WAUSAU - Teachers started putting Common Core standards to work in Wisconsin classrooms three years ago.
No one really seemed to pay attention – Wisconsin had adopted the standards along with 44 other states, in part to qualify for billions of dollars in federal Race to the Top grants.
But in the last few months, legislators from Wisconsin and other states started looking more closely at Common Core.
Governor Scott Walker told reporters in late September he believed Wisconsin could do better than federal Common Core standards.
Over the last few weeks, special Senate and Assembly committees have held four public hearings to decide if that’s true.
The last of those four hearings happened in Wausau Wednesday, with testimony lasting more than seven hours.
The debate about Common Core, across the nation and in Wausau, has been marked by a different kind of bipartisanship – it’s not liberals on one side, conservatives on the other. Both sides are both for and against the standards.
Michael Petrilli is the executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C.
He spoke in favor of Common Core standards.
“There [are] plenty of Republicans who like the idea of higher standards and tougher accountability,” Petrilli said. “From our perspective, the Common Core standards are exactly that.”
Pete Biolo, a retired teacher and the vice chairman of the Oneida County Republican Party, doesn’t necessarily disagree with that. He takes issue with Common Core because of federal involvement.
“It’s a process or a program that has its roots at the federal level, and the federal government, in passing it, made federal monies available,” Biolo said. “Any time you have federal monies available to something, you have strings attached.”
Petrilli rejects that idea.
“I think the benefits of having better standards, better tests, outweigh those concerns,” Petrilli said.
Biolo disagrees, and wants Wisconsin to create its own set of standards, to get the federal government out. Governor Walker has also recently said the state could do better on its own.
“If the governor can do better than these standards, I think that’s great,” Petrilli said. “I think what he would find is if he went through the process of recreating standards, they’d come out quite the same as the Common Core.”
The Senate and Assembly’s special committees are expected to make a recommendation in November about what Wisconsin should do about Common Core.
MADISON - A Wisconsin Rapids woman will spend three years on probation for threatening to kill a federal administrative law judge.
51-year-old Norma Prince was sentenced Thursday. Prince pleaded guilty in December.
Prosecutors say the incident happened Jan. 31, 2013, when Prince appeared at a Social Security disability benefits hearing in Wausau.
Administrative Law Judge Thomas Sanzi was presiding over the hearing by teleconference from Madison. Prosecutors say Prince became upset and threatened to shoot Sanzi and cut off his head. The hearing was halted and Prince was escorted from the courtroom.
Prince's husband told a federal agent that his wife had bought two .22-caliber rifles about a month before the disability hearing.
At sentencing, U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman said Prince's mental health issues can be controlled through medication and supervision.
RHINELANDER - If you never met Monica Bartishofski, you would have loved her smile.
“Oh it was contagious, you couldn’t not smile when Monica greeted you into the store,” says Patti Pazera, Rhinelander Trigs Employee.
These are the aisles Monica used to walk during her days bagging groceries for the people of Rhinelander.
“You always knew if it was going on close to 1:00 in the afternoon, and we would go here comes Monica and we’d always just see her bright smiling face,” says Anne Cline, Rhinelander Trigs Employee. “She’d come and visit us before her shift and she just enjoyed coming down and seeing us girls.”
Monica was killed in a car accident on Valentines Day.
“It was Valentines Day when she had her accident,” says Cline.
“At first it didn’t hit me you know it didn’t comprehend and then I’m checking out a customer and of course we’re busy and the tears start coming down,”says Christa Stolzman, Rhinelander Trigs Employee.
“We all just stood there in shock and the day stopped for a bit,” says Cline.
“I had to apologize to my customers because I had tears in my eyes and I said I’m sorry I don’t mean to be crying but we just lost Monica and I tell you what, a lot of those customers couldn’t believe it and they teared up with me,” says Stolzman.
“After her accident customers were all coming up saying how they missed her smile that it always made even if they were having a bad day it made it a good day whenever they came in and saw Monica,” says Pazera.
Monica’s coworkers decided to raise money in memory of Monica. They sold carnations for donations and raised over $2,700 toward Special Olympics.
Monica Bartishofski worked here inside the Rhinelander Trigs for 17 years but it was her commitment to the special Olympics that coworkers, friends, and family will remember most.
“You could call her Monica “Special Olympics” Bartishofski,” says Tony Bartishofski, Monica’s dad. “She always had a good time bowling. She was really outgoing, bubbly.”
Monica lived life to the fullest.
“You just remember her with her smiling face, her laugh was just you know a great laugh that she had and just bright eyed always happy to be at work,” says Stolzman. “So I think that would be a good way of remembering her.”
ROTHSCHILD - Wisconsin farms play a key role in our economy, but today's farm owners aren't getting any younger.
One apprentice program hopes to change that.
The Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship program is building and preparing the next generation of farmers. It gives young farmers hands-on training and a path to a career in dairy farming.
"There's a lot of farms that are going to be transitioned and transferred in the next decade or so, and what we really need is somebody to be able to take these farms over," says program director Joe Tomandl. "We don't have that training program in place, and that's what the dairy grazing apprenticeship is about."
A recent government census of American agriculture found the average age of a farmer is 58 years old. Leaders believe the apprentice program has already seen success with new farmers over the past few years.
"We have a number of new producers just in the last four years in Marathon and Lincoln counties now running their own dairy farms using managed grazing techniques," says Paul Daigle of the Marathon County Conservation, Planning, & Zoning Department. "It's still a struggle no matter what, but it offers a profitable way to get into farming today."
Cattle farmers met at the 20th Annual Winter Grazing Conference today in Rothschild.
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