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Conservatively Speaking

State Senator Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) represents parts of four counties: Milwaukee, Waukesha, Racine, and Walworth. Her Senate District 28 includes New Berlin, Franklin, Greendale, Hales Corners, Muskego, Waterford, Big Bend, the town of Vernon and parts of Greenfield, East Troy, and Mukwonago. Senator Lazich has been in the Legislature for more than a decade. She considers herself a tireless crusader for lower taxes, reduced spending and smaller government.

Teacher pay tied to test scores

Traditionally, American teachers have seen their salaries rise as years of service and the number of degrees they achieve increase. School districts in eight states are trying something new: offering higher pay and bonuses in exchange for improved student test scores or if teachers opt to work in schools difficult to staff.

Doe the experiment work? USA Today reports, “In dozens of districts, test scores already have earned teachers more money. Do such plans work? A proposed realignment of pay in Washington, D.C., public schools could prove the most sweeping of all. Teachers with as few as six years of experience could earn well over $100,000 — more than twice the national average.”

Michael Podgursky, Professor of Economics at the Harry S. Truman School of Public Affairs and Economics Department at the University of Missouri–Columbia says school districts should at least consider this concept.

“We can’t say, ‘Do this; or this is the right way to do it,’” he said. “However, the preponderance of evidence, when you look at a variety of sources, including the limited number of evaluations and the evidence we have on the variation of teacher effectiveness, suggests that it really is something school districts should be exploring or piloting. Every one of the evaluations has been virtually positive. They all suggest there’s a positive response in terms of outcome measures – including test scores.”

Podgursky and Matthew Springer, Research Assistant Professor of Public Policy and Education at Peabody College of Vanderbilt University and Director of the National Center on Performance Incentives authored a study on this issue during 2007 entitled, Teacher Performance Pay: A Review. Podgursky and Springer conclude, in part:

“In the long run, a pay scheme tends to attract employees who prefer or prosper under it. While the literature is not sufficiently robust to prescribe how systems should be designed, it is sufficiently positive to suggest that further experiments and pilot programs by districts and states are very much in order.  School administrators need to channel some of these funds toward more strategic pay experiments designed to raise student achievement. Education policy makers should nurture, expand, and evaluate these local experiments.”

You can read their study here. 

I agree. This is an intriguing idea that while in need of further study is worth consideration.

Report examines spending trends on higher education



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Election gaffes are starting

I have been blogging about the various election problems to be expected around the country. H
ere are some updates:

For the second time, city of Racine election officials have had to mail out hundreds of absentee ballots to city residents. A box of absentee ballots is missing.  No one knows where the ballots are.

In Madison
, about 20 absentee ballots were sent out without the school district’s $13 million referendum question.

I suspect we will be hearing about more and more glitches between now and Election Day.

Public meetings scheduled on Zoo Interchange work

News you can use

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) is conducting undertaking an environmental and engineering analysis of the Zoo Interchange, the connection between I-94, I-894 and US 45 in western Milwaukee County near the Milwaukee County Zoo, through the end of 2009.The interchange is one of Wisconsin's oldest interstate interchanges, the busiest interchange in the state.

Refined modernization alternatives for each leg (north, south, east, west) and the core of the interchange will be presented at public meetings at the end of this month. Details are contained in the following release I received from the DOT:

Project progress

Over the past 10 years, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) and the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (SEWRPC) have completed a number of studies and analyses that consistently concluded that improvements to the Zoo Interchange are necessary. Recently WisDOT has collected and analyzed data to show current and future traffic scenarios.

Based on the initial results of the traffic analysis and the input received at the January 2008 open house workshops, the Zoo Interchange Team developed seven design concepts for public review and comments. Seven concepts, including the “no build” or “replace in kind” alternative, were presented at public information meetings in May. Nearly 500 people attended the May public information meetings and provided valuable input and ideas on the alternatives. The seven alternatives were further evaluated for traffic operations and impacts to local and environmental features.

Result: The traffic analysis concluded that spot improvements alone would not adequately address congestion and safety issues in the Zoo Interchange corridor. The spot improvement alternatives also did not address the outdated design issues including left hand exit and entrance ramps. At the conclusion of this analysis, and based on comments received from the public, the Zoo Interchange Team determined that the “spot improvement alternatives” would be screened out from further study and the modernization alternatives” should be analyzed further. The “modernization” alternatives feature a multi-level system interchange with right side exits and entrances. This design reduces weaving maneuvers and provides safer operations.

Alternatives to be presented at the October public meetings

The study team will present alternatives for each leg (north, south, east, west) of the project. The alternatives for each leg can be mixed and matched with alternatives of similar lane-width to fit the preferences and needs of the community. The alternatives presented will include the “replace-in-kind” alternative.

The maps and displays will show increased detail of where the new right-of-way lines may be located. Also, there will be artistic drawings to show how the freeway may look, and an electronic “fly over” to illustrate how traffic will flow with the different interchange designs.

What happens next

• October 2008 - The design concepts will be refined and presented in more detail at public information meetings.
• October 27, 2pm-7pm, Tommy Thompson Youth Center at State Fair Park
• October 30, 4pm-8pm, Wauwatosa West High School Cafeteria

• 2009 - A preferred design will be selected, and hearings will be held on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement
• 2009-2010 - Record of decision from the Federal Highway Administration; ongoing analysis and design
• 2010-2012 - Ongoing design and begin to address real estate and utility issues
• 2012-2016 - Reconstruct the interchange

Questions or comments? Please call our project hotline at 262-548-6421.

Congratulations Franklin and Northwestern Mutual Life!

Today marks the exciting ribbon-cutting ceremony at Northwestern Mutual Life’s expansion project at its corporate campus in Franklin. The $85 million, six-story expansion at the 230,000-square-foot facility will have the space to add 1,100 employees.

The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company (NML) is one of the most prestigious and successful firms in all of Wisconsin, in business for more than 150 years. A solid company with over $1 trillion of life insurance, NML can boast having the highest available ratings for insurance strength from all four major rating agencies: Standard & Poor's, Fitch Ratings, A.M. Best and Moody’s.

FORTUNE Magazine has recognized the strength and stability of NML, designating it “America’s Most Admired” company in the life/health insurance industry for 25 years. NML has been included in the FORTUNE survey of top industry professionals and analysts every year, and is the only company to lead its industry every year of the survey.

Franklin is an ideal location for NML to expand. Despite a rough economy, Franklin continues to beat the odds through prosperity and growth. I appreciate representing Franklin in state Senate District 28 and I congratulate NML and city of Franklin officials for this marvelous achievement.

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