Thumbs up/down for Monday, Sept. 9, 2013

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Monday, September 9, 2013

Thumbs up to  UW-W’s classes for veterans. As Marine veteran Nicholas Doucette told Gazette columnist Anna Marie Lux, a classroom can be a strange place for nontraditional students. Associate professor Erin Celello understands that and tailored Composition 102 for veterans, military people and their families. Students share common ground and experiences. Last week, she opened an accelerated freshman course in English composition that’s geared to veterans and their families. Participants are encouraged to share poems, short stories and essays with military themes that stir deep emotions. Celello says the class also helps veterans connect with each other on campus and integrate into the university setting. She understands veterans’ needs in part through researching her book, “Learning to Stay,” about a woman whose husband returns after suffering a traumatic brain injury in Iraq. She also volunteers with the National Veterans Writing Program.

 Thumbs up to  the FCC finding Footville. The village of Footville, on Highway 11 about 10 miles west of Janesville, was established in 1854. The village website even claims Footville as the first community in the U.S. to light a ball diamond. The Federal Communications Commission, however, was still in the dark about Footville’s whereabouts. Residents were deemed “not recognized” by the FCC when they applied for the commission’s LifeLine phones. The program, enacted in 1985 under the Reagan administration, helps qualifying low-income consumers get discounts to ensure they have phone links to jobs, family and 911 services. This spring, Sen. Tim Cullen of Janesville fired off a letter—using a Footville postmark—to enlighten the commission. Last week, that nudge proved successful, and several residents got their requested phones.

Thumbs down to a state grant for United Sportsmen. The state’s $500,000 award to the United Sportsmen of Wisconsin Foundation reeked from the get-go. Gov. Scott Walker rightly told the DNR to rescind it Thursday. The goal was to promote fishing and hunting among kids and females at a time when hunter license sales—and the revenue to conservation coffers—are declining. That’s a worthy plan, but partisan politics behind the grant stunk. The Joint Finance Committee slipped this money into the state budget late in the process with little discussion. No other group applied for the money, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that grant language made it unlikely anyone else would. Worse, United Sportsmen offered no evidence it has experience in this line of work. Also, it has close ties to conservatives behind the handout and supported Walker’s recall election bid. The coup de gras is that the group doesn’t have the federal nonprofit status it claimed in its application. The public was left lacking confidence that its tax money would be spent wisely.

Thumbs up to schools earning state honors. We’re proud that Janesville’s Roosevelt, Lincoln, Jackson and Madison elementary schools and Edison and Franklin middle schools were among local schools earning state Department of Public Instruction honors. We’d like to focus, however, on Phoenix Middle School in the Delavan-Darien School District. Turmoil gripped that district in recent years as residents questioned academic quality and discipline. The superintendent was ousted, and many students left through open enrollment. Last week, the state announced Phoenix had earned a Wisconsin Title 1 School of Recognition Award in the Beating the Odds category. Honored schools are in the top 25 percent of high-poverty schools and have above-average achievement in reading and math compared to similar schools. The honor came after Phoenix earned a School of Merit award in June for improving student behavior. Also last week, Delavan-Darien High School learned it beat the state average in ACT tests while posting its best scores in 20 years. Kudos to all.

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