Obama’s Applause Lines on Education

Posted on Categories Education & Law, President & Executive BranchLeave a comment» on Obama’s Applause Lines on Education

teacherPresident Barack Obama’s 35-minute speech on education at Wright Middle School in Madison on Wednesday was interrupted by applause at many points, but most of the reaction was pretty low-key. Three lines drew what seemed to be more enthusiastic responses from the crowd of more than 500, most of them teachers, parents, and students at the 250-student school. Each of those lines says something significant about public sentiment and Obama administration priorities on education issues.

One: Obama said, “I’ve got to be honest, we’ve got to do a better job of moving bad teachers out of the classroom, once they’ve been given an opportunity to do it right.” His calls for recruiting higher-quality teachers and rewarding top teachers better didn’t get applause, but this line did. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a telephone interview after the speech that this didn’t surprise him — it happens wherever the president speaks about education, he said. Raising the quality of teachers, in large part by doing more to identify quality teachers (and those who aren’t) is one of the highest, but most difficult, priorities for Obama and Duncan. And moving out the ones who really aren’t good at it is especially difficult, particularly given the defensiveness of teachers’ unions when such issues come up.

Two: His call for overhauling the way testing is done nationwide.  Continue reading “Obama’s Applause Lines on Education”

Will State Education Reforms Get a Boost from Obama?

Posted on Categories Education & Law, Milwaukee1 Comment on Will State Education Reforms Get a Boost from Obama?

When, if ever, has a president of the United States inserted himself as directly into a legislative issue in Wisconsin as President Barack Obama is doing by visiting Madison on Wednesday? Obama’s visit to a middle school a couple miles from the State Capitol will focus on education – and it comes as Gov. Jim Doyle and others are ramping up their push for a series of educational reforms, including giving much of the power over Milwaukee Public Schools to Milwaukee’s mayor.

Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who will be with him, are firm supporters of many of the ideas being incorporated into the legislative package. Wisconsin clearly has to make changes such as these if it wants a decent chance at a share of the $5 billion in the Race to the Top money and other incentive funds Obama and Duncan will distribute over the next couple years.

It appears highly likely a special session of the Legislature will be called in November to consider the education proposals. The outcome is not clear. Continue reading “Will State Education Reforms Get a Boost from Obama?”

Mayoral Control: Second Thoughts? Third Thoughts?

Posted on Categories Education & Law, Milwaukee2 Comments on Mayoral Control: Second Thoughts? Third Thoughts?

hamletAt the Marquette Educator, Dean Bill Henk has an interesting new post on the proposed mayoral takeover of Milwaukee Public Schools.  Bill chronicles Mayor Barrett’s hesitant, on-again-off-again embrace of the proposed takeover.  Contrary to the conventional wisdom that politicians always want more power, Barrett is displaying a marked lack of enthusiasm for taking on responsibility for the schools.  Does this have any implications for the wisdom of a takeover? 

On the one hand, given both the importance and the difficulty of turning MPS around, it would be nice to see more passion, more vision, and more tenacity from the person who proposes to lead the effort.  On the other hand — well, I am reminded of Woody Allen’s old quip that he would never want to belong to a club that would have him.  We might rightly suspect that any politician who wants responsibility for MPS does not really understand the magnitude of system’s difficulties.  Perhaps the Mayor’s reservations are evidence of the sort of good judgment that will be necessary for MPS’s next leader.

SAT Scores and Affirmative Action

Posted on Categories Education & Law, Higher Education, Race & LawLeave a comment» on SAT Scores and Affirmative Action

sunsetIn her majority opinion in the landmark civil rights case Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306, 342-44 (2003), Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote:

Enshrining a permanent justification for racial preferences would offend this fundamental equal protection principle. We see no reason to exempt race-conscious admissions programs from the requirement that all governmental use of race must have a logical end point. . . . From today’s vantage point, one may hope, but not firmly forecast, that over the next generation’s span, progress toward nondiscrimination and genuinely equal opportunity will make it safe to sunset affirmative action.

Although O’Connor and her colleagues upheld the constitutionality of the University of Michigan Law School’s affirmative action program at issue in Grutter, her opinion reflected a belief that affirmative action programs would draw to a close at some future point.

Data released by the College Board, the organization that administers the SAT exam, at the end of August suggests, however, that the end date for affirmative action is probably still a long way off.

Once again, Non-Hispanic whites and Asians scored significantly higher on the SAT than African-Americans and Hispanics, and the pattern of scores provides no evidence that the gap is closing.  Over 1.5 million college-bound seniors took the test, the largest number in history.

The SAT now consists of three sections — writing, critical reading, and mathematics — each of which is scored on a scale that ranges from 200 to 800.  Since April 1995, the targeted median score on each test has been 500 (rather than 450 as it was before).  Consequently, the range of combined scores is 600 to 2400, with an “average” score being 1500.  The actual average for the 2008-09 academic year was 1504, essentially the same as it was the previous year.

For the test as a whole, Asian students scored 1633 compared to 1581 for non-Hispanic whites, with most of the disparity resulting from a significantly higher mathematics score.  Other groups did not do nearly as well.  The scores of Native Americans and Eskimos averaged 1448; Hispanics, 1364; and African-Americans, only 1273.  Males of all races, who counted for only 46.5 percent of test takers, outscored females, 1523 to 1496.

Much of the discrepancy in racial performance is due to socio-economic factors that adversely affect black and Hispanic adolescents.  Low family incomes, single-parent homes, low levels of education in the family, and the lack of role models who have achieved academic success all contribute to poor test performance. For example, students of all races with family incomes of $200,000 or more averaged 1702 on the SAT; those with family incomes of below $20,000 scored 1321.  Students whose parents had at least one graduate degree averaged 1683; those who parents had not finished high school scored only 1281.

With this kind of disparity in SAT scores, only affirmative action programs can guarantee that African-Americans and Hispanics will be proportionally represented at America’s more selective colleges and universities.  Although we may reach Justice O’Connor’s sunset at some point, right now we are clearly still in the middle of the day.

Welcome to the Blogosphere, Marquette Educator

Posted on Categories Education & Law, MilwaukeeLeave a comment» on Welcome to the Blogosphere, Marquette Educator

henkI’ve been enjoying a new blog written by Dean Bill Henk of Marquette’s College of Education.  Among other things, “Marquette Educator” has been covering the lively ongoing debates over the future of Milwaukee Public Schools, including the recent push to transfer control over the school district to the Mayor.  As our own Dean Kearney recently observed in this Blog, the Law School is also trying to play a constructive role in the public conversation over the future of MPS, for instance, through the recent appointment of Michael J. Spector as Boden Visiting Professor of Law.  Dean Henk has been part of this public conversation for some time, and I look forward to reading his on-line reactions to new developments over the coming months, which may be a period of dramatic change for the school district.

Term Begins, Spector Appointed

Posted on Categories Education & Law, Marquette Law School, MilwaukeeLeave a comment» on Term Begins, Spector Appointed

Michael J. SpectorThe Law School began its fall semester today, having welcomed through orientation the past two days both full-time (185) and part-time (34) students embarking upon their legal education. We welcomed—and welcome—as well a handful of transfer students. My beginning-of-semester letter to the community, with some information, I believe, of general interest about the Law School, is available here. Of course, in addition to our central function of helping students form themselves into Marquette lawyers, the Law School does a number of other things, in terms of both faculty scholarship and public service. In that latter regard, we have announced the appointment of Michael J. Spector as Boden Visiting Professor of Law for the next year or so, with a particular portfolio to lead the Law School in seeking to advance public-policy discussion concerning the future of the Milwaukee Public Schools (their governance, educational practices, and other matters). We have already done some related work over the past year, through the work of Mike Gousha, Distinguished Fellow in Law and Public Policy: for example, the televised discussion last spring concerning the governance of MPS, the debate between candidates for the superintendent of the Department of Public Instruction, and a discussion with Howard Fuller about the future of voucher schools. But I believe that there are ways in which the Law School can—consistently with our status as an educational institution that does not itself take positions on these sorts of issues—make a further meaningful contribution to advancing public-policy discussions concerning MPS. Mike Spector is unusually well-situated to lead this effort, with Mr. Gousha, other interested members of the Law School community, and the broader public. A noted education-law attorney and adjunct law professor, retired managing partner of Quarles & Brady LLP, and vice-president of the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents, Mr. Spector has begun to map out how the Law School can advance the public’s understanding of and participation in the many issues facing MPS. More information can be found in this press release. I am very grateful to Mike Spector for his commitment to the future of this region and to Marquette University Law School’s important role in helping to secure and shape that future.

Diploma-Privilege Case Continues

Posted on Categories Education & Law, Legal Education15 Comments on Diploma-Privilege Case Continues

The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has handed down an opinion in Wiesmueller v. Kosobucki, No. 08-2527, a class action challenging—under the federal Constitution’s “dormant commerce clause”—the diploma privilege.  The diploma privilege, of course, is the Wisconsin Supreme Court rule that permits law graduates of Marquette University and the University of Wisconsin to be admitted to the practice of law in Wisconsin (without, for example, having to take a bar exam).  The Seventh Circuit reversed the district court’s dismissal of the case, not because it concluded that the diploma privilege is unconstitutional but because the plaintiffs should have an opportunity to submit evidence on the matter.  The court stated that “Marquette and Madison are law schools of national stature, and we can hardly infer without any evidence that they concentrate on educating their students in the law of the state that these law schools happen to be located in . . . .”  Slip op. at 11.  So it remanded (stressing that “[w]e intimate no view on the ultimate outcome”).  Id. at 15.

The court said much else of note.  This includes that the diploma privilege “has only indirect effects on interstate commerce and regulates evenhandedly” and that “the regulation must be at least minimally reasonable.”  Id. at 8 (internal quotation marks omitted).  On the latter point, the court noted as follows: “We emphasize ‘minimally.’  The judiciary lacks the time and the knowledge to be able to strike a fine balance between the burden that a particular state regulation lays on interstate commerce and the benefit of that regulation to the state’s legitimate interests.”  Id.  (I cannot resist adding that the court allowed that “[t]he two law schools in Wisconsin are very fine law schools, doubtless among the nation’s best . . . .“  Id. at 13-14.)  The problem, according to the court, is that “we find ourselves in an evidentiary vacuum created by the early termination of the case by the grant of a motion to dismiss.”  Id. at 8-9.

While Marquette is not a party to this case (the defendants are the members of the Wisconsin Supreme Court and its Board of Bar Examiners), I expect that on remand (and any subsequent appeal) the diploma privilege will pass constitutional muster.  This is the beginning of my seventh year as dean and thirteenth as a member of the faculty at Marquette; throughout this time Marquette Law School has sought to ensure—because of the diploma privilege—that our students are especially introduced to the law and legal profession of Wisconsin.  Certainly I expect that it is not the case (to quote a “supposition” posed by the Seventh Circuit) “that Wisconsin law is no greater part of the curriculum of the Marquette and Madison law schools than it is of the law schools of Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Virginia, the University of Texas, Notre Dame, the University of Chicago, the University of Oklahoma, and the University of Northern Illinois.”  Id. at 9.  Indeed, I know it not to be the case at Marquette, and I expect that a similar thing is true at the University of Wisconsin.  To be sure, it will take a while to demonstrate all this through the litigation system, but Marquette will provide the Attorney General’s office any support that it requires in marshaling evidence.

What Is So Special (to Me) About Intellectual Property?

Posted on Categories Education & Law, Intellectual Property LawLeave a comment» on What Is So Special (to Me) About Intellectual Property?

gone-with-the-wind-11Last week I announced a future post about “why I like IP” and what brought me to specialize in this area. First, as with many-and often the most successful-things in life, IP more or less happened to me. I graduated from the University of Bologna Law School with a thesis (very much like a master’s thesis) in Antitrust Law. During my time at Berkeley and while attending my Doctorate Program I still worked on Advertising and Antitrust Law, increasingly, however, focusing on the relationship between Antitrust and Intellectual Property. As I mentioned before, my mentor and guide of my whole career, professor Vito Mangini, played a vital role in “pushing” me further and further into the IP world. In fact, IP in general, and trademarks in particular, became my main focus of both writing and practicing when, following the suggestion of my professor (who also found scholarships to support my stay and study) I moved to London to attend the Queen Mary and Westfield College and the London School of Economics. Since then, my love for IP has just grown, and I have never thought of a better field of law in which to practice, teach, and write. Continue reading “What Is So Special (to Me) About Intellectual Property?”

MULS 2009 Works-In-Progress Workshop (June Session)

Posted on Categories Corporate Law, Criminal Law & Process, Education & Law, Health Care, Human Rights, Intellectual Property Law, International Law & Diplomacy, Judges & Judicial Process, Legal Education, Legal Practice, Legal Scholarship, Wisconsin Law & Legal SystemLeave a comment» on MULS 2009 Works-In-Progress Workshop (June Session)

champTo open my month as faculty blogger, I would first like to thank my colleague Michael O’Hear, whose dedication to, and work for, the Marquette Faculty Blog since its creation last summer have been incredible.  This is very much one of the major reasons why this project has been so successful and brought so many wonderful contributions to so many aspects of the law so far.

Another fundamental area where the Marquette Law School faculty is also showing important contributions to the law is the production of scholarship that results in law review articles, book chapters, textbooks, etc.  We often present and discuss these works when they are still in progress in conferences around the country with our colleagues in our areas at other schools.  Still, to facilitate even further these very important discussions, the MULS Academic Programs Committee, led by Professor Chad Oldfather, has organized two sessions of an in-house Works-in-Progress Workshop for June and July.

The June session was a great success. A group of eight of us met this past Wednesday and presented our works-in-progress, from very rough to more completed drafts of scholarship, to our colleagues participating in the program.  Continue reading “MULS 2009 Works-In-Progress Workshop (June Session)”

Is Governance Reform in the Future for Milwaukee Public Schools?

Posted on Categories Education & Law, Milwaukee, Speakers at Marquette4 Comments on Is Governance Reform in the Future for Milwaukee Public Schools?

There is growing consensus that the Milwaukee Public Schools are at a critical moment in their history.  Faced with daunting fiscal challenges last year, some school board members talked openly about dissolving the district, only to later amend their comments.  It was a symbolic protest, they said, an attempt to draw attention to the district’s dismal financial outlook.  But the horse was out of the barn. The board’s “dissolution discussion” opened the door to new debate about MPS’s future.  An independent review of the district’s fiscal situation, paid for by local foundations, was commissioned and should be made public soon.  Once that happens, Governor Doyle is expected to weigh in on the district’s future course.  What that path will be is still uncertain, but last week, we had a fascinating discussion here at the Law School about the possibility of changing the way MPS is governed.

The event was co-sponsored by the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, and came on the heels of a study that examined five other districts that had changed their governance.  The study was funded by the GMF and conducted by the Public Policy Forum.  We’ve posted a transcript of the event, which featured MPS Superintendent Bill Andrekopoulos, former Superintendent and Distinguished Professor of Education at Marquette University Howard Fuller, Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce President Tim Sheehy, Milwaukee School Board Director Jennifer Morales, State Representative Polly Williams, Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association President Dennis Oulahan, and Milwaukee Common Council President Willie Hines.

You can always listen to the webcast of our event, but the evening had a revealing dynamic to it that makes for equally interesting reading. Continue reading “Is Governance Reform in the Future for Milwaukee Public Schools?”

Bad Idea Jeans – Take Three

Posted on Categories Computer Law, Education & Law, Labor & Employment Law6 Comments on Bad Idea Jeans – Take Three

I am not making this up – and from our state to boot.  The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is reporting:

A Beaver Dam Middle School teacher is on administrative leave after school officials discovered a photo of her with a gun on Facebook.

In the photo, Betsy Ramsdale was training a rifle at the camera.

In an e-mail to WKOW-TV in Madison, Ramsdale said she removed the photo immediately and that she is not “interested in any controversy.”

Schools superintendent Donald Childs says a concerned staff member brought the photo to the district’s attention.

Childs says the use of the photo “appears to be poor judgment” and is unaware of any sinister intent.

So here’s the question to you, my mere blogsters, would  you fire this teacher or give her a second chance?  Is your reason a legal one, policy one, or moral (this story combines two of my great loves – employment law and education law).

Also, just another story about the increasing role Facebook is playing in the lives of people of all ages.

Supreme Court Provides for Civil Rights Claim in Peer Sexual Harassment Case

Posted on Categories Education & Law, U.S. Supreme CourtLeave a comment» on Supreme Court Provides for Civil Rights Claim in Peer Sexual Harassment Case

In somewhat of a shocking fashion, the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday ruled to permit victims of peer sexual harassment in the educational context to pursue civil rights claims against schools and school officials under Section 1983, even if they have separate viable claims under Title IX.  The decision was unanimous, with Justice Alito writing for the Court.

The case of Fitzgerald v. Barnstable School Committee grows out of allegations that “paint a grotesque picture of peer-on-peer sexual harassment at the elementary school level.” The case involves these facts:

On the morning of February 14, 2001, Jacqueline Fitzgerald, a kindergarten student, informed her parents, Lisa Ryan and Robert Fitzgerald, that each time she wore a dress to school — typically, two to three times a week — an older student [third-grader] on her school bus would bully her into lifting her skirt . . . . in addition to pressing her to lift her dress, [the 3rd- grader] had bullied her into pulling down her underpants and spreading her legs . . . .

[T]he police department ultimately decided that there was insufficient evidence to proceed criminally against [the 3rd-grader].  Relying in part on this decision and in part on the results of the school’s own investigation, [the school district official] reached a similar conclusion as to disciplinary measures.

Continue reading “Supreme Court Provides for Civil Rights Claim in Peer Sexual Harassment Case”