“You Betcha” and Other Wisdom from Education Conference at Eckstein Hall

Posted by:
Category: Education & Law, Milwaukee Public Schools, Public, Speakers at Marquette
Leave a Comment »

Can we expect kids living in impoverished central cities to have the same levels of educational success as other kids?

“You betcha,” answered Michael Casserly.

I’m reluctant to reduce three hours of insightful conversation about urban education to two words, but more than a week later, that phrase is among several that sticks with me from “Lessons from Elsewhere: What Milwaukee Can Learn from Work on Improving Urban Education Systems Nationwide,” a conference at Eckstein Hall sponsored by Marquette Law School and Marquette College of Education.

Nobody among the speakers nor in the audience minimized the challenges of raising the overall achievement in schools in Milwaukee. But there was a widespread feeling of commitment to taking on the job, and even some optimism that it can be done. Read more »

Print Friendly



Law Day Gives High Schoolers Glimpses of Lawyers in the Movies — and In Real Life

Posted by:
Category: Education & Law, Marquette Law School, Popular Culture & Law, Public
3 Comments »

If you are a typical high school student, where do you get your ideas on what attorneys do? Television and movies – that’s a pretty likely answer. So let’s role the tape and look at the reality of being a lawyer versus what the movies show.

For example, consider a clip from the 1998 movie, “A Civil Action.” After viewing it, Milwaukee Circuit Judge Carl Ashley’s reaction was, “It’s pretty sensationalized, but partly true.” Court rooms and law firms may not have movie-like drama often, but lawyers in real life do help people and can “make something right,” Ashley said.

In the movie, the lawyer played by John Travolta called some lawyers “bottom feeders.” But Marquette Law School Professor Rebecca Blemberg, a former prosecutor, said lawyers she has worked with almost all have been people who really want to help others, and a lot of people genuinely benefit from lawyers.

Milwaukee County Judge Joseph Donald said he wished some aspects of the movie were matched in real life. “I’d love to have theme music playing every time I’m in court,” he said.

And Marquette Law Professor David Papke said the real case that was the basis of “A Civil Action” didn’t turn out so well for the attorney for the plaintiffs – he tried to do the right thing and ended up filing for personal bankruptcy.

Joining the four in watching that movie clip (and several others) were 180 students from eight public and private schools that took part in Youth Law Day at Marquette Law School’s Eckstein Hall on March 12. The event was sponsored by the Law School, the Saint Thomas More Lawyers Society, and the Milwaukee County district attorney’s office. Even during their spring break week, about 20 Marquette Law students assisted during the mock trial and shared their educational experiences with the high school students. Law student Lindsey Anderson took a leading role in organizing the event.  Read more »

Print Friendly



Ninth Circuit Rules on Free Speech Issue in Schools

Posted by:
Category: Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Education & Law, First Amendment, Public, Race & Law
1 Comment »

clip_image002Late last month, in Dariano v. Morgan Hill Unified School District, the Ninth Circuit held that the Principal of Live Oak High School properly exercised the school’s rights when he offered students wearing T-shirts bearing the American Flag on Cinco de Mayo the choice to either turn their shirts inside out or go home for the day.  The Principal’s action came on the heels of threats of violence from Mexican-American students earlier in the day and the occurrence of a slight physical altercation on Cinco de Mayo 2009.  The students were not disciplined in any way for their decisions to go home rather than turn their shirts inside out.

The court rested its decision on the First Amendment challenge made by the students on the 1969 Supreme Court case Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, 393 U.S. 503.  In Dariano, the Ninth Circuit applied Tinker to find that the school could restrict student speech based upon officials’ reasonable belief that the T-shirts would cause a “material and substantial” disruption in school activities.  The Ninth Circuit distinguished the facts of Dariano from those of Tinker by finding that in Tinker, there was no threat of disruption from the wearing of the armbands, whereas there were actual threats of violence throughout the day at Live Oak High School. Read more »

Print Friendly



New “Marquette Lawyer” Magazine Offers Insights from Paul Clement

Posted by:
Category: Education & Law, Federal Law & Legal System, Federalism, Health Care, Legal Practice, Marquette Law School, Public, Speakers at Marquette, U.S. Supreme Court
Leave a Comment »

Paul Clement has argued some 70 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. He was solicitor general of the United States and now, in private practice, continues to present arguments in some of the most important cases of our time.

In the cover story in the new “Marquette Lawyer” magazine, Clement discusses some of the cases he’s been involved in, particularly the momentous Affordable Care Act decision of 2012 and several national security cases. He talks about what it is like to make an argument before the Court and especially what’s needed to prepare for an argument.

Clement’s thoughts were offered during his visit to Marquette Law School on March 4, 2013, when he delivered the annual E. Harold Hallows Lecture and held a special “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” event for law students. (Video of the lecture is available here and of the “On the Issues” here.)

Also in the new issue, an article describes the complex legacy of a class action lawsuit challenging how Milwaukee Public Schools deals with students with special education needs. Even as plaintiffs lost the case in court, they succeeded in influencing changes that they favored.

Professor Phoebe Williams is featured in a profile story in the magazine, and the success of the Law School’s faculty blog is marked with a compilation of pieces written by Professor Daniel D. Blinka; Mike Gousha, distinguished fellow in law and public policy; and State Public Defender Kelli S. Thompson, L’96 . Read more »

Print Friendly



Milwaukee Succeeds Will Show Progress Soon, Three Co-chairs Say

Posted by:
Category: Education & Law, Milwaukee, Milwaukee Public Schools, Public, Speakers at Marquette
1 Comment »

It won’t be long before the needle on Milwaukee education outcomes starts moving for the better in ways that can be measured.

The three co-chairs of Milwaukee Succeeds, the broad-based effort to improve the educational outcomes of Milwaukee children, gave that encouraging assessment Thursday during an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” session before a full house of more than 200 people in the Appellate Courtroom of Eckstein Hall.

“I think we’re going to see success much sooner than we thought because we’re going to start to implement things,” said Jackie Herd-Barber, a retired engineer who is involved in a wide array of civic efforts.

Mike Lovell, chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, said that Milwaukee Succeeds has brought together large numbers of people from many of the important sectors and organizations in the area and they have been preparing fresh efforts around important goals. “A year from now, when we measure, the needle is going to be moved just because there are so many people involved,” Lovell said.

And John Schlifske, CEO of Northwestern Mutual, said, “I think you’re going to start seeing some meaningful outcomes, that we’re going to start implementing things that will start moving the needle.” Read more »

Print Friendly



The New Orleans Miracle: A Blueprint for Milwaukee?

Posted by:
Category: Education & Law, Milwaukee, Milwaukee Public Schools, Public
1 Comment »

rsz_3texas-schools-border-wide-horizontalRecently, I had the good fortune of attending a presentation by Patrick Dobard, Superintendent of the Louisiana Recovery School District. It focused on the Louisiana Recovery School District program and how it helped to transform the poor, failing New Orleans schools – decimated by Hurricane Katrina – into one of the highest performing districts in the state. Given its success, it may serve as a blueprint for reforming the struggling Milwaukee Public School system.

In 2003, tired of having some of the worst schools in the country, the Louisiana state legislature created the Recovery School District. This was a special school district that would contain underperforming or failing schools throughout the state. A public school in Louisiana would be put in the Recovery District if it was underperforming for four consecutive years. After Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, the state legislature put the majority of New Orleans’ schools in the Recovery District. The District’s superintendent, Dobard, is appointed by the state.

The concept of the Recovery School District is actually relatively simple – a superintendent is given wide-ranging powers with the goal of improving education in the District. The superintendent, with relative ease, can close schools, merge schools together, and turn traditional public schools into charter schools. For their part, parents and children in the Recovery District have more freedom to decide where to attend school.

The policy rationale behind the Recovery District is that school accountability, reduced red tape, and parental empowerment will appropriately incentivize educators to perform. Read more »

Print Friendly



The Controversial Optimism of Henry Tyson

Posted by:
Category: Education & Law, Milwaukee Public Schools, Public, Speakers at Marquette
4 Comments »

Henry Tyson is as controversial as he is optimistic as he articulate as he is driven. All of those traits were on view when Tyson, the superintendent of Saint Marcus Lutheran School, 2215 N. Palmer St., Milwaukee, was the guest last week in an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” session at Marquette Law School.

Despite what Tyson called “crazy battles” among advocates for different schools and streams of schools, the most significant trait about Tyson may well be his optimism about Milwaukee education in general, including his confidence that student achievement levels can and will rise across the city.

Since Tyson arrived in Milwaukee a little over a decade ago, he has become a force on Milwaukee’s school scene, both as an advocate for the private school voucher program and as an advocate for high expectations and the approach to urban education sometimes given the label “no excuses.”

Tyson is currently at the center of a controversy in which Saint Marcus is seeking to buy the closed Malcolm X school building at 1st and Center Sts. owned by Milwaukee Public Schools. The Milwaukee School Board has been united in opposing that, although it appears willing to consider selling other school buildings to Saint Marcus. Read more »

Print Friendly



The DOJ’s Agenda to Shut Down School Choice

Posted by:
Category: Education & Law, Public
4 Comments »

First off, Dean Kearney, thank you for recommending me to be the September Alumni Blogger of the Month.  It’s much appreciated and, I’m sure, will be a rewarding experience.

For everyone else, I’m CJ Szafir, associate counsel and education policy director at the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (“WILL”) – a nonprofit legal organization that works to advance the public interest in law, individual liberty, constitutional government, and a robust civil society.  We have offices in Milwaukee.  The president and general counsel of WILL is Rick Esenberg, who is also an adjunct professor at Marquette Law.  Prior to WILL, I worked in the state legislature, serving as policy adviser to the Senate Majority Leader.  I graduated from Marquette Law in 2011.

As noted, I work primarily with education reform and, truly, this is about an exciting time as any to be in such a field, as evident by the state recently expanding school choice statewide.  For all the law students reading this, I never anticipated working in education law and policy; it’s a perfect example of how life can lead you to unexpected places.

My optimism and excitement aside, it’s with great trepidation that my first blog post be on a topic that will be unsettling to many – the United States Department of Justice has a political agenda to shut down school choice.  Think this is an overstatement?  Consider the following two major developments from the summer, one of which is in our backyard. Read more »

Print Friendly



Summer Youth Institute at Marquette Law School

Posted by:
Category: Education & Law, Marquette Law School, Public
Leave a Comment »

A Summer Youth Institute is being held at Marquette Law School this week.

Students attending the Summer Youth Institute are spending a dynamic week learning about the law, practicing skills, and meeting with attorneys, judges, and law students. They are learning about the American legal system, notable figures in legal history, and the United States Constitution. They are reading United States Supreme Court cases and learning about case analysis and note taking.

Students are also practicing oral advocacy and will be participating in a moot court before a judging panel. They are studying negotiation strategies and engaging in a mock negotiation.

Read more »

Print Friendly



Charter School Session: Performance, Perspective, and Passion

Posted by:
Category: Education & Law, Milwaukee Public Schools, Public, Speakers at Marquette
Leave a Comment »

Charter schools are “the strongest wave of educational reform in the United States” and they’re not going away, one of the nation’s premier charter school researchers told a conference at Marquette University Law School this week. So what can be done to make the overall results of the movement more positive?

At the conference, titled “Charter Schools: Assessing the Present, Looking to the Future,” Margaret (Macke) Raymond, director of the Center for Research in Educational Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University, outlined policy implications of research she has led that includes data from 30 states.

“State policy matters a lot and there are specific policy variables that will get you a fair amount,” Raymond said. For example, authorizers of charter schools need to play their role well if they are to foster high performing charter schools while keeping weak operations from ever opening or closing them down if they are getting poor results. Having multiple local authorizers of charter schools (which Milwaukee has) and having a cap on the number of charter schools (which Milwaukee and Wisconsin do not have) leads to poorer results, Raymond said.

Charter schools are publicly-funded schools that operate to a large degree in independent and self-governing ways, freed from some of the rules and constraints put on conventional public schools. A little over two decades old, the charter movement has grown rapidly, with more than two million students in such schools nationwide. In Wisconsin, there are more than 200 charter schools. Authorizers, most often public school boards but sometimes other government agencies or even private non-profits, give a charter school permission to operate and at the end of a contract period, usually five years, have the power to withdraw that permission based on performance. Read more »

Print Friendly



Fining Felons and Felling Trees to Fill our Public School Libraries

Posted by:
Category: Constitutional Law, Education & Law, Public, Wisconsin Law & Legal System
Leave a Comment »

Section 16 ImageLast year, a total of $32.5 million were distributed to Wisconsin’s public school libraries thanks to a land grant ordinance that predates the United States Constitution. This little known gift from the Confederation Congress has a fascinating history that reflects the high value placed on public education since our nation’s inception.

The founding fathers believed that public education was the surest way to prepare citizens to exercise the freedoms and responsibilities of our “republican form of government.” As such, the Land Ordinance of 1785 granted every new state one square mile of land within each township (specifically designating “section sixteen” on each township’s newly surveyed thirty-six section plat map) “for the maintenance of public schools . . . .” The sentiment behind this grant was reiterated in the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, which announced that “schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”

Despite their enactment prior to the ratification of the United States Constitution in 1789, these two landmark ordinances continued to govern the process of states’ accession into the Union for many years to come. As such, when Wisconsin was in pursuit of statehood over seventy years later, the Wisconsin Enabling Act contained a provision that the “section numbered sixteen, in every township . . . shall be granted to said state for the use of schools.” This resulted in nearly 1.5 million acres of federal land being handed over to a young State of Wisconsin for the creation of its public school system. Although much of this land was quickly sold to new settlers, Wisconsin’s schoolchildren still enjoy its dividends today.

Read more »

Print Friendly



Sessions on politics and character wrap-up a big year for policy programs

Posted by:
Category: Education & Law, Political Processes & Rhetoric, Public, Speakers at Marquette
Leave a Comment »

A central goal of the public policy initiative at Marquette University Law School has been to provide and encourage serious, level-headed, and provocative consideration of major issues. As we come to the end of 2012, it doesn’t seem presumptuous to say that this has been a very successful year in pursuing that goal.

The Marquette Law School Poll provided insightful, in-depth, and accurate readings on public opinion in Wisconsin throughout a historic year of election after election. The candidates for governor and senator held debates in Eckstein Hall that were televised live across Wisconsin. “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” offered a rich series of programs, free and open to the public, in which newsmakers and consequential figures shared their thoughts. Academic conferences, major lectures, conferences on mental health law and Milwaukee’s future in the Chicago “megacity,” the annual Restorative Justice Initiative conference on civility in public discussion, and two education policy events were all components of a year of thoughtful forays into major issues.

Let us end the year with some highlights of the last two major public policy events of 2012 which we have not reported on this blog previously:

Wisconsin 2012: The voters have spoken. What did they tell us?

December 6, the Appellate Courtroom, Eckstein Hall

To wrap-up an epic year in Wisconsin politics, an array of experts gathered to talk about what happened, with Mike Gousha, the Law School’s distinguished fellow in law and public policy, moderating.

Charles Franklin, visiting professor of law and public policy and director of the Marquette University Law School Poll, presented a county by county analysis showing dramatic differences in the voting in the June recall election for governor and the November presidential race. The map was predominantly red in June, strengthening arguments that Wisconsin was becoming a more Republican state. But in November, the map was much bluer, and many deep-red counties had turned light red. “That’s just stunning in five months to see that much difference,” Franklin said. The biggest shifts between the two elections came in counties that voted Republican each time, but with much smaller margins for presidential candidate Mitt Romney than for Gov. Scott Walker. The smaller margins amounted to a gain for President Barack Obama of 158,000 votes, Franklin said. In other words, Obama’s stronger performance in Republican areas, compared to the showing of Democrat Tom Barrett in the governor’s race, was a central aspect of Obama’s victory in Wisconsin. In counties that voted Democratic both times, Obama ran up a margin that was 135,000 votes larger than Barrett had. Read more »

Print Friendly