The Future of Family Law?

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A good family-law attorney approaches a divorce case with rigorous attention to detail, a strong understanding of finance and property issues, and a readiness to deal with quick changes in circumstances. Who could disagree with that?

Perhaps no one, and these matters were thus common ground in a provocative session for students this week, with presentations by Dean Joseph D. Kearney (“10 Things I Learned During My 28 Days as a Divorce Lawyer”), Milwaukee lawyer Thomas St. John ’72 (“5 Things Any Lawyer Should Know Even Before Taking the Case”), and Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Michael J. Dwyer (“3 Things a Law Student Should Know About Family Law”). But, despite a great deal of common ground, the speakers’ views did not seem entirely in accord.

The basis for the discussion was a case that the Dean handled on a pro bono basis a few years ago in Illinois for a high school classmate. The focus of the Dean and Attorney St. John was primarily on litigation points, and there were many similarities in their lists.  Continue reading “The Future of Family Law?”

Long Live Fred Rogers

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mr_rogersIt’s been seven years since Fred Rogers died, so it’s not exactly a surprise that the era of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood is waning on television. But the announcement that WMVS-TV (Channel 10) is discontinuing weekday broadcasts of “Mister Rogers”gives fresh reason to mourn his absence and praise what he did for several decades-worth of very young children. 

In 2001, Marquette University presented Mister Rogers with an honorary degree. I was a  reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel at the time and I proposed going to Pittsburgh, Mister Rogers’ long-time home and the base for his programs, to do a profile story to run in conjunction with presentation of the degree.

 I don’t claim to have been professionally neutral in approaching this. My own children had watched the show almost daily when they were pre-schoolers and, overcoming my initial adult-based reaction, I had come to think the program was a work of genius. (I bet everyone who scoffs at that is not between three and five years old.)

If you looked at the show through a child’s eyes, it had very substantial content – over time, Mr. Rogers dealt with issues such as divorce, death, fear, loss, and a wide array of relationship matters. Sometimes very directly (“It’s such a good feeling to know you’re alive” or “People like you just the way you are”) and sometimes through the context of what he did (the gentleness, the way his fantasy characters treated each other, good and bad), his character education messages were healthy, well developed, and (I hope) formative to millions of children. Continue reading “Long Live Fred Rogers”

Vincent Lyles: Taking the Positive Approach

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“It can be done” – Vincent Lyles says that’s a lesson that successful economic development in Indianapolis can teach other urban centers around the country.

That phrase also sums up Lyles’ attitude about the work he does as president of M&I Community Development Corporation — and, in many ways, it summarizes Lyles’ personality.

Describing his work Wednesday at an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” session at the Law School, Lyles said, “Part of our expectation in life is that tomorrow is going to be better, so let’s keep working.”

The community development arm of M&I Bank has a portfolio of about $100 million in investments in low- and middle-income communities, Lyles said, and makes about $15 to $20 million a year in new investments. “That’s not a big number, but it’s not a small number, either,” he said.

It is not a charity effort.  Continue reading “Vincent Lyles: Taking the Positive Approach”

Asking the Right Questions About Justifying War

Posted on Categories Human Rights, International Law & Diplomacy, Religion & Law, Speakers at Marquette2 Comments on Asking the Right Questions About Justifying War

If you think of “just war” theory as something associated with pacifism or as a path for justifying not using military tactics in many world situations, you’re looking at the subject from the wrong perspective, Catholic commentator George Weigel said Tuesday in a talk at Marquette Law School.

You’re looking at it the way President Barack Obama does – which is “almost entirely inside out and upside down,” Weigel said in a lecture sponsored by the student chapters of the Federalist Society and St. Thomas More Society.

Weigel, a distinguished senior fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C., is author of a widely read biography of Pope John Paul II and other books and a commentator on NBC on Catholic news.

He gave Obama credit for using Nobel Peace Prize speech recently to discuss the need to go to war against evil that exists in the world, but he said the underpinning of Obama’s justification of war was built too heavily on factors that were of lower priority than the main pillars of the subject in thought going back to St. Augustine.  Continue reading “Asking the Right Questions About Justifying War”

One-Upping Beyonce

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BeyonceHere are a few moments of upbeat hopefulness for those (count me in) who find keeping an eye on Milwaukee’s education scene to be pretty somber going much of the time. 

There are three Hope Lutheran schools in Milwaukee, each serving low-income north side students, each part of the private-school voucher program, and each with high aims when it comes to academics and character traits. The schools have a variety of contests across the year. In the fall, they had a “Hope Idol” contest.

The winning entry was a video made by sixth-grade students from the Hope Fortis school, 3601 N. Port Washington Rd. It’s a take-off on Beyonce’s hot song and video, “Single Ladies.” This is one is called “Scholar Ladies.” The students’ effort  is picking up steam as a YouTube video — there have been more than 100,000 hits on it, it’s been featured on CNN, and the student are determined to find ways to promote it  until they get at least 1,000,000 hits.

In the students’ version, the goal is not to “put a ring on it” but to get high grades by working hard, and to keep your eye on 2016 — the year their class will graduate high school.  Continue reading “One-Upping Beyonce”

How Lonely Was that Walk?

Posted on Categories Milwaukee, Milwaukee Public Schools3 Comments on How Lonely Was that Walk?

The clock in my car said 12:34 p.m. Thursday while I waited for a car to pass before I pulled out of my parking spot on N. 53 rd St. I watched as the car turned on to W. Vliet and immediately pulled in front of the Milwaukee Public Schools central administration building. The passenger in the front seat got out and slowly walked by himself to the front door of the building.

It was Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. And he was playing out a scene in what appears to have become a lose-lose political situation for him.  

The bid by Governor Jim Doyle, Barrett, and others to overhaul governance of MPS, giving the mayor dominant power over the school system, is on life support, at best. The effort is deadlocked in the Legislature. It appears to be decidedly on the unpopular end of sentiment in Milwaukee, especially among African Americans. And several days of pretty intense efforts to reach some form of compromise with backers of a less-extensive plan to shift power in MPS pretty much blew up on Wednesday.  The two sides simply and apparently irresolveably disagree on how much power a mayor should have over MPS.  Continue reading “How Lonely Was that Walk?”

The Sound and the Fury and Yadayadayada

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I regard myself (seriously) as fairly naïve when it comes to making public policy. For one thing, I have this notion, often proved wildly off-base, that what goes on in the public view – a meeting, a public hearing, a judicial hearing of some kind – is where decisions are made. I’ve covered sessions such as these for newspapers since I was a teenager. And sometimes, important things do happen. But often, it’s just show time.

I’m pondering this today in the light of Monday’s public hearing by the state Senate Education Committee on proposals to change the governance structure of Milwaukee Public Schools.  It was impressive in some ways. There was a large turnout – the auditorium at the MPS central office holds 300 people and there were clearly well more than that who came and went in the course of the day-long session. There were lots of important people there, not only a large number of legislators, but Mayor Tom Barrett, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers, aldermen, School Board members, civic leaders, and activists. If you were patient (really patient, in many cases), you could get up and tell the committee members what you thought on the issue, no matter who you were or what your views – and isn’t that a great aspect of democracy?

And yet (pardon me while I sigh) — did this accomplish anything? Continue reading “The Sound and the Fury and Yadayadayada”

Political Clout and the Lack Thereof

Posted on Categories Education & Law, Milwaukee Public Schools1 Comment on Political Clout and the Lack Thereof

It’s a basic tenet of American political systems that there are checks and balances, with each branch of a government unit  operating with powers that are not controlled by other branches.

Consider what is about to unfold in the Wisconsin Legislature a particularly vivid lesson in that.

Gov. Jim Doyle has called a special session of the Legislature for Wednesday to consider two proposals, one of them dealing with control of Milwaukee Public Schools, giving almost all of that control to the mayor of Milwaukee, and one dealing with what to do about chronically low performing schools in the state, giving broad power to the state superintendent of public instruction to take control of such schools and change them.  

A month ago, President Barack Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan came to Madison to make an appearance that had a strong subtext of urging that these proposals be supported. Doyle strongly backs them, as does Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.

So you have the president, the secretary of education, the governor and the mayor of the state’s largest city, all of them Democrats, asking the Democratically-controlled Legislature to take up and approve these ideas.

And what’s most likely to happen? Nothing, at least for now. Continue reading “Political Clout and the Lack Thereof”

Learning (At Last) to Value Water

Posted on Categories Environmental Law, Speakers at MarquetteLeave a comment» on Learning (At Last) to Value Water

welIn 1774, Ben Franklin said, “When the well’s dry, we know the worth of the well.”

“He was wrong,” author Robert Glennon told an audience of about 100 Tuesday at the Alumni Memorial Union at Marquette University.  Even as  wells and water supplies move ominously closer to dry in parts of the United States, the public and many policy makers are not responding in ways that could avert major impacts, warned  Glennon, whose books include Unquenchable: America’s Water Crisis and What to Do About It, published last spring.

“We don’t value water in the United States,” Glennon told the session, part of the “On the Issues” series hosted by Mike Gousha, Marquette Law School Distinguished Fellow in Law and Public Policy.

Wisconsin is not standing at the precipice of a water crisis to the same degree as  metropolitan Atlanta and much of the western United States, but it would still be wise to undertake public education efforts here and to make more effective water use decisions, Glennon said.  Continue reading “Learning (At Last) to Value Water”

Leading More Parents to Be Teachers’ Allies

Posted on Categories Education & Law, Media & Journalism2 Comments on Leading More Parents to Be Teachers’ Allies

teacherEvery now and then someone says something that really sticks with you. About a year ago, I had a conversation with Harriet Sanford, president and CEO of the NEA Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the huge, nationwide teachers union. The foundation has made Milwaukee a major focus in recent years, giving more than $2 million to Milwaukee Public Schools, generally for developing the skills of teachers in low-performing schools.

Sanford was describing how things were going in other cities where the foundation was involved. She was enthusiastic about the impact in Seattle of a program in which teachers worked to get parents more involved in schools.  It was having documentable positive effects on how kids were doing.

I said that I thought a lot of teachers do what they can in school to meet kids’ needs, but basically throw up their hands when it comes to doing something about kids’ lives at home or motivating parents to do a better job of being allies of their children’s success in school.

Sanford said she was convinced that things could be done, that they didn’t cost a lot, and they could be as simple as having teachers pay visits to children’s homes, just to establish rapport and give some tips on what helps get a kid ready for school.

It may make me sound naive, but this really had an impact on my thinking about teacher-parent relations. I just had kind of written that off. But maybe we don’t need to despair about this, and maybe schools in Milwaukee that have been too passive about reaching out positively and firmly to parents.

All of which is to say I was very pleased to see the Journal Sentinel series this week, “Beyond the Bell: Making the Home-School Connection.” Continue reading “Leading More Parents to Be Teachers’ Allies”

MPS Politics: Visits to Two Different Decks

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Two sessions bearing on the future of Milwaukee Public Schools took place simultaneously Tuesday night, and each drew about 75 people who care about education in the city.

Beyond that, it’s hard to think of much the two events had in common. At one, pretty much everybody thought that the way MPS is run is a big part of the problem and that it is time to make major changes.  At the other, the emphasis was on forces beyond MPS that affect schools, and everyone agreed the existing governance system should be defended.  Continue reading “MPS Politics: Visits to Two Different Decks”

Another Down Year for MPS Enrollment Predicted

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The past and present foretell the future – at least that’s the case when it comes to the forecast by Milwaukee Public Schools officials for enrollment for next year.

Look for another down year for the main roster of MPS schools and for more city kids to attend school in the suburbs and charter schools not staffed by MPS teachers, Superintendent William Andrekopoulos says in a new report to the School Board.

A third of all Milwaukee children receiving publicly funded education are doing so outside of the main roster of Milwaukee Public Schools, a fact that sheds important light on the educational landscape of the city. I looked at the current figures for this year in my weekly column in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Sunday.

That figure is likely to go up a notch — maybe from 33 to 34 percent, maybe a bit higher — next year.  Continue reading “Another Down Year for MPS Enrollment Predicted”