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Practically Speaking

Kyle and her husband moved to Brookfield in 1986. She became active in local politics and started blogging in 2004. Her focus is primarily on local issues but often includes state and national topics, too. Kyle looks at things from the taxpayers' perspective in a creative, yet down to earth way, addressing them from a practical point of view.

Elmbrook School Board election 2014: Liotta, Kratoska, and both Area 1 candidates--all against Common Core

Elections, Education, Elmbrook, Conservatives

When you vote on April 1 this election cycle, you have a choice in each of the Elmbrook School Board races. For the Area III and the At-Large race, whether you support Federal Common Core curriculum standards or not might be your deciding factor.

Common Core has been increasingly in the news. I believe it is not just the latest flavor of education reform but a new form of Federal government overreach.  Last month, the Germantown School District opposed adopting Common Core standards and instead, will set their own, higher ones.

Here in the Elmbrook School District, in the Area III race, Jeff Liotta is challenging incumbent Tom Gehl. This is what each stated at the Candidate Forum: (Emphasis mine)

           Liotta: "Quite frankly, I look at the big picture. I reject the philosophy that is behind the Common Core. I think local boards of education are better suited to determine the standard for their individual communities, and I disagree with the concept that curriculum is separate from standards. I guarantee you that if testing is involved (with Common Core standards), it's going to drive the curriculum and staff, despite what we say, will teach to the test. Elmbrook has a 50-year history of excellence in education. We've done it right. Why would we abdicate our right and authority to determine our destiny and to determine the standards that we want our students to achieve?"

          Gehl: " In Elmbrook, this community and this board has demonstrated our commitment to local control and will maintain that commitment. I believe there have been many good things happening the last two years with our curriculum and content than ever before in our district. The Common Core standards focus on skills...and can be used as a reference. They do not prescribe or demand particular content — that will be determined by the local board and administration — but in many areas, they represent a higher bar than what was in place before."

Area III seat: I am voting for Jeff Liotta.  I really appreciate Liotta's strong opposition to Common Core, and I agree completely that teaching to the test is one outcome of adopting the standard. Standards do drive curriculum!  Jeff Liotta is a former Elmbrook graduate and School Board member, who served in the 1980s. For more information, contact Jeff at jliotta3@wi.rr.com  View Flyer

In the At-Large race, Write-in Jim Kratoska will challenge incumbent Kathryn Wilson, who is unopposed on the ballot. Read through his webpage on Current Issues:

          Kratoska: "My principle objection is with the ‘common’ part of the core.  Synonyms for common include ordinary, commonplace, and regular.  Elmbrook district residents expect a much higher level of education.
"CC is as much about ideology as it is about education. Many of us have suffered through a variety of educational fads.  My first was ‘new math’, which like CC, taught an ambiguous, convoluted approach that could never be used on a tax form or purchase order; just like the cubes, squares, lines and dots of CC Math...

"...Two members of the original CC standards review board, stated before the Wisconsin legislature, that the CC standards would set the average student back 2 years by the time they finished high school."

          Wilson"I do support Common Core implementation. There's a lot of misinformation out there about the Common Core standards. The standards are very simple, high-level aspirations. They are plain, college preparatory, liberal arts, achievement-oriented goals. I really don't see how anyone could argue with these standards as they are. That said, school boards get to decide what is taught, how it is taught and what curriculum is used as part of that teaching. We're certainly not limited in anyway by the Common Core standards of what we do with those standards." (Quote from Forum)

While I realize Common Core is the standard, and it is the curriculum that is the bigger problem (often written with a humanist, liberal slant), I still do not believe any Federal program is benign.

Ask yourself, what Federal program has not grown in size and scope to exceed its original grasp? (As I am still working on my income taxes, I can't help but think how that has ballooned into something completely unmanageable! Social Security is another Federal program that initially had a more limited scope. Today, it has expanded to cover far more recipients than just retirees.) I want less Federal intrusion into my life, not more.  

At-Large choice: I will be writing in Jim Kratoska (Write his name down and take it to the polls.) He has an BS in Applied Mathematics and Physics, MS in Business Administration, MA in Philosophy, and has taught graduate and undergraduate courses in the Electrical Engineering and Business Schools at UW-M. Visit his website

The Area I seat is a difficult choice for me. Young Zackary Vrana is running against incumbent Richard Brunner (senior citizen). Both are opposed to Common Core--Vrana adamantly so, Brunner it seems in general principle. Again, look at the Forum answers:

          Vrana "I don't believe the Common Core was written for Elmbrook. We are not a district that strives to meet minimum standards. We should be leading and setting the bar for excellence in the state. My issues with the way we've implemented Common Core are the choices we made with the curriculum, such as taking Speech out of the required English curriculum. I think that's a great disservice to our students. Common Core is great to ensure districts meet the minimums, but we should be providing the best education for our students."

          Brunner:  "I've read a number of Common Core analyses in the last several weeks...and every time I read one, I think I change my mind. As far as Elmbrook is concerned, I do not believe we need to implement this program. I understand we do already have it, but I don't think it's necessary for the school district. I think we can (set standards) very well on our own."

I believe Vrana is spot-on here with Common Core; Brunner is less emphatic.

But their stance on 4K makes me lean to Brunner over Vrana, Vrana cheer-leading for 4K--even calling it day care, which it is; Brunner is just supportive.

          Vrana: "I absolutely support a 4K program. I believe district parents need day care for their 4-year-old children, and it is time for us to provide for that...."

          Brunner: "I think the district could benefit from a 4K program. We would, in effect, have a complete school system where the kids could start at four years old and go on through to high school. It's an incentive for people to move into the city ..."

So, Area I is a tossup for me... at least for now.

Brookfield and Elm Grove go to the polls on Tuesday, April 1, 2014.  You can find your ward and preview a sample ballot at myvote.wi.gov  All Elmbrook School District voters vote for all of the School Board candidates, regardless of what area of the district you live in.

I will be posting a final election pick post on Sunday or Monday.


In the news:  Elmbrook candidates weigh 4K, Common Core programs

Elmbrook candidates discuss board member roles, block scheduling at forum

Germantown School Board opposes adoption of Common Core standards 

Germantown sets higher standards than Common Core

Flyers, Websites, and Letters of Endorsement:  

Jim Kratoska Endorsement Letter

Jim Kratoska Website

Jeff Liotta Flyer 

Endorsement letter for Jeffrey Liotta for Area III School Board 

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For the most part, I will not enter the comment forum, so if you have a question for me, contact me via email: practicallyspeaking@gmail.com

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