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.

Reminder: Today is deadline to apply for flood assistance

If you want to apply to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for assistance for damages from June flooding, the deadline is today, September 15.

You can apply online here or call FEMA's toll free line at (800) 621-FEMA.

Deer hunting begins Saturday

News you can use

As hard as it is to believe, deer hunting season in Wisconsin begins this weekend. Here are the season dates:
  • Bow - Sept. 13 - Nov. 20, 2008 and Dec. 1, 2008 - Jan. 4, 2009
  • Gun - Nov. 22 - Nov. 30, 2008
  • Muzzleloader - Dec. 1 - Dec. 10, 2008
  • Youth Deer Hunt - Oct. 11 & 12, 2008
  • Statewide Antlerless Hunt - Dec. 11 - Dec. 14, 2008
Department of Natural Resources (DNR) officials say as many as 1.7 million whitetail deer are currently roaming the Badger State, approximately the same figure as last year. Our severe winter may have claimed the lives of some deer in north central Wisconsin, but overall, the DNR says the state has more deer than the targeted population goals.

I wholeheartedly support our hunters and outdoor enthusiasts for not only promoting one of the state’s rich historical traditions but their involvement in critical wildlife management. Even Wisconsinites not hunting benefit from the tax revenue generated from hunters that purchase guns, ammunition and outdoor equipment.

Hunting is an integral element of American culture. Families by the millions engage in this recreational activity. Hunters have long demonstrated social responsibility through their continued support of wildlife management and conservation policies. Their activity has led directly to the funding of programs that have resulted in aiding and restoring the populations of ducks, turkeys, antelope, elk and deer.

Hunting has fed the hungry through thousands of pounds of donated game meat to programs for the poor.

There are fewer accidents involving crashes with wildlife because of hunters.

Hunting serves to teach responsible gun ownership. Rural residents are more apt to be hunters and violent crime rates are much lower in rural areas.

The benefits of hunting are many, and for that, Wisconsin owes a big thank you to all of our hunters. 

Here’s to a very safe and successful 2008 deer hunting season!

UPDATE - The government is going to regulate your lawnmower

Read more

Best Practices Review: Truancy


Having served on the Legislative Audit Committee in the past, I have a keen interest in the high caliber work of the Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB) that always impresses. Under a requirement of state law, the highly-regarded LAB conducts studies to determine local government practices that can save costs or deliver services with greater efficiency. These reviews are called Best Practices reports.

The LAB has completed a Best Practices review of
efforts by Wisconsin’s public school districts to reduce truancy. Wisconsin statutes define  truancy as any absence for all or part of a school day for which a pupil’s parent or guardian has not notified school officials of the reason for the absence. A habitual truant is a pupil who is absent without an acceptable excuse for all or part of five or more days in a semester.

During the 2006-07 school year, the most recent year data was available, the LAB found:
  • 9.3 percent of pupils in kindergarten through grade 12 were habitually truant.
  • The habitual truancy rate varied among districts in the 2006-07 school year, ranging from 0 in 47 districts to a high of 58.2 percent in the Menomonie Indian district.
  • The 20 largest school districts account for nearly three quarters of habitual truants.
  • The Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) district had a habitual truancy rate of 46.3 percent during the 2006-07 school year.
  • The older a student gets, the more apt the student is to be truant. Habitual truancy rates ranged from 4.5 percent for fourth graders to 17.2 percent for ninth graders.
This finding by the LAB is quite interesting. The Department of Public Instruction (DPI) is required by law to collect attendance data and report certain data to federal agencies. However, DPI is not required to review or approve school districts’ attendance policies, truancy plans, or truancy reduction efforts.

The LAB reports that during the past four school years, DPI has administered federal funds totaling $1.9 million for districts with high pupil poverty rates, higher habitual truancy rates, and inadequate yearly progress as measured by the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
 Eight school districts have received federal truancy funds. Here are the districts and their latest habitual truancy rates:

Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS):  46.3%

Menominee Indian School District: 58.2%

Green Bay Area Public School District
: 9.2%

The School District of Beloit:  33.6%

The School District of Janesville: 19.8%

Unified School District: 19.0%

Madison Metropolitan School District: 8.5%

The Racine Unified School District: 8.5%

Habitual truancy rates at three of the six MPS schools that received federal truancy reduction grants during the 2006-07 school year increased from the previous year.The best analysis that can be offered about the effect between federal funding and truancy rates is that the results are mixed.

The LAB found that school d
istricts have generally complied with state statutes and have drawn up and monitored attendance policies and have contacted families about unexcused absences. Districts have instituted truancy plans and have conducted reviews of their own plans and plans in other districts. The variety of truancy reduction programs includes social workers at elementary schools contacting students and families to discuss ways of reducing tardiness. At the high school level, night schools, schools within schools, and local ordinances to punish truants have been adopted.

The effectiveness of the ordinances has been mixed. The LAB writes, “For example, in Kenosha Unified School District Number 1, 79.0 percent of pupils who received truancy citations did not comply with the order to attend school. In contrast, 55.0 percent of Racine Unified School District pupils who received citations had fewer instances of truancy after being cited.”

The LAB recommends that school districts consistently review compliance with statutory requirements for attendance monitoring and truancy planning, monitor habitual truancy at each grade level and develop strategies to minimize truancy in the early grades, identify alternative programming to help truant high school pupils obtain high schoolDiplomas, involve parents and guardians in truancy-related matters, consider the full range of available sanctions for addressing truancy, and evaluate and modify, asnecessary, their truancy reduction efforts on a regular basis.

DPI should, according to the LAB, promote the sharing of cost-effective information about truancy reduction efforts among school districts.

I commend the LAB for once again conducting an outstanding Best Practices review.

Here is the full LAB report.

Remembering 9/11

Thursday marks the seventh anniversary of the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center.

To mark the fifth anniversary of 9/11, I wrote a column about my emotional experience touring the World Trade Center site. You can read my column here.

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