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Wisconsin roundup: Achievement tests: Not even half of state kids proficient in basics; Obama to Trump: "Stop whining" about election rigging; and 11 more state news stories

MADISON -- Less than half the students taking Wisconsin's latest statewide achievement test showed they were proficient in English, math and science.

Almost 383,000 youngsters took the "Forward Exam" this past spring -- and 41 percent of the public and private voucher school students scored at the proficient or advanced levels in math and English, with 49 percent proficient in science.

The Forward Exam was created by about 100 state educators -- and it was the third different achievement exam administered in the past three years. For that reason, the state's education agency says it's not fair to compare the new results with the previous ones -- but they did say there were the same achievement gaps among racial and ethnic lines that have been noted for years in other exams.

The state also released results from the ACT Plus Writing test given to high school juniors -- and it showed that the numbers of students proficient in English and math were less than the previous year, and more in the science field.


Obama to Trump: "Stop whining" about election rigging

WASHINGTON D.C.  --  The president says Republican Donald Trump should "stop whining" about the rigging of an election that hasn't happened yet.

In Green Bay Monday night, the Republican White House nominee said voter fraud is common because "so many cities are corrupt" -- and he noted that almost two million dead Americans remain on the voter rolls.

At the White House Tuesday, President Barack Obama told reporters that Trump's claims are unprecedented and are based on "no facts" -- and the Democratic president said Trump is trying to blame others for what he called "his impending loss on Election Day."

In Colorado Springs Tuesday, Trump again accused the news media of being an extension of Democrat Hillary Clinton's campaign. He cited figures from the Center for Public Integrity showing that 96 percent of journalists who made donations in the current election cycle gave money to Clinton.


Walker: I'll be done in 2022 for sure

MADISON --  Scott Walker says there's no way he'll stay on as Wisconsin's governor after 2022. He told members of the state's largest business group in Madison there's no way he'll run for a fourth term, and his wife Tonette would "literally kill him" if he did so.

The Republican Walker has been elected three times, including his recall election in 2012 -- and he's expected to run for a third four-year term in 2018.

A departure in 2022 would put Walker two years short of Tommy Thompson's record gubernatorial tenure of 14 years. The Republican Thompson left midway through his fourth term in 2001 to become President George W. Bush's national health and human services secretary.


Harley expects to lay off 225 salaried employees

MILWAUKEE  --  Harley Davidson says it will lay off 225 salaried employees before the end of this year.

The Milwaukee-based motorcycle firm says about 70 of its contractors will also be affected by the layoffs, which come amid a 7 percent drop in U.S. motorcycle sales during the past year.

Harley has more than 1,000 salaried workers at its Milwaukee headquarters, and a total of 3,000 around the world. The company has not said which facilities or positions would be cut.

On Tuesday, Harley Davidson reported a 19 percent drop in its quarterly profits from the preceding year -- triggering a new round of cost cutting measures that resulted in 250 layoffs of salaried workers one year ago.


Four Wisconsin places are among the nation's "rattiest cities"

ATLANTA  --  Wisconsin has more rats and mice than your average state. That's according to the Orkin pest control firm, which ranks three areas in the Badger State in its 50 "rattiest cities." Milwaukee is 23rd, Green Bay/Appleton 44th, and Madison 49th based on the numbers of rodent treatments the company performed during the year ending Sept. 30.

Chicago is again Number One, after holding the filthy title in 2014, and nearby Minneapolis/St. Paul is eighth.

Orkin says the Midwest has the largest number of places on the list, with 13 -- and the company says fall is a good time for building owners to check for places where rodents can get in and look for warmth.


Johnson, Feingold spar over issues, philosophies

MILWAUKEE  --  The two Wisconsin U.S. Senate candidates clashed on a wide range of issues and personal philosophies in their second and final debate in Milwaukee.

GOP incumbent Ron Johnson and former Senate Democrat Russ Feingold showed a clear divide Tuesday night on the economy, the White House candidates, immigration, health care, the cost of college, the delay in confirming a new Supreme Court justice and more.

Feingold said he would "stand with the people" while accusing Johnson of standing with corporations and billionaires. Johnson says it's false that he's in the "pocket of big business," emphasizing his work in building his plastics manufacturing firm in Oshkosh.

A number of times during the 90 minute debate, Feingold claimed that Johnson had no stands on issues -- while Johnson claimed that Feingold would always "grow government."


Competing tribes slam Walker for not opposing casino expansion

Gov. Scott Walker generated lots of controversy almost two years ago, when he rejected a new Menominee tribal casino in Kenosha.

Now, two competing tribes accuse the Republican Walker of setting a double standard by staying silent while the Ho-Chunk Nation expands its existing casino with a new hotel at Wittenberg, 30 miles east of Wausau.

The administration says the two situations are vastly different -- because the Kenosha casino would have been far away from the Menominee reservation, while the Ho Chunk expansion is in line with the state tribal gambling compact it negotiated in 2003.

The neighboring Stockbridge Munsee and Menominee tribes disagree, saying it no longer makes the Wittenberg site an "ancillary facility" under its compact -- and they say Walker should make all 11 Wisconsin Indian tribes approve the Ho Chunk expansion, just like he demanded for the Kenosha project. Walker's office says it will continue the requirement, but only for off reservation casinos.


Moisture slows Wisconsin crop harvest

MADISON  --  Even when it's not raining, many Wisconsin farm crops and fields have lots of moisture, and that's slowing down the fall harvest.

Almost one-fourth of the state's corn for grain has been harvested -- about the same as this time last year, but three days behind the average for the past five years.

The Wisconsin Ag Statistics Service says 47 percent of soybeans are harvested, five days behind schedule. Eighty-five percent of both crops remain in good to excellent shape, but there are scattered reports of mold on some crops.

All but 8 percent of Wisconsin potatoes are in the bin, seven days behind last year -- and fall field work is 23 percent finished, 7 percent more than the previous week.


Milwaukee officer fired for alleged child enticement

MILWAUKEE --  A Milwaukee police officer has been fired after he was charged with two counts of child enticement and soliciting a child for prostitution.

Online court records indicate that 45-year-old Sonthana Rajaphoumi arranged a plea deal, and a court hearing on the matter is set for Nov. 10.

Prosecutors say the officer sought out sexual relationships with two teen girls after he met one of them while arresting her in 2015.

Police Chief Ed Flynn says Rajaphoumi violated the Milwaukee Police core value of integrity by breaking state laws. The city's Fire and Police Commission will discuss the firing Thursday.


Case dropped against teen in fatal shooting of Milwaukee boy

MILWAUKEE  --  Authorities have dismissed the case against a 16-year-old boy who was charged in the fatal shooting of a 14-year-old boy shortly after a fireworks display on Milwaukee's lakefront last year.

The then-15-year-old was accused of shooting Tariq Akbar in the back of the head on July 3, 2015, because of an online fight over a girl that didn't involve Akbar. Authorities said the then-15-year-old suspect fired into a crowd of arguing teens.

A jury was selected in the accused teen's trial Monday, but a prosecutor then moved to dismiss the charges, citing problems with witnesses that left him unable to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. The judge approved the request.


Flood damaged Highway 13 finally reopens in Ashland County

ASHLAND  --  The final major flood damaged highway from mid-July has reopened in far northern Wisconsin.

The state DOT says repairs on Highway 13 near Highbridge in Ashland County were completed in 11 weeks, about one month ahead of schedule.

Work began in early August to replace culverts and pavement that washed out by nearly 12 inches of rain in the far north during a two-day period in mid-July.

A span of roadway 150 feet long was destroyed on Highway 13 at Silver Creek. Also, a second bridge was washed out at Trout Creek, destroying 100 feet of roadway. Both bridge pavements were 30 to 50 feet above the ground.


DMV website has approved voter ID information

MADISON  --  The state Division of Motor Vehicles now has information on its website for those who want to get photo IDs to vote next month.

Federal Judge James Peterson ordered clearer information last week, after reports that some applicants received conflicting information when they tried obtaining the necessary IDs for the Nov. 8 elections.

Applicants can go to Wisconsin to see a "palm card" which lists the proof of identity and residency that people need to bring to a DMV office. And if they don't have them, they can fill out two forms and still get IDs in time to vote.

The DMV also has information sheets that tell people what to expect after they apply for IDs.


New solar project planned in Chippewa Valley

LAKE HALLIE  --  Another western Wisconsin farm field is about to become a solar field.  Dairyland Power Cooperative cut the ribbon on its latest solar project Monday. The plan is to link the site in Lake Hallie with about a dozen others. Dairyland officials say the solar panels should be enough to power about 2,500 homes.

Sarah Nigbor

Sarah J. Nigbor serves as a regional editor for RiverTown Multimedia, a position she began in April 2017. She joined RiverTown Multimedia in October 2013 as a news reporter for the New Richmond News, before being appointed editor of the Pierce County Herald in Febraury 2015. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Spanish and French in 2001. She completed a minor in journalism in 2004. 

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