTeam
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    HockeyTeam - January 28, 2014 12:45 pm
    What are you talking about? Wisconsin consistently is near the top in nation public school performance. So now you want to likely send millions of dollars out of state for Charter administration to have what? Better than the best public schools?

    The whole concept is illogical. So by this bills thinking a public school is under-performing because of DPI oversight, so they hire a 'Charter group' to run it for at least three years and if they fail what? Another Charter group? Or back to the DPI? Obviously if the Charter group fails it implies the DPI wasn't at fault so why waste money on a Charter group. Further if the DPI wasn't at fault in one case, in they manage ALL schools with the same protocols, how could they be at fault anywhere?

    This is just an attempt of yet another corrupt Republican to create profit for donors. There isn't even any evidence that Charter schools produce any better results. Heck if Madison East does poorly why bring in a Charter? Why not bring in Waunakee School district to manage it? They have a proven track record of success. They would be cheaper.
  6. JohnGalt2016
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    JohnGalt2016 - January 28, 2014 11:27 am
    If privatization is better for our kids privatize them all. Why are public schools so afraid of a little competition?
  7. Fartinthewind
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    Fartinthewind - January 28, 2014 10:58 am
    You know sarge, I don't agree with everything in your post but I think you are on to something.

    For years the conservative chorus has been talking about personal responsibility. For a lot of posters it comes down to "why do I have to pay for something you should be doing for yourself?" For many I think this extends to public education. They seem to think that parents should be responsible for educating their own children.

    If you think about it the binding force that holds all conservatives together is the tax argument. The subset of conservatives, and for now it is a subset, who doesn't believe in public education has successfully used redistributionist rhetoric, and talk of lower taxes to mold educational policy in a way that incrementally diminishes our commitment to public education. Their mission has been made all the easier by combining with those who stand to gain financially through privatization and those who criticize the "liberal" curriculum taught in public schools.
  8. array1
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    array1 - January 28, 2014 10:56 am
    Asking a Wisconsin conservative to be consistent is asking too much.
  9. Thanks4Act10
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    Thanks4Act10 - January 28, 2014 10:55 am
    What's not to like, unless you are a WEAC drone? Accountability for voucher schools. Accountability for the trough of despair that describes many public schools. Fine job, Luther. Let's get this done.
  10. array1
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    array1 - January 28, 2014 10:51 am
    Lets not forget that over 3/4 of Wisconsin vouchers went to students that were ALREADY ENROLLED in private schools.
  11. HockeyTeam
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    HockeyTeam - January 28, 2014 10:09 am
    This is the kind of corruption you find in bad movies.
  12. sarge
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    sarge - January 28, 2014 9:47 am
    Yeah were are the tea protestors now? It seems they have taken sides with the king and the east India company
  13. sarge
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    sarge - January 28, 2014 9:45 am
    It's not moronic at all. It's the realization of long laid plans and until you realize what the plan really is, you will be helpless to resist it. As a neocon bush administration official once said " we are making history and you are only able to react after the fact". You see this as isolated bad policy while it is in fact part of a well thought out strategy to commit economic rape while neutralizing any resistance by the people of the democracies being overthrown, or resistance to the public properties being stolen
  14. sarge
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    sarge - January 28, 2014 9:39 am
    Needs 4 point restraints and a ball gag
  15. sarge
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    sarge - January 28, 2014 9:39 am
    But the failure of the students parents and the financial state of the community is what's really being measured. No school can educate a child who had poor prenatal care, poor early childhood nutrition and little or none of the intellectual development in early childhood that depends on the parents. No surprise that the privatizers will start by blaming the teachers and schools in the poor inner city. That is the " crisis"
    They will exploited to begin privatization of all the schools. Once again this gas been a major goal of Milton Friedman and his multinational acolytes for many decades. They must be ecstatic that they are finally getting their way in America, and so far they haven't even had to kill, torture or terrorize anyone as they did in so many other places, like Indonesia chile, Argentina, China, Russia, panama or Iraq
  16. sarge
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    sarge - January 28, 2014 9:24 am
    You are right FF, this movement by the neocon Chicago boys and their corporate backers is profoundly un democratic . It's not new either. This has been an ongoing project across the world in the last 40 years and these folks have been great successes, though in most cases those successes came coupled with the violent overthrow of democracy. This happened in the southern cone, Eastern Europe , Russia and elsewhere.
  17. sarge
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    sarge - January 28, 2014 9:18 am
    There is simply no way to grasp what walker and the republicans are up to without reading Naomi Kline's The Shock Doctrine. The neocons that you
    Thought had faded away with bush and Cheney are still with us and they are playing to win. Control of the schools allows both massive profits for the corporations who will step in when the right moment comes( perhaps the bankrupt government they keep trying to produce will provide the chance) and control of the schools will allow social control or as they put it
    On the old PNAC website, " full spectrum dominance" . It's simply counterproductive to allow parents or students or local government to have a say in education. Makes control difficult and it reduces profits
  18. sarge
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    sarge - January 28, 2014 9:09 am
    Jonathan, what you say may be true in some or many cases, but it's good to remember that Hitler was sincerely attempting to improve Germany., while the corporations who supported his ascendancy simply saw a chance to break the trade unions , lower their taxes and make money selling tanks and guns to the army.
  19. sarge
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    sarge - January 28, 2014 9:04 am
    You can't improve school performance without improving the performance of the students parents. Parental involvement and financial resources are the key to performance but where that is lacking walker and his puppet masters will blame the teachers and use that crisis to privatize . Once the camels nose is in the tent , you can bet the camel will follow and the goal of " full spectrum dominance" will come a little closer to fruition
  20. sarge
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    sarge - January 28, 2014 8:55 am
    Make no mistake. The goal is to privatize all of our schools and remove real oversight by the government. You have to realize this is the Chicago School goal in all cases. There is big money in private education and once it's the only game in town I very much doubt public input on education will be welcome or even allowed. Normally these people look for some sort of crisis to launch their attack but without a crisis like hurricane Katrina( over 90% of New Orleans schools privatized over night) or a coup ( 90% of Chile's schools privatized over night) or deep financial crisis ( see Detroit) the school privatizers will simply create a crisis ( no child left behind) , or they do what walker's folks are doing here. It almost sounds good till you realize they are setting the stage for a rapid privatization of all schools when the moment is right, ie the correct crisis can be ginned up.
  21. purplepenquin
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    purplepenquin - January 28, 2014 8:48 am
    So the GOP wants to use my money to educate their children, but they don't want me to have a vote on how it is being used?!

    Sounds a lot like "Taxation without Representation" to me.....if they are reaching into my wallet then I damn well should have a say in how it is being spent!
  22. spooky tooth
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    spooky tooth - January 28, 2014 8:48 am
    Luther Olsen, it's your turn to introduce a bill written by the Koch brothers. Every republican has to do their part, or the fascist billionaires will make sure this is your last term.

    The achievement gap is like the Grand Canyon when scientists look at kids growing up in financially secure families compared to kids growing up in financially poor families. Kids growing up in poverty have increased levels of anxiety, fear and emotional disorders that will effect their thought process lifelong. The constant stress of poverty interrupts a child's developing brain and how these kids will perform when they get to school.

    Cut the food stamps, cut unemployment, cut wages, end the minimum wage law, work seven days/wk, make the poor kids clean the schools. These are actual Koch head proposals designed to increase poverty and hurt kids.

    The Koch brothers are not trying to fix the problem. They like the problem, they are the leaders in creating poverty and it's going to make them billions. All that remains is getting their puppets to give it to them.

    If politics was religion, this current batch of republicans are bowing to the golden calf and the Koch brothers are the leaders of the church.

  23. Wis_BlogRider
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    Wis_BlogRider - January 28, 2014 8:27 am

    Diane Ravitch's recently published book "Reign of Error" compiled of her in depth research on our American schools should be a required read by every American. Our schools aren't' failing, they are being undermined by the Privatization for Profit Movement and this legislation is a death sentence for Wisconsin's public schools. Private Charter schools will not fix the impact of poverty and inability to perform to a test requirement that is unattainable due to factors beyond the control of the best of educators and schools, both public and private.

  24. Fartinthewind
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    Fartinthewind - January 28, 2014 8:10 am
    I think there is one thing supporters of public education have going for us. It's called local control.

    So far republicans have pretty much focused education reform efforts on someone else's schools, school funding and teacher compensation. To say the obvious, it was easy for people to look the other way when the legislature was experimenting in someone else's back yard. Manipulating school funding and teacher compensation issues have always gained traction because it was sold as benefiting taxpayers and screwing those damn teachers unions.

    The latest legislation has the state experimenting in everyone's back yard. I don't think people are going to be happy with that. Think about it. The state hands over a football and basketball powerhouse to Michelle Rhee because of poor report card. Michelle eliminates the weight training and PE classes that were critical to building the power house. In a moment of clarity Michelle then has the audacity to redirect money from the athletic department to English department. How's that gonna fly in a sports dominated community, even if it would be the right thing to do?

    It's gonna be easy for conservatives to argue that in my example above that's exactly what should happen, if the community doesn't have the sense to do it the state should force it. Quite honestly they might be right. Here's why it ain't gonna happen. Elections.

    Rightly or wrongly, people tend to believe there is a problem with public education, but my local school is doing fine. People aren't going to want to be told that their local school is failing and that their children hold a diploma from a school that got an "F" on the state report card. Think the tea party was outraged over the labeling, testing and collection of data associated with Common Core. If they are consistent, they will lead the attack on these proposals.
  25. 11B-OEFX
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    11B-OEFX - January 28, 2014 6:53 am
    Clearly both charter and public school teachers and administrators need to be held accountable for educating children. Period. If a teacher cannot teach or the problem lies in some systematic deficiency at the entire school, the people responsible should be released to find a profession they can excel in. Period. I would not close the entire school however they is a waste of taxpayer dollars with a perfectly viable building closing.
  26. toby
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    toby - January 28, 2014 6:48 am
    I love Walker's report card. One might add " Needs ample supervision in order to work well with others" .
  27. FearorLove
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    FearorLove - January 28, 2014 3:54 am
    (Public schools would be forced to close or reopen as Charter schools)

    What!!! This is a dumb idea PERIOD.
    Why not this...
    (Charter schools would be forced to close or reopen as Public schools)?????
    Because its a one sided Republican Controlled, Free to do as they please with no regard or care for the citizens of WI.

    Its moronic bills like this that most people in WI never hear of because they don't read the paper and its not on the tv.
  28. Fact or Fiction
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    Fact or Fiction - January 27, 2014 10:31 pm
    @ jonathan's "Oh my goodness, get a life. People of both sides within the legislature and in DPI are sincerely trying to improve school performance and all you've got is your usual ignorant, narrow minded and pathetic partisan bile."

    As you know, the Republicans control the entire state of Wisconsin. Walker and the current legislature in the hands of the Republican Party have a history of forcing bills on our state that are anything but about improving school performance, and all about satisfying the demands of school choice advocates. Please forgive Bucky24 for being so unkind to Governor Walker. It's just that Bucky24 dislikes fascism and likes democracy. 100% Republican control with nearly constant efforts to undermine free elections and suppress the opposition party is not democracy.
  29. Fact or Fiction
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    Fact or Fiction - January 27, 2014 10:25 pm
    Olsen's bill is not about "accountability" in public education, it is about opening the door to further privatization of public education, and the transfer of public assets - schools - into private hands - corporations - as a free gift to donors to Republican candidates, such as Scott Walker. Public education is a part of our democracy - it provides an education for all children, regardless of the wealth or poverty of their parents. Many supporters of Republican candidates don't like that idea. They see education as privilege, and wish to see nearly all education privatized and tailored to the interests of the wealthy. Remaining public schools with be institutions for the poor - a two-tier "separate but equal" system similar to the whites-only and blacks-only schools of the pre-civil rights south, and the whites-only private schools that emerged at the onset of the civil rights movement in the wake of desegregation in the 1960's.

    The Corporate Takeover of Public Education
    Diann Woodard - President, American Federation of School Administrators

    Independent research in recent months has documented that the nation's wealthiest philanthropic foundations are steering funding away from public school systems, attended by 90 percent of American students, and toward "challengers" to public education, especially charter schools.

    Education Week recently reported that at the start of the decade, less than a quarter of K-12 giving from top foundations was given to groups supporting charter schools and privatization, about $90 million in all.

    By 2010, $540 million -- fully 64 percent of major foundation giving -- was directed to these private groups, including KIPP, Teach for America, the NewSchools Venture Fund, the Charter School Growth Fund, and the D.C. Public Education Fund.

    The best-known alumni of groups now getting the lion's share of funding from the nation's eight largest foundations are Michelle Rhee, John White of Louisiana, and Kevin Huffman of Tennessee, all of whom support vouchers and charters.

    The extent to which these groups will go to supplant the public school system is deeply disturbing. In Louisiana, for example, the scheme to redirect public funds to private groups through a voucher system under emergency circumstances in the wake of Hurricane Katrina was especially egregious. As a result of legal action taken by our union, the American Federation of School Administrators (AFSA), Louisiana's Supreme Court last month ruled 6-1 that the funding scheme violated the state's constitution.

    The foundations reshaping America's education landscape are less devious than Louisiana privateers, but no less troubling in their commitment to dictating policy without regard to demonstrable performance outcomes. As New York University Professor and former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch points out: "None of the main recipients of foundation funding are models for American education."

    Also see...
    Disaster Capitalism, K-12 Education, And Corporate Takeovers Of Progressive Organizations

    This is how fundamental democratic institutions and progressive organizations get co-opted by corporate interests. Find an issue like, say, education reform, partner up with right-wing interests to undermine public education as a fundamental right.

    This is how fundamental democratic institutions and progressive organizations get co-opted by corporate interests. Find an issue like, say, education reform, partner up with right-wing interests to undermine public education as a fundamental right of every child in this country, and let billionaires direct the flow of dollars into competing efforts.
  30. BananaSplitz
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    BananaSplitz - January 27, 2014 9:36 pm
    Great. More Bible thumping schools that are godly right up to the point where they default on their mortgages and move to a gated community in Florida, Scott free, so so say. If Milwaukee can do it so can the whole state.
  31. bk
    Report Abuse
    bk - January 27, 2014 9:06 pm
    Buck, I hate Gouvernor Doe too. Most of my posts about him get me threatened with a ban by administrators. But this isn't his bill. He does not have the mental capacity to even come up with something this stupid. Sure, he'll sign it, so there is that!

    Isn't Luther Olsen's record bad enough to attack? I bet it is!

    Of course should we turn our attention toward ALEC, the likely "author" of the bill, the grade would unfortunately have to creep up past a "D" if ONLY for the fact that ALEC has been proven so wildly successful at achieving it's agenda in WI over the last several years.

    Perhaps we should stick to discussing the bill itself. As with most/all ALEC proposals we've had rammed down our throats, it sucks. They are trying to vocationalize our schools, and McJob teaching positions.

    Cheatham's trying to help by allowing electronics loaded with advertising and spyware to infiltrate and replace a mid-sized minority of the work now done by teachers.

    The rich in this country live in what WE were sold as "America, the Land of the Free". The rest of us live in 1984.
  32. jonathan
    Report Abuse
    jonathan - January 27, 2014 8:48 pm
    Oh my goodness, get a life. People of both sides within the legislature and in DPI are sincerely trying to improve school performance and all you've got is your usual ignorant, narrow minded and pathetic partisan bile.
  33. Bucky24
    Report Abuse
    Bucky24 - January 27, 2014 8:26 pm
    The Republicans continue to put forth legislation that moves forward their ALEC plan of privatizing education with their motto of "Leave no child left untested". Luther Olsen's report card system is pathetic. Hmmm..... let's apply the report card to Scott Walker and see how he fares:
    Achievement: F Scott is mathematically challenged. Walker Math clearly does not add up and is used as a propaganda tool to enhance Scott's poor self image/record.
    Scott does not get along well with others that are not like-minded. He has a hard time telling the truth. Scott refuses to meet with his constituents, but has all the time in the world for wealthy contributors jet setting across the U.S. dining on $10,000 a plate lunches while touting his fiscal conservatism.
    Growth - Triple- F. Scott Walker by the numbers: 37th in job creation, 45th in prospective job growth, 48th in new business start-ups.
    Closing the gap between people in poverty and those that are wealthy-F. Scott continually enacts legislation that benefits his wealthiest donors on the backs of the least able to afford it. His propaganda machine works overtime hoping you stay ignorant.
    In addition, Scott would receive negative scores for dropping out and not graduating.
    Well, it is pretty clear Scott Walker should not continue as Wisconsin's governor! Wisconsin will remember in November........

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