Will Three- and Four-Year-Olds Keep Free Busing to Kindergarten?

Posted on Categories Education & Law, Milwaukee Public Schools, PublicLeave a comment» on Will Three- and Four-Year-Olds Keep Free Busing to Kindergarten?

Carrying broad and deep cuts, including almost 1,000 fewer employees, the budget proposed for Milwaukee Public Schools for next year has left at least one member of the School Board, Annie Woodward, suggesting that the board should just refuse to pass the budget. It may seem tempting to other members, but the board is nonetheless on track to approve a budget soon.

Amid all the cuts, one proposal that has attracted particularly strong opposition in public hearings: Eliminating free busing for three- and four-year-old kindergartners. Representatives of Montessori schools and the Starms Early Childhood Center have passionately argued for the importance of starting children in their programs at early ages. Busing is critical to getting the young children to school, they argue. School administrators estimate that there will be more than 2,700 three- and –four-year-olds bused next year, based on current practices.  

Board members are clearly sympathetic to keeping the busing. Two amendments to restore it will be considered at a meeting tonight. There’s one major problem: Neither of the proposals specifies where to come up with the almost $2 million to cover the tab for the young kids. The budget already calls for spending the most MPS can spend legally.

Official information on a proposed budget amendment from board members Terry Falk and Peter Blewett simply says, “$1,942,569 needs to be identified to fund this amendment.” An amendment proposed  by board member Larry Miller favors charging families for the busing, unless the children qualify for free or reduced price lunch. The proposal does not estimate how that might work and, as MPS budgeters said in their comments, “Further investigation is needed on legality of charging for transportation.”  

Overall, MPS has been trying for years to cut the amount it spends on busing. The figure hung around $60 million for quite a while, but has been dropping. For 2009-10, it was $56.8 million. The budget for this school year is $55.1 million. Including eliminating the three- and four-year-olds from busing, the proposed amount for next year is $51.3 million. That’s a little under 5% of the total MPS budget.

National Momentum for School Vouchers

Posted on Categories Education & Law, Milwaukee Public Schools, Public2 Comments on National Momentum for School Vouchers

A couple years ago, I would have said that the growth prospects for school voucher plans were not  good. Proposals to allow students to attend private and religious schools using public money had died in several states, court rulings had not been favorable in places such as Florida where there were strongly worded constitutional bans (“Blaine amendments”) on giving public money to religious schools, research on student achievement in Milwaukee, the nation’s main show case of voucher use, had shown nothing impressive, and  Congress had pulled the plug on a voucher program in Washington, D.C.

The landscape is much different now, thanks primarily to the 2010 elections and the wave of Republican victories.

There’s legislative action on multiple fronts in Wisconsin. Bills to lift the enrollment cap on Milwaukee’s voucher program and to allow suburban schools to accept city of Milwaukee voucher students are moving ahead. A proposal to phase out the family income limits for voucher recipients has brought  controversy and seems likely to morph into raising, but not eliminating, the income standard. And this week, Gov. Scott Walker said he supports expanding the program to include Racine, Beloit, and Green Bay.

It is useful to put the local developments in national context. Here are three examples of what’s going on:

Continue reading “National Momentum for School Vouchers”

Tierney to Deliver Memorial Address

Posted on Categories Legal Practice, Marquette Law School History, Milwaukee, PublicLeave a comment» on Tierney to Deliver Memorial Address

Milwaukee Bar AssociationI hope that many folks reading this post will elect to attend the Milwaukee Bar Association’s annual Memorial Service: it will be held this Friday, May 6, at 10:45 a.m., in the Ceremonial Courtroom (Room 500) of the Milwaukee County Courthouse. It is an event that a number of us have come rarely to miss—largely because we enjoy it, as I explained in a 2009 blog post noting the remembrance by Tom Cannon of his father, Judge Robert C. Cannon, L’41, and in a post last year anticipating Mike Brennan’s remembrance of his own father, James P. Brennan, L’60. The Memorial Service is an opportunity to remember attorneys who died with the past year, after serving the profession and thus the larger society: some names and careers will be familiar to a particular attendee, whereas others will be unknown to him or her—but in this context the latter are not much less meaningful. I see that this year’s Memorial Address will be delivered by Joseph E. Tierney, III, L’66. That is certainly a longstanding name in this region’s legal profession, as discussed previously in posts on this blog, including Gordon Hylton’s description of the legal education of the first Joseph E. Tierney, L’11 (that’s 1911), and my own account of Joe III’s remarks, at a law school event, concerning his late mother and father, Bernice Young Tierney and Joseph E. Tierney, Jr., L’41. I much look forward to Mr. Tierney’s remarks (no doubt remembering among others his late partner, Paul Meissner, who died within the past year) and to the rest of the special session of court, which is the form that the Memorial Service takes.

Investiture of Hon. James A. Wynn, Jr.

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Hon. James A. Wynn, Jr.

It was my great pleasure to attend the investiture of Jim Wynn (L’79) as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. The ceremony at the federal courthouse in Raleigh, North Carolina, drew an enormous crowd, well into the hundreds, requiring that the large majority of those in attendance view the event in various courtrooms in the building through a video feed.

It was no great surprise that Judge Wynn was nominated and confirmed as a judge of the United States Court of Appeals. He had distinguished himself as an undergraduate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, as a law student at Marquette (during my days as assistant dean), as an officer in the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps, as a lawyer in private practice, as a leader of the American Bar Association and the Uniform Law Commission, and as an appellate judge on the North Carolina Court of Appeals and North Carolina Supreme Court. Not a bad record for a fellow who grew up in a small farming community in the Coastal Plains region of North Carolina.

Judge Wynn was characteristically gracious to those of us from Marquette who were present. Dean Joseph Kearney was included among the speakers, and not only were his warm congratulations and greetings from Marquette well received, but his punch lines got especially good laughs. (Example:  “But I am presumptuous enough to bring greetings from the past. For I have brought Judge Wynn’s student file with me—I would say that I do this by the power vested in me as dean, but I may be about to violate the FERPA law concerning educational privacy.”)

Seventh Circuit Judge Diane Sykes (L’84) was seated at the front of the courtroom, just in front of the presiding Fourth Circuit bench, every one of whose members was present for Judge Wynn’s investiture—the first time in anyone’s memory that there was a full turnout of the court for such an event. Judge Wynn’s classmates Joseph Yana, John Rothstein, and Dan Dennehy also had prime seats in the ceremonial courtroom, as did I, rubbing shoulders with the Wynn family and with leaders of the North Carolina bench and bar. Marquette trustee Chuck Svoboda, himself a North Carolinian, was also in attendance, as were Reuben Daniels (L’78) and Florence Johnson Raines (L’91).

It is always a pleasure and satisfaction to see a Marquette lawyer achieve impressive professional goals. The pleasure is especially great in the case of Jim Wynn, for the qualities of excellence, faith, leadership, and service etched into the hearth in the Aitken Reading Room are so clearly etched into Jim’s character as well.

Please Stop

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I recently jested that I would spend some blog time on fashion. Then, on Thursday, the fates decided to jest with me a tad. My hospital has a large summer program for local high school students. The students will basically be assigned a mentor and spend the summer learning from the mentor and going to job-related training sessions. Very internship-y.

Anywho, I got wrangled into providing the “Dress For Success” session. Stop laughing, Jake. It’s in July so I have a while to figure out what I am going to say. However, one thing keeps coming to mind. One “rule” to provide to a future job seeking male. And a way to stymie a growing pet peeve.

Ties = Accent pieces. Dudes, they are not, NOT meant to blend into your shirt like some silken chameleon. ACCENT.  Continue reading “Please Stop”

Restorative Justice Conference: Keeping the Victims Foremost

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The eight-year-old who wasn’t there: That was one of the most important people involved in last week’s impressive two-day conference at Eckstein Hall on dealing with clergy sex abuse scandals.

The Archbishop of Dublin, Ireland, the Most Reverend Diarmuid Martin, brought the eight-year-old into the conference.

Of course, no children were literally present. But Archbishop Martin, who has attracted substantial international attention for his strong stands in the aftermath of large-scale scandals in Dublin, recounted how he had a bit of time before a program at a school he was visiting. The principal asked if there was anything he wanted to see. He said he wanted to visit a class of eight-year-olds.

The reason, he said, was that he wanted to look at their faces and underscore in his own mind their images. When people deal with issues related to the scandals, they tend to see the victims as the adults they are when what happened to them comes to light, the archbishop said. He said, “It is important to see the face of eight-year-old.”

When dealing with the issue of sex abuse, it is the images of the victims, both as children and adults, that should come to mind first, not the images of clergy members or the situation of the church overall, Martin said.

That was one of the key messages of the conference, “Harm, Hope, and Healing: International Dialogue on the Clergy Sex Scandal.” The sessions, the Law School’s annual Restorative Justice Initiative conference for this year, brought together experts from around the world and attracted wide attention, particularly in the Catholic press.

Continue reading “Restorative Justice Conference: Keeping the Victims Foremost”

Another Law Gone Wrong

Posted on Categories Constitutional Interpretation, Public2 Comments on Another Law Gone Wrong

I’m not sure if this meets the precise definition of a “law gone wrong,” but in my home state of Virginia it is illegal “to hunt or kill any wild bird or wild animal, including any nuisance species, with a gun, firearm or other weapon on Sunday, which is hereby declared a rest day for all species of wild bird and wild animal life.”

Although I was born into a family of church-going hunters, I was always more sympathetic to the church part than to the hunting part.  Consequently, I have no problem whatsoever with Sunday, or any other day for that matter, being declared a day of rest for wild animals (or at least a day on which they cannot be killed).

What I find peculiar (and wrong) is the statute’s one exception:  day of rest notwithstanding, raccoons can be hunted and killed in Virginia on Sundays, so long as the hunting is done between midnight and 2:00 a.m.  (I am not making this up.  If you doubt this, check out Va. Code § 29.1-521(A)(1).)

Because of their semi-domesticated qualities, especially when young, raccoons have always been my favorite wild animals.  But even without this affection, I would like to think that I would find it unfair, and  maybe even unconstitutional in some sublime sense, that one species of woodland animal would be deprived of 1/12 of its statutory day of rest.

Can such a classification purport to have a rational basis?  After Romer v. Evans and United States v. Virginia, I think not.


Nathan Fishbach Honored—and the Law School, Too

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Nathan Fishbach Nathan Fishbach, shareholder at Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek, received the Eastern District of Wisconsin Bar Association’s Judge Myron L. Gordon Lifetime Achievement Award today. That itself might be worth recording in these annals (cf. Prof. Jessica Slavin’s blog post from two years ago concerning awards by the EDWBA to Michael O’Hear and Tom Shriner). For Nathan has been a member of our Advisory Board and otherwise a great friend of the Law School.

But permit me to note that the Law School was allowed to share in the honor in an important (and lasting) sense. For Nathan’s firm, Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek, announced today that it will use the occasion of Nathan’s award to honor him by creating the Nathan Fishbach Student Development Fund at Marquette Law School. My role in this is small (being on the receiving end of a gift or saying “thank you, yes” is easy), but I wish to elaborate on this matter a bit.

Nathan is a highly skilled attorney, with extensive litigation experience on behalf of—and thus demands on his time from—the federal government, commercial interests, and private individuals. Yet even in the press of business, he has struck me with his interest and investment in the future of the profession. An important example of this was his work a decade ago in the founding of the Eastern District of the Wisconsin Bar Association.

Along these same lines, his interest in Marquette Law School has been especially outstanding. A graduate of Villanova Law School, Nathan has been a great champion of our students, speaking to classes, mentoring them individually, and taking the interest—and time—to work with them on their career development.

The Fishbach Fund, created at the Law School by Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek, will support our bringing in speakers, from Wisconsin and across the country (indeed, the world), whose experiences and counsel will help future law students gain a greater sense of the profession into which they are entering. It will also provide for programs, workshops, or other opportunities designed to promote a greater integration between Marquette law students and the profession. That we have been historically good at such integration means that this sort of gift should help us reach for greatness.

Thank you to Nathan for being an engaged exemplar over the years, and to the attorneys of Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek for their selecting Marquette Law School as the place to perpetuate Nathan’s honor.

Israel Reflections: Dinner with the Baraks

Posted on Categories International Law & Diplomacy, Marquette Law School, Mediation, PublicLeave a comment» on Israel Reflections: Dinner with the Baraks

As followers of the blog know, one of the high points of our trip to Israel was dinner with Justice Aharon Barak and his wife Judge Elika Barak.  We were also joined by their daughter, Tamar, who is a mediator.  Interestingly from the dispute resolution perspective, Justice Barak was the judge who brought mediation to Israel through the Supreme Court, permitting cases to be referred to mediation.  In this post, student Olga Kordonskaya reflects on the evening:

The Baraks were open and willing to discuss various topics, including dispute resolution and their professions. Justice Barak spoke about criticisms made of him and discussed them in various contexts to help us understand what role he saw for himself in the judiciary. Justice Barak, who brought mediation to Israel, shared his opinions on mediation and its role in Israel and as a vehicle of dispute resolution. Judge Barak, with a different perspective as a labor judge, discussed the role of mediation in the labor courts, as well as her experience as a judge there and the challenges that the labor courts face.

Continue reading “Israel Reflections: Dinner with the Baraks”

Jenkins Competitors Advance to Finals

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Congratulations to the students who advanced to the Final Round of the Jenkins Honors Moot Court Competition:

Susan Barranco and Kyle Mayo

Matthew Hall and Nicholas Zepnick

All the teams did a spectacular job in the Semifinal Round tonight.  The Final Round will be held this Wednesday, April 6 at 6:00 p.m. in the Appellate Courtroom at the Law School.  A reception will follow.  Please rsvp online on the Law School’s website.