Viewpoint: Week of Feb. 14
Give kindness a try
Random Acts of Kindness Day is February 17 and we all know what to do, since the name itself gives the answer. If we all do just one act of kindness daily, we just might set the world in the right direction. Giving feels good, and research shows that it’s good for us. So, be sure to discuss with your kids how being generous benefits the giver and the receiver. Kindness doesn’t cost anything; please give it a try.
In a recent “letter to the editor” the writer asked that our Senators Johnson and Baldwin be contacted to oppose using the Medicare Advantage Plan as a bank to fund other government programs. I did a search to find out which government programs would be getting Medicare Advantage funds. What I found was that funds weren’t being transferred but, there was an attempt to cut back Medicare Advantage costs.
Medicare Advantage plans on average had been receiving a premium of more than 10% over what beneficiaries would have paid had they stayed in traditional Medicare. Legislation sought to reduce this “excess payment” to parity. Medicare Advantage cuts required by the ACA to achieve this parity started in 2012, but so far none of the proposed cuts have been implemented. The last cuts to the program were scheduled to take place in 2017. However, the opposite has happened, the CMS reported that payment rates would go up again in 2016 due to an adjusted risk-pool assessment.
In fact, because of the extraordinary efforts of former Rep. Henry Waxman, pushback from members of Congress, the aggressive lobbying efforts of “America’s Health Insurance Plans” and Republican Senators who for the first time advocated against cuts, the Medicare Advantage program has almost entirely escaped any funding reductions. The actions of those individuals and groups, along with Congress passing legislation to avoid a major scheduled reimbursement decrease to Medicare physicians, has guaranteed that the Medicare Advantage program, that millions of seniors rely on every day, will remain fiscally viable for the foreseeable future.
John Kocovsky, Hazelhurst
Vote yes for schools
Hello again, fellow community supporters. Referendum discussions have become an unfortunate “sign of the times”, at least up here in the Northwoods…and all too often. We again will be asked to VOTE YES at the polls on February 16 to “renew” the maintenance funding agreed to at the previous referendum in 2013 that is due to expire, and to address the further declines in state aid that have occurred subsequently.
While recently speaking with a local congressman about the issue, he explained that every time the funding formula is considered for an adjustment at the state level, Rhinelander continues to come up short. This is odd for our school community that has 46% of the students on free & reduced lunch, a sign of the level of families living below poverty level.
Consequently, we are not eligible for the 35.5% in state aid that, for example, Whitefish Bay receives, an affluent suburb of Milwaukee with 0% of students on free & reduced lunch. In comparison, Rhinelander receives 14% in state aid. (Source: DPI website). We continue to rank among the lowest supported schools in the Northern Wisconsin area as well.
SDR, in large, operates off of revenue from property taxes and state aid. State aid in 2000 was over $13 million and has since been dramatically cut back year over year, while expenses continue to rise. By 2015, the state cut support to Rhinelander to just over $9 million. It is expected to decline below $2 million by 2020. (Source: SDR). The silver lining…an improved understanding of a “situation” that is heavily skewed at the State level and, for the time being, out of our hands. In addition to the passing of the initial referendum in 2010, the community has united also through supportive parent groups, an active foundation funding school programming & facilities, and community school-to-business partnerships such as PIE, which share resources and skills to benefit students. Critical measures, such as graduation rates, have seen a significant rise.
The Rhinelander community has come together in the past for this crucial cause and will need to again now and in the future to continue the investment support that is required to keep our school system operating efficiently and effectively. This is vital to the foundation of our community, what it stands for, and where it is going.
Please join me: VOTE YES on February 16.
Matthew Johnson, Harshaw
“Vote Yes” From RHS Alum
I am a class of 2014 alum from Rhinelander High School. Although I moved to Rhinelander when I was 4, I consider Rhinelander my hometown and attended elementary, middle, and high school in the district. Currently, I am a sophomore at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, where I am pursuing a Spanish major and pre-medical studies. However, without the education that I received at Rhinelander High School, I would not be where I am today.
RHS is important to me for many reasons, but the most significant is how the dedication of the teachers fueled my love of learning and gave me the tools to succeed in college. Every teacher at the high school has a different style. Some are funny and joke around with the class, while others are more formal. Despite these differences, I can say that the teachers I had helped me to learn the material and love it as well. For example, I disliked history and English coming in to RHS, but they eventually became some of my favorite subjects. The enthusiasm of my teachers was infectious, and they pushed me to understand the concepts deeply.
Music and the arts was another important part of my RHS experience. Participation in music programs has been shown to engage all areas of the brain and to increase skills in mathematics and the humanities. The RHS band community is a welcoming and fun group and I made many friends through band, while benefitting from the subject material. I am proud of who I am and where I’m from, because being from Rhinelander means that I have had experiences that other students at my college have not. For example, I was taught to recognize the real-life applications of what I’m learning. I also gained an appreciation of nature through outdoor learning at CAVOC, which is an experience many of my peers weren’t able to have in their school systems.
There’s a proverb that says that the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, but the next best time is now. Supporting the school district is an investment in the future, much like planting a tree. I believe that the students who come after me deserve an even better education than the one I received. Therefore, I will “Vote Yes” for the Rhinelander School District referendum on February 16.
Amber Sheth, RHS class of 2014
Rationalizing our purpose, our referendum
Once again Rhinelander School District families are faced with the ongoing cloud of a school funding system that leaves our youngest populace counting on the voting aged constituents to make hard decisions and sacrifice.
With this comes much reflection and perhaps rationalizing. According to a recent article by the Wisconsin Budget Project, state K-12 spending has decreased over the last 6 years by $2.6 billion dollars. I would encourage all readers to review this article at http://www.wisconsinbudgetproject.org/better-funding-for-schools-improves-long-term-outcomes-for-studentsThe state funding formula for our district and others in the Northwoods is not representative to those that live here; one must then rationalize that we need to support our schools locally until our state government moves to a more representative model that is fair to all Wisconsin learners. “Open for Business” is a theme we have heard from our state leaders. We need to unite and invite our representatives and Governor to hear our concerns and help initiate change and show us how that theme can be applied here in Rhinelander with the current state funding model.
The Rhinelander Schools have done what is necessary to address the budget constraints they are under. They are not to blame for the disparity in the funding formula, yet are often the scapegoat for the problem. The Rhinelander community has so much positive to offer its community members and appears to be investing in necessary infrastructure with streetscape, new storefronts and restaurants, Heal Creek recreation area, airport improvements, health care and business interests. We also need to attract and retain new members to our community to build commerce and health/medical environments. A community that supports education helps in this building and retention.
Fox News recently reported that Washington DC lawmakers have unanimously approved a bill that would start a pilot program that would pay people in the community who were “at risk for committing a crime” for not committing a crime! Personally, I would rather invest in our schools to be proactive rather than reactive.
Certainly a referendum is costly, but not voting yes could even be more costly!
Now is the time we, as voters, can invest in the most important infrastructure….our youngest, most promising, our future.
Jon Koch, Rhinelander
Stop the referendums
Stop! Stop! Stop! W. [where’s] T. [the] F. [fat]? As the only person at the time of this writing belonging to this newly-formed organization. I started it and am the man from W. T. F., I write for support to stop these referendums from continuing to double dip into our individual budgets. Stop this K-12 district from continuing to raise our property values, our cost of living. Most are aware our federal government has said there was no increase in cost of living, therefore those of us that are on Social Security have received no additional monies for 2016 budgets. Don’t you wonder why cost of living increases were given to K-12? We cannot do a “referendum” to get our neighbors to make up for what we can’t manage. So, stop this K-12 district from using sports, or lack thereof, as a tool for the getting “yes” votes. I do believe, educate first [pay for the teachers to teach] and play later, but how can sports be that expensive year after year? Maybe the cost should be put on those that choose to participate. Maybe the K-12 budget is top-heavy. Stop this K-12 from being an irresponsible, poorly administered group pitting neighbor against neighbor, friends against friends, family against family by continuing this referendum approach to solving a problem.
Instead of taking more from my budget insist our local elected officials work for K-12 needs or vote for someone that will.
Our governor has recently bragged on keeping property value taxes low; he either must not know of this referendum option or is doing the selective hearing thing. Our representatives, Tom T., Rob S., Mary C., Ronald J., Tammy B. and Sean D. are the ones to put the heat on.
W.T. F.’s mission statement will be we, the people, should not be forced by yet another referendum. We should not be forced to choose between our ability to pay for our health care, wellness care, prescriptions, daily living expenses etc. to pay more for K-12 so sports can continue. So, as the voice for W. T. F., I ask, do we owe more than what’s already taken for this K-12, or does K-12 owe us more responsible management of their “in-house” budget? In closing, not voting on this upcoming referendum is counted as a “yes” vote. So, go vote “no” and insist on accountability.
Rod Terzinski, Pine Lake
Forward Rhinelander supports the referendum
Forward Rhinelander supports the Rhinelander School District referendum. We feel that successfully passing a referendum is an important part of a major push to move Rhinelander forward.
Over the past 18 months, a growing group of community members has been involved in numerous planning initiatives to help support and move Rhinelander forward. This group has included input from area citizens, business members, government and civic groups, senior citizens, and RHS alumni. The ideas helped prepare a community development plan stemming from strategic planning, interviews, listening, and research. Forward Rhinelander’s mission, in part, is to: Set a vision for the Rhinelander area over the next 20 years so that it may stay a competitive, vibrant, and enjoyable place to live for all community members. Our mission is to position Rhinelander to be on the cutting edge in the state of Wisconsin so that it attracts new families and provides a high quality of life and a comfortable living wage for all residents. We will focus our efforts on setting Rhinelander apart from other northern Wisconsin communities in a positive way by enacting progressive civic and community policies and programs, supporting its school system, and keeping its businesses competitive in the 21st century.
We believe that 2016 is a major year for the future of Rhinelander. There are many initiatives planned in 2016 that can help move Rhinelander forward: the streetscape and downtown revitalization, the improvement to the roads, the community involvement, business/economic development, and the school referendum. Yet if the referendum fails, it will have serious consequences to all these initiatives.
Forward Rhinelander supports the referendum set forth by SDR. The state school funding formula is discriminatory against Rhinelander students and penalizes the Rhinelander area. Forward Rhinelander is working on the issue of state educational funding as well. We have talked to state representatives about the importance of making changes and will continue to pressure our local representatives for help. But, change to the state formula is a long term process, and, unfortunately, we have been assured the changes we hope for and need will not be in the short term future. We cannot wait for the needed change to come from Madison. We need to work together to make Rhinelander a better place to live. That starts with the passage of the school district referendum.
Vote to support children, their futures
As a teacher for the School District of Rhinelander, I would like to encourage voters to please support the upcoming referendum. This is my 27th year teaching in this community, and the changes I have seen take place during those years have been incredible. So many programs have been stopped completely, or have been reduced to mere shadows of their former selves. Should this referendum not pass, even more programs will be stopped or gutted beyond recognition.
We have two charter schools here in Rhinelander that have been examples to other communities looking to start their own charter schools. Teachers and administrators from other cities have often visited NCES and NCSS in order to gain insight so that successful charter schools might be developed in their cities. NCES and NCSS provide an alternative learning style that serves many of our students very well. Students who struggle within a traditional educational structure thrive and succeed at NCES and NCSS. If this referendum is not supported by the voters, those two schools will close, leaving a group of our students forced to fit into traditional educational roles. Closing these schools would also cause increased class sizes at our other schools as our charter school kids try to fit into our other school buildings.
Eliminating all extra-curricular activities would be another result of voters not supporting this referendum. We have a variety of extra-curricular activities that provide a much needed outlet for our young people, as well as a common ground for community members. I can’t imagine Rhinelander without our Hodags sports teams, our Mock Trial teams, our Forensics participants, or our Drama Club. However, without voter support of this referendum, these too, will all be gone.
No one wants higher property taxes, including me. However, we also don’t want a town that withers away because our school system is so desecrated that we can’t attract business owners and medical professionals to our town. If voters don’t support the referendum, property taxes might be somewhat lower, but is it worth the cost to our children? Please vote to support our children, and their futures, by voting to support the February 16th referendum.
Linda Cole, Eagle River