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Brain training plus fun equals Janesville summer school


This year’s summer school classes feature a boy who is molting, a kid who likes dinosaurs and wall walking.

See what you’re missing when you stay home during the summer?

About 3,600 kids attend the Janesville School District’s summer courses. Here is a summer school diary of sorts that shows what happens on a typical day, such as Thursday.

8 a.m.: Kids in the triathlon class at Kennedy Elementary School stand in a group, considering the sky. Will they have to run a mile in the rain?

At Kennedy, school runs from 8 until 11:30 a.m. and is divided into three one-hour sessions. Most other elementary schools offer a single course—with breaks—for the whole morning.

Kennedy has a variety of classes, from tumbling and kids triathlon to pottery and a technology academy. The school also offers reading and math enrichment classes disguised as fun classes.

That’s the way it should be, said Matthew Boulay, founder and chief executive officer of the National Summer Learning Association.

“We’ve moved away from the punitive summer school of old,” Boulay said Thursday in a webinar sponsored by the Education Writers Association. “You can do things in that summer school space that are more creative.”

8:20 a.m: Students are pounding, squashing and leaning on balls of clay in Todd Miller’s pottery class.

It might be fun, but it’s also meeting Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction standards.

To meet funding requirements, summer classes must have an “academic purpose” and a clear connection to the regular school curriculum, according to the DPI website.

Benjamin Abbott, 9, has taken the pottery class before and enjoys it.

“You can let all your ideas into the clay,” he said.

That reflects Entry No. L.4.6 in the Wisconsin Model Academic Standards for Art and Design Education: “Understand that artists develop a personal style that reflects who they are.”

8:30 a.m.: In Marianne McGuire’s tumbling class, students work on coordination.

Forward rolls, back rolls—don’t forget your pizza hands!—and then the wall walk, which involves placing your feet on the wall and walking on your hands around the edge of the gym.

Rayann Johnson, 9, encourages the little girl next to her.

“Keep trying, you’ll get it!” she said as both girls lose their balance and flop onto the map.

Rayann sometimes gets discouraged, too.

“I think in my brain that I can’t do it, and then I have to tell my brain, ‘Don’t give up!’” she said.

This is many kids’ only chance to take gymnastics, McGuire said.

Summer is the greatest time of inequity among children, according to the National Summer Learning Association.

“When schools are closed, many low-income young people lack access to meals, books and other learning resources, and physical activity,” Boulay said.

9 a.m.: At Roosevelt Elementary, lead teacher Lynn Little explains that this year’s theme is “Space Camp.” Instead of teachers, the kids have commanders. All the kids are—no, not space cadets—astronauts.

Roosevelt’s offerings, similar to most elementary schools, include classes in kindergarten readiness and first-grade readiness and themed enrichment classes for older students.

“They think they’re playing games, but they’re really learning,” Little said.

9:20 a.m.: In an Aliens in Art class, students work on cylindrical rockets with Cmdr. Susan Shotliff.

When Little asks if there are any aliens in the class, several normal-looking children raise their hands.

“I’m going to molt when I’m 18,” said a boy who will remain unnamed because his mother would kill us. “I’ll have more hands and legs.”

Not to change the subject, but how is summer school?

“I like it a lot,” he said. “I’m good at electronics and technology. I made both of my grandma’s TVs work.”

9:50 a.m.: Students in the kindergarten readiness class watch a SMART Board program that includes moving fishes with letters on their sides.

Cmdr. Karen Raben lets each child pick a particular letter. While the student scans the screen for the fish, Raben reminds the class of the sound the letter makes: “F-fhh, fhh, fhh feathers.”

From their places on the floor, the other kids call out “Ooo, ooo!” or “Over there!” when they spot the correct fish.

In the midst of the excitement, Oliver Buckner, 5, asks, “Can the SMART Board ever get out-smarted?”

Buckner’s favorite summer school activity is recess, followed by watching a movie inside if it’s too wet outside. After that, his favorite thing is free-choice time.

“I go right to the dinosaurs,” Buckner said. “D-d-d-dinosaurs.”

10:30 a.m.: The Craig High School hallways are quiet, but the classrooms and labs of middle school students are not.

Edison Middle School students came to Craig this summer because of construction at their school.

In Craig Fischer’s classroom, students tackle engineering problems, such as how to handle nonpoint source pollution.

Another engineering class designs a prosthetic tail for a fish.

10:45 a.m.: In a room that smells of motor oil, middle-schoolers master two- and four-cycle engines.

Hunter Berner, 13, finishes working on a lawnmower that was running faster than it should.

All around him, other mowers and gas-powered weed trimmers are undergoing operations.

“I like this class because I’m the kind of person who learns from actually doing it,” he said.

11:30 a.m.: Craig Bergum runs his theater students through a game of “Zip, Zap, Zop.” The game teaches them to pay attention and think quickly, two skills they’ll need. In less than four weeks, the class will put on a production of “Pinocchio.”

Impossible? No. In summer school, anything is achievable if it’s fun.

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Agencies, law enforcement sign agreement to improve care for addicts' kids


Janesville police officers have spent a lot of time eating McDonald’s and watching the Disney movie “Moana.”

But not for reasons you might assume.

When police arrive at a residence where they believe drugs are being used, sold or manufactured, they try to remove children from the environment as quickly as possible, said officer Justin Stubbendick, who works in the street crimes division.

Officers usually escort kids from the scene and do an activity with them, such as watch a movie, to shield them from the trauma of seeing their homes searched and their parents arrested, he said.

Law enforcement and Rock County officials signed a memorandum of understanding Thursday to improve they way they care for drug-endangered children in the county.

The memorandum was crafted by the Rock County Drug Endangered Children Committee, said Shari Faber, project coordinator for Janesville Mobilizing 4 Change, in an email to The Gazette.

It promotes a collaborative approach to breaking generational cycles of drug use, said Stacey Speich from the Rock County Child, Youth and Family program.

Stubbendick said the agreement will provide a formal process for collaboration, helping agencies reduce drug-endangered children’s exposure to trauma. He predicts it will increase efficiency when officials work with such children.

The agreement changes how agencies handle drug cases involving children. Those changes include:

  • Creation of a drug-endangered children team, which will meet to review ongoing cases.
  • Increased communication between law enforcement and Child Protective Services before drug busts so children can be cared for more quickly and Child Protective Services staff can be on the scene.
  • Conducting forensic interviews of drug-endangered children at the YWCA Rock County CARE House in a trauma-informed, child-focused environment.
  • More medical assessments of children who are in drug environments, by nurses at Mercyhealth Hospital and Trauma Center.
  • Filing of child neglect and child endangerment charges in addition to drug charges, if warranted, by the district attorney.

After the agreement was signed, Stubbendick and Amy Reggin of the state Alliance for Drug Endangered Children conducted a four-hour training session for Janesville School District staff, police and health officials.

Addicted parents love their children, Stubbendick said, but most of their attention is focused on feeding their addiction.

When Stubbendick worked as a patrol officer, he remembers responding to calls involving kids who displayed obvious signs of physical abuse, such as bruises. He rarely fielded calls about drug-endangered children.

During his presentation, he showed photos of a home police raided on the city’s south side. They showed hundreds of needles covering the floor, mattress and dressers, and garbage and pill bottles strewn about. This is the environment some children live in, he said.

Stubbendick said he hopes the agreement can break the cycle of abuse and get kids on the right path.

Obituaries and death notices for June 22, 2018

Emory W. Carlson

Doris Alene Laskowski

Roger D. Rasmussen

Shirley A. Ryder

Supreme Court rules that internet businesses must collect all state and local sales taxes


The Supreme Court on Thursday ended a dispute as old as the internet, ruling that all online sales are subject to the same state and local sales taxes that are collected on purchases at brick-and-mortar retailers.

The decision will inject billions of dollars into state coffers but also increase prices for many online shoppers.

By a 5-4 vote, the justices overturned past rulings that had shielded internet sellers from collecting taxes from customers in states where they had no stores, warehouses or other physical presence.

Instead the justices—addressing an issue that Congress has for years failed to resolve—brought internet commerce into line with the taxing rules that apply to mall shops, big-box stores and other traditional retailers.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, speaking for the court, said it was not fair to allow remote sellers to escape the duty to collect and remit sales taxes.

“It is unfair and unjust to those competitors, both local and out of state, who must remit the tax; to the consumers who must pay the tax; and to the states that seek fair enforcement of the sales tax—a tax many states for many years have considered an indispensable source for raising revenue,” he wrote in South Dakota vs. Wayfair.

The court was split along unusual lines. Justices Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Neil M. Gorsuch formed the majority.

In dissent, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said the court should have waited for Congress to decide the issue. He said Congress has the power to regulate interstate commerce, and changing the tax rules state by state has “the potential to disrupt the development of such a critical segment of the economy.” Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan agreed.

The National Conference of State Legislatures called the ruling “a victory for Main Street America. Brick and mortar stores will no longer be penalized for collecting the tax revenues that fund our schools, infrastructure, and the vital public services that state and local governments provide,” said South Dakota state Sen. Deb Peters, the group’s president.

Matthew Shay, president of National Retail Federation, said, “Retailers have been waiting for this day for more than two decades. … This ruling clears the way for a fair and level playing field where all retailers compete under the same sales tax rules whether they sell merchandise online, in-store or both.”

The ruling could pose a headache for small-scale web merchants who will have to keep track of and remit sales taxes for thousands of jurisdictions.

Jonathan Johnson, an executive for, which had joined the suit against the South Dakota tax law, said Congress should pass legislation “to lessen the potential impact of today’s ruling on internet innovation.”

The court’s opinion left unanswered several questions, including whether very small businesses that make only a few sales online can be forced to remit taxes for all the states.

Tax experts say better software has made it easy to quickly calculate the exact rates for each locale, and many states have devised a “streamlined” filing system, in which a single state office collects and dispenses taxes for its counties and cities.

Kennedy cited a Commerce Department estimate that online retail sales were $453 billion in 2017. He said the outdated “physical presence” rule was costing states and localities between $8 billion and $33 billion a year in lost revenue. Earlier this year, California tax officials estimated the state could take in an extra $2 billion a year if they could collect taxes on all internet sales.

It is the second court decision in two months that could result in higher revenue for states. Last month, the justices struck down the federal ban on sports betting. Many states are now expected to license betting on sports, and recoup tax revenue from it. But doing so will require new state laws.

The same may be true for internet sales taxes.


“Each state is different, and some will need to pass new laws,” said Max Behlke, a budget and tax policy expert in Washington for the group representing state legislatures. “I don’t think most states will able to do this in 60 days.”

Paul Cambra, a spokesman for the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration, said the state is deciding how to proceed. “We are meeting to review the decision and determine our next steps,” he said.


Legal experts said many state tax laws were written with the assumption that only businesses with a physical presence in the state were subject to collecting and remitting sales taxes.

In 1992, during the era of mail-order catalogs, the Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional for states to demand that out-of-state sellers collect and remit sales taxes on all purchases. The court said then, in Quill vs. North Dakota, that states could not extend their taxing authority to companies that had no stores, warehouses or “physical presence” within the state.

At issue then, and now, was whether taxing out-of-state companies violated the Constitution by discriminating against interstate commerce.

Only Justices Kennedy and Thomas were on the court then, and both said Thursday they regretted the earlier ruling. Only Justice Byron White dissented in 1992, Thomas said, adding “I should have joined his opinion.”

With the explosion in online shopping, lawyers for South Dakota and 41 other states urged the Supreme Court this year to revisit the issue.

While Amazon and other large online retailers now regularly collect sales taxes on all purchases, many others have refused to do so. They argued it is an unfair and heavy burden to require them to collect varying taxes charged by more than 10,000 jurisdictions across the country.

However, traditional stores and shop owners said it was unfair they had to collect sales taxes on each purchase while their customers had the option to buy the same product online and avoid paying the tax.

Last year, the Government Accounting Office estimated that state and local governments were collecting 75 percent to 80 percent of the taxes they are owed from “remote sellers,” but they were nonetheless losing between $8 billion and $13.4 billion a year in uncollected taxes for online sales. State officials put their revenue losses even higher.