Students like Demitrius Kigeya thrive in Wisconsin despite the worst black-white achievement gap in the nation. The state ranks the worst in the nation for the difference between how well black and white students perform, the likelihood that black students will be suspended from school and the difference between black and white student graduation rates.
In the past year, the Republican-run state Legislature, with the blessing of Gov. Scott Walker, eliminated the state’s race-based integration program and made changes to a class-size reduction program in moves that critics charge will harm the state’s ability to close the achievement gap.
Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism reporter Abigail Becker sat down in October with state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers, Department of Public Instruction spokesman Tom McCarthy and the agency’s Director of Education Information Services John Johnson.
Dick Record witnessed first-hand what he says is the “deterioration” of government transparency during his 40-year journalism career in Wisconsin. Record’s concern over this trend motivates him to steadfastly advocate for open government. It is the reason he supports the nonpartisan and nonprofit Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. “The deterioration of openness has been somewhat appalling in the last few years, particularly because we just don’t have the freedom that we used to,” said Record, a veteran news anchor and station manager in Madison and La Crosse. “It seems like people in public office and state and local government are hiding stuff from us, and for no good reason.”
In recent years, reporters and the public are facing increasing problems with long wait times and high costs for records requests, difficulty obtaining legislative drafts, and improper denials of records, among other setbacks that diminish government accountability.
Gun violence costs Wisconsinites billions of dollars a year. Taxpayers pay for most of it in medical bills and incarceration costs. Victims suffer lost wages and trauma that can have long-lasting effects. Communities pay through lowered property values and higher police costs.
Nominations are being sought for the sixth annual Distinguished Wisconsin Watchdog Award, recognizing an individual’s extraordinary contributions to open government or investigative journalism in Wisconsin.
Decades of toxic waste disposal at the Badger Army Ammunition Plant — including pouring millions of gallons a day of polluted water into Lake Wisconsin — have contaminated some nearby residents’ drinking water and raised concerns about the long-term effects on their health. But help may be on the way.
In the early 1990s, Jim Goodman and his wife began to worry about how the chemicals they were using on the farm might affect their children. The fourth-generation Wisconsin farmer decided to make the shift away from conventional farming at his Sauk County operation. Now certified organic, the farm includes 120 head of cattle on pasture, including 45 milk cows, and 300 acres of crops.
Levels of nitrate, one of the Wisconsin’s top drinking water contaminants, are increasing. Nitrate comes primarily from fertilizers, including manure, and puts infants and expectant mothers particularly at risk. A projected 94,000 households are drinking private well water with unsafe levels of nitrate. And many of them don’t even know it since few private well owners conduct regular testing.