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Wisconsin roundup: Public schools lose $2.4M for special-needs vouchers; Madison native pleads guilty to terrorism-related charge; 11 more state news stories

MILWAUKEE -- Wisconsin public schools will lose $2.4 million in state funds this year, as more than 200 students with special needs use tax vouchers to go to private schools.

The Journal Sentinel says Milwaukee is among 22 districts in the state that are being affected. Some observers say there was more interest in the program than expected, and lawmakers will have to address a funding squeeze in the next session. Many of the vouchers were given to students already in private schools. Lake County Lutheran High School in Hartland received $108,000 from the state for nine special needs students -- five of whom were enrolled there before.

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Wisconsin man pleads guilty to trying to join extremists

MADISON -- A Wisconsin man has pleaded guilty to trying to join the Islamic State group.

Thirty-five-year-old Joshua Van Haften, formerly of Madison, pleaded guilty Thursday to a federal charge of attempting to give material support to a terrorist group. Federal prosecutors say Van Haften faces up to 15 years in prison when he's sentenced Feb. 17.

Van Haften was charged last year with trying to cross from Turkey to Syria to join the Islamic State group. He was arrested in April 2015 after he returned to Chicago from Istanbul. Authorities say he was to meet a contact to take him into Syria but nobody appeared, and he returned to Istanbul.

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Judge's decision allows 225,000 to finish voting

MADISON -- If it wasn't for a federal judge's decision, early voting would not have started at Wisconsin clerks' offices until Monday.

But the state Elections Commission said Friday that 289,000 absentee ballots have been given to state residents in person and by mail, and almost 224,000 have been returned.

In July, Federal Judge James Peterson struck down the Republicans' limits on early voting, which allowed 10 days of absentee balloting in person before the election -- with no nights or weekends, and only one voting place in each community.

Madison and Milwaukee, both Democratic strongholds, have each had multiple sites running for several weeks. Other communities have come up with their own absentee voting schedules. State officials say the number of ballots given to voters is about 40 percent of the entire amount issued in the last presidential contest in 2012.

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Priceless? World Series tix to cost state Cubs fans big time

CHICAGO -- Wisconsin's long suffering Cubs fans might have to take out a loan, or hit their retirement accounts to see their team in the World Series.

Being there would be a once in a lifetime experience for virtually all fans of both teams -- and the Chicago Tribune says it's why tickets average $6,000 each for Games 3-5 at Wrigley Field while seats in Cleveland average $3,000 apiece. Chicago opens the Fall Classic Tuesday night in Cleveland -- and the Cubs have not won a World Series since 1908, while Cleveland hasn't won the baseball title since 1948.

The Cubs have had lots of Wisconsin fans for years, dating back to the mid 1960s when the Braves left Milwaukee and before the Brewers moved to the state in 1970. Stub Hub was selling standing room tickets for as low as $2,000 Monday morning for Friday night's Game 3 at Wrigley -- while a standing room spot in Cleveland was as low as $750 for Tuesday's Game 1.

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Richland Center will try to set new world pumpkin record

RICHLAND CENTER -- Folks in Richland Center will try to set a new Guinness World Record this week for the most pumpkins carved in a line or a chain.

Organizers hope to have 3,200 pumpkins carved, breaking the current mark of 2,015 pumpkins set about this time last year in Hokkaido, Japan. School students, church groups, and numerous other volunteers will start carving on Wednesday.

On Sunday, the pumpkins will be lined up at Krouskop Park along the Pine River, where a Guinness judge will be on hand to see what happens. Richland Center's Walmart donated the pumpkins, but people can bring their own -- and organizers say it's possible that the new record could exceed 4,000 gourds.

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Schools blame Act 10 for revenue referendums

MADISON -- Twenty-five Wisconsin school districts will ask voters next month to raise millions in taxes to keep their programs going.

In Madison, two school board members blame state Republicans and their 2011 Act 10 union bargaining limits for having to seek $26 million above state revenue limits for the next four years. Eau Claire has the largest revenue cap exemption request -- $88 million for 15 years.

Madison board members Dean Loumos and Ed Hughes say they've tried to use the Act 10 fiscal tools given to schools to save money -- but Hughes says most involve cutting teacher pay, and that's "not a long term strategy for a healthy district." State Assembly finance Chairman John Nygren told the Wisconsin State Journal the state had to do something because of a huge budget deficit, and the disappearance of federal stimulus funds for schools -- and Nygren says Act 10 "took the handcuffs off school boards" with its lower pay hikes, and higher teacher contributions for health and pension benefits.

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Walker joins Johnson in Sunday swing around state

With no Packer game on Sunday, politicians felt free to ask for people's votes, which many consider taboo while the green and gold are playing.

Gov. Scott Walker and state GOP chairman Brad Courtney joined U.S. Senate Republican Ron Johnson on a swing through Wausau, Eau Claire, Green Bay, and Waukesha. Johnson again portrayed himself as the candidate with "real world" business experience, as opposed to Democrat Russ Feingold, a former state lawmaker who spent 18 years in the U.S. Senate.

In Milwaukee on Saturday, Feingold said he would stick to the issues and avoid the personal stuff. Feingold says he respects Johnson and the Senate office, but he says the incumbent has voted against what "working" Wisconsinites need.

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State egg output keeps rising; avian flu recovery continues

MADISON -- Wisconsin's egg production is still on the rise, as the state keeps recovering from last year's avian flu outbreak.

The USDA says almost 6 million chickens made 139 million eggs in September. Both were 5- to 6-percent higher than last month, and 27-percent higher than September 2015 -- five months after the bird flu killed hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin poultry.

The number of egg laying chickens was the highest on record in the Badger State. Nationally, egg production rose 10 percent from the previous year -- and the state's increase for that period was almost three times as high. Wisconsin is the nation's 17th largest egg producer, with the 19th largest numbers of egg making chickens.

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I-90 Dresbach Bridge over Mississippi River: Complete

LA CRESCENT, Minn. --A four-year construction project is complete and the Dresbach Bridge over the Mississippi River is open to traffic.  

The 2,500 foot, four-lane span joins southeast Minnesota and southwest Wisconsin. At its peak, 270 people worked on the project which cost an estimated $187 million. The work has forced drivers to take detours several miles long and wait through more than a few traffic delays.

Lawmakers and Department of Transportation officials from both states attended a Friday ceremony which celebrated the project's completion.

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Wisconsin sixth most energy efficient state

WASHINGTON -- Wisconsin is among the top 10 states for conserving energy in homes and cars.

That's according to the Washington financial website WalletHub.com, which ranks the Badger State the sixth best for being energy efficient -- perhaps in part because of the state's "Focus on Energy" program, which gives rebates to residents who buy furnaces and appliances that meet certain energy saving standards.

However, Wisconsin cars don't do as well; they're ranked 24th. Researchers say they checked out the efficiency of both home and car energy usage in the 48 U.S. mainland states, and New York is No. 1 while South Carolina is last. Wallet Hub said it could not gather enough data to rank Alaska and Hawaii.

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Madison police call for attempted homicide charges in shooting

MADISON -- Madison police say a 21-year-old man lured officers to a home on the city's southwest side earlier this month, just so he could shoot at them.

Police are asking prosecutors to file attempted first-degree intentional homicide charges against Cornelius Britton of Madison. He has been arrested for the Oct. 6 incident.

When an officer responded to reports of shots fired, police say Britton was hiding around the corner of an apartment building and he opened fire. None of his shots found their intended target and he was arrested later that same night.

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State attorney general transfers top criminal investigator

MADISON -- Wisconsin's attorney general has transferred his top criminal investigator to another post in the Justice Department.

Dave Matthews headed the Division of Criminal Investigation until he was moved to a new adviser's post for policy initiatives with the same annual salary of $119,000. An agency spokesman says Schimel wanted a "different management style."

The spokesman added that the transfer was not related to a report that a special agent who was facing retaliation had complained that the department was too slow in reviewing her concerns. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said it obtained records about the complaint two days ago and that Matthews did not receive discipline because of the agent's situation. For now, deputy administrator Jason Smith will lead the Criminal Investigation division until a permanent replacement is chosen.

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Kenosha woman accused of prostituting own children charges

KENOSHA -- A Kenosha woman is facing charges following allegations she was prostituting her two teenage daughters.

Paula Whittaker was charged Thursday with keeping a place of prostitution. The Kenosha News reports she is being held on $7,500 cash bond. Whittaker was arrested Tuesday as part of a larger human-trafficking sting led by the FBI.

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