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Wisconsin trails its neighbor for highest ACT scores; higher speed limit gets cool reception; more state news

This year’s Wisconsin high school graduates tied with Iowa for the nation’s second-highest score on the ACT or American College Testing entrance exam. Neighboring Minnesota had the top score among states where more than half of all students took the ACT.

The top three states had identical rankings a year ago. Minnesota students averaged 23 of a possible 36. Wisconsin averaged 22.1 -- same as a year ago, which was the lowest since 1996.

One reason for the lower average is that more youngsters are taking the ACT exam even if they don’t plan to go to college. Seventy-one percent of Wisconsin students took the test a year ago.

Milwaukee and a number of other school districts started making students take the ACT over the past several years. It will be a statewide requirement starting in the fall of 2014. Almost three-fourths of this year’s Wisconsin high school grads took a core curriculum recommended by the ACT. It includes four years of English and three years each of math, social studies, and science.

The ACT is the predominant college entrance exam in the nation’s mid-section. The SAT exam is more prominent on both coasts.


Senate leaders put brakes on 70 mph proposal

MADISON -- Wisconsin will not raise its top speed limit anytime soon.

Senate Republicans put the brakes Tuesday on an Assembly proposal to raise the limit from 65 miles an hour to 70 on the state’s major four-lane highways.

Senate GOP leader Scott Fitzgerald said it’s not likely to be part of the agenda for the fall session in his chamber.

Senate Republican finance chair Alberta Darling said she has no idea why the speed limit issue is coming up now, and she’s more concerned about the economy and improving schools.

The bill’s chief Assembly sponsor, freshman Republican Paul Tittl of Manitowoc, said the bill could help the economy and let workers with long commutes spend more time with their families.

Tittl dismissed safety concerns, saying that hardly anybody drives 65 on the expressways. Most other states have top speed limits of 70 or 75.

Former Senate Republican Tom Reynolds of West Allis pushed a bill eight years ago to raise the four-lane speed limit to 75, but his measure went nowhere.


Heat advisory continued across region Wednesday

Wisconsin can expect one more day of warm, humid weather before a cold front moves in and cools things down.

The northwest was the state’s hot spot Tuesday with highs in the 90’s in some places. The mercury hit 92 near Grantsburg in Burnett County.

It was a sticky morning throughout the state with temperatures in the 60’s and 70’s and humidity above 80% in most places. It was 75 in La Crosse at 5 a.m.

 The National Weather Service has posted a heat advisory for nine counties in the northwest from noon to 7 p.m. Wednesday. Those counties are Eau Claire, Chippewa, Dunn, Pepin, Pierce, St. Croix, Polk, Barron and Rusk. Forecasters say the heat index could hit 101 in those areas.

All of Wisconsin could see 90 Wednesday before the cold front brings showers and thunderstorms to the region tonight. Some of those storms could be severe. Once they clear out, a much cooler day is predicted for tomorrow with highs around 80.

Dry weather is expected until Saturday when storms could return generally in the northern half of Wisconsin. Another warm-up is forecast for Sunday, when some areas could see 90 degrees again.


Critics: Cyber-bullying could grow without authorities' right to snoop

Wisconsin school boards are concerned that a bill to prevent companies from snooping in their employees’ social media accounts might hurt efforts to prevent cyber-bullying by students.

One of the bill’s main authors does not agree that’s the case. Madison Assembly Democrat Melissa Sargent says she’ll work with Dan Rossmiller of the state School Boards Association, to make sure that schools can still conduct online inquiries into things like bullying and sex-related text messages to students.

Rossmiller expressed the only concerns about the anti-snooping bill at a public hearing Tuesday before the state Senate’s Judiciary Committee.

Sargent and Senate Republican Glenn Grothman of West Bend are the main authors of a bill to prevent employers and college administrators from asking for social media passwords so they can see private communications.

Sargent says employers want to see private communications meant for their workers friends and families, and workers have felt pressure to let them see emails because of how hard it is to get and keep jobs these days.

Businesses say they need to protect themselves from employees who improperly send out things like trade secrets. Earlier, the state’s largest business group said the bill balances personal privacy with the need to monitor work-related Internet activity.


Milk production jumps 3 percent YOY

Wisconsin’s milk production rose by almost 3% in July, compared to the same month a year ago.

The Badger State produced almost 2.3 billion pounds of milk last month with a year-to-year increase of almost three times the national jump of 1.1%. Wisconsin also made another gain on top-producing California, which posted a 3.% decline in its milk production compared to the year before.

The Golden State produced about 3.4 billion pounds in July – the only state with a bigger output than Wisconsin.

All but of five of the nation’s 23 major dairy states saw increases in July. Arizona, Idaho and Oregon joined California in having decreases. Utah was unchanged.



Ex-custodian facing 78 child porn counts

A former school custodian in Phelps was jailed under a $10,000 cash bond as he awaits charges of viewing child pornography on school computers.

Richard Buell, 61, appeared Tuesday in Vilas County Circuit Court. Authorities have recommended 78 counts of possessing child porn.

Buell is tentatively due back in court Friday for an initial appearance on the charges. Sheriff’s investigators are working with the State Crime Lab to analyze the images, which were downloaded on the Phelps School District computer network.

Officials said students and teachers were not exposed to any harmful materials. Buell worked in the Phelps district until February when another staffer reported that somebody gained access to child porn on school computers.

 -- Raymond Neupert, WSAU, Wausau


Stoughton woman dies after SUV strike

STOUGHTON -- A woman who was struck and killed by a sport utility vehicle has been identified as Marquerite Clarke, 75.

Police are still investigating the accident which occurred late Monday morning. Authorities said Clarke was in a crosswalk at a Stoughton intersection when an SUV driven by a 68-year-old man struck her.

The man refused medical help at the crash site. Police said he was wearing a seatbelt. Neither speed nor alcohol appears to be a factor in the accident.


Woman jailed for allegedly killing boyfriend

MILWAUKEE -- A 30-year-old woman has been arrested for killing her boyfriend.

Police said Quentin Blackmer, 28, was stabbed as the couple argued around 1 a.m. Tuesday in a north side Milwaukee neighborhood. Blackmer later died at a hospital.

Police say they’ll refer the case to the district attorney’s office for possible charges.



Drug dealer gets 12 years for peddling heroin; highlights botched ATF sting

A drug dealer was sentenced to 12 years in prison Tuesday for selling to federal agents in a botched sting operation in Milwaukee.

Bobby Ball, 33, was only caught selling five grams of heroin and two grams of po,  but officials said he had a violent criminal record which justified the prison term.

The Journal Sentinel said Ball’s case exposed a major failure in the planning of “Operation Fearless,” a gun and drug buying operation set up last year by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The newspaper conducted a detailed review of the operation. It found that Ball was allowed to leave a fake ATF storefront after he threatened to shoot somebody.

Agents apparently wanted to buy Ball’s .38-caliber revolver, but he refused to sell, saying he needed it because his cousin had been shot. The paper said the ATF assumed it could buy all the weapons it wanted, and it did not have a plan on what to do when prospective sellers said no.


Group home operator gets prison for ripping off residents

BURLINGTON -- The operator of a group home in Burlington will spend three years in prison for stealing over $24,000 from three mentally disabled residents.

Becky Ann Borucki, 58, was also told to spend three years under extended supervision when she leaves prison – plus three years on probation.

A hearing will be held Nov. 21 to determine how much Borucki will have to pay back.

One of the men’s legal guardians contacted police after noticing that almost $9,000 disappeared from the man’s bank account from August of 2011 to January of last year.

Borucki reportedly used the money to buy items that included electronics, clothes and rugs.

Her attorney said Borucki had mental illnesses at the time. She was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, bi-polar disorder and possible schizophrenia.

Borucki apologized during her sentencing. She said the thefts were completely out of character after a 30-year career of caring for people with special needs.

 She pleaded no contest in March to two theft charges and a count of identity theft.


Tablets, chat, pen pals have different meaning for Class of 2017

For most college freshmen, a tablet is not a pill you take, a chat seldom involves talking with somebody, and GM is food that’s genetically-modified.

Those are among the 60 items on this year’s Beloit College Mindset list, which helps teachers communicate better with their students. The list has been put together each August since 1998. Beloit College says more than a million people go on line to view it.

Speaking of computers, this year’s college freshmen believe that we’ve always been able to plug into USB ports and the CD players in their parents’ cars are so ancient.

The Mindset List has had both its imitators and its critics. Inside Higher Ed says a school in Australia has emulated the Beloit College list. Daniel D’Addario wrote on that the Mindset List is not all that relevant because it contains mainly bad puns about technology, products college freshmen have never seen, random events which have always been the case for young adults, and people who’ve always been dead or famous to them.

Beloit English professor Tom McBride says it’s a relevant list that millions look forward to each year and he enjoys debating the subject with critics.

McBride and Ron Nief came up with the idea for the Mindset List. And, oh yes – for college students born in 1995, Mickey Mantle, Jerry Garcia and Dean Martin have always been dead.

View the entire list at :

Here are a few more excerpts:

-- For this generation of entering college students, born in 1995, Dean Martin, Mickey Mantle and Jerry Garcia have always been dead.

-- Eminem and LL Cool J could show up at parents’ weekend.

-- They are the sharing generation, having shown tendencies to share everything, including possessions, no matter how personal.

-- Gaga has never been baby talk.

-- The U.S. has always been trying to figure out which side to back in Middle East conflicts.

-- While they've grown up with a World Trade Organization, they have never known an Interstate Commerce Commission.

-- They have never seen the Bruins at Boston Garden, the Trailblazers at Memorial Coliseum, the Supersonics in Key Arena or the Canucks at the Pacific Coliseum.

-- Kevin Bacon has always maintained six degrees of separation in the cinematic universe.

-- A Wiki has always been a cooperative web application rather than a shuttle bus in Hawaii.

Steve Dzubay

Steve Dzubay has been publisher at the River Falls Journal and Hudson Star Observer from 1995-2016. He holds a bachelors degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. He previously worked as a reporter-photographer at small daily newspapers in Minnesota and is past editor of the Pierce County Herald and River Falls Journal.