MON AM News: State schools superintendent candidates hope to increase tech literacy; WMC opposes Evers’ plan to sue companies over PFAS contamination

— All seven of the state’s school superintendent candidates agreed that Wisconsin needs to increase the technology literacy of its students — but each contender has a different plan to get there.

In a webcast series with released earlier this month, in partnership with Milwaukee Tech Hub Coalition, each candidate shared ideas to move Wisconsin forward in computer science education.

“We need to better connect the dots between our schools and our economic workforce needs in all of our communities,” said Deb Kerr, the executive committee member for the American Association of School Administrators.

According to Kerr, Wisconsin has educational standards now, but some of those standards were established without talking with businesses. The state’s current standards need to be changed to drive the success of the children of the state and give them the opportunity to have a career they are excited about, she said.

Candidate Sheila Briggs, the assistant state superintendent at the Department of Public Instruction, helped set up Wisconsin’s first set of computer science education standards.

This was done to ensure all kids have exposure to computer sciences that build up as students progress through school, Briggs explained. She said the state needs to grow the program for it to be more successful.

Read the full story at 

— Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce is calling Gov. Tony Evers’ plans to prosecute companies over PFAS contamination an “unfortunate political stunt.”

Evers announced Friday his administration will begin taking steps to prosecute companies responsible for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances contamination. PFAS, as they are more commonly known, are a series of chemicals found in industrial and everyday products, most notably firefighting foam. They do not break down easily in the environment and are linked to several diseases and cancers in humans.

“(The) announcement is an unfortunate political stunt,” said WMC President and CEO Kurt Bauer. “They want to sue businesses for the past use of compounds for which no standards have been set under either state or federal law.”

Evers in consultation with AG Josh Kaul has asked the Department of Administration to begin the process of selecting a third-party law firm to evaluate claims and pursue litigation.

“PFAS can have devastating effects not only on our state’s ecosystem and vital natural resources, but on the health of our families and communities across the state,” Evers said in a statement. “It is unacceptable and those companies responsible for the contamination of our land and water should be held accountable so we can move forward in cleaning up this pollution for the health and safety of our communities.” 

But Bauer argued the business community has worked cooperatively with lawmakers and regulators to address PFAS contaminants. 

“If the governor was truly looking to protect the environment, he would have continued to work closely with the business community on this topic,” he said. “History has shown time and again that more lawsuits only add to the delay associated with environmental cleanups. Today’s announcement will actually slow progress toward addressing contaminated areas in our state.”

— U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin is calling on the president to help people get access to health insurance during the pandemic, including opening a special enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act’s online marketplace.

Wisconsin ended the health insurance open enrollment period — Nov.1-Dec. 15 — with 192,183 net enrollments as of Dec. 15, according to the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Last year’s net enrollment as of Dec. 17 was 196,594. 

Office of the Commissioner of Insurance spokeswoman Sarah Smith said a lack of federal financial support has contributed to an overall decline in enrollment over the past three years. 

In her letter to President Biden, Baldwin also asked for restored funding for the Navigator Program and the ACA’s outreach and enrollment efforts. Baldwin also called on former President Trump to open a special enrollment period. 

She said in her letter an enrollment period paired with restored outreach funding and support for the Navigator Program would give Wisconsin families a level of reassurance and security as they struggle to make ends meet during the global pandemic. 

“Over half-a-million Wisconsinites have contracted COVID-19, and nearly every Wisconsinite has been impacted by the ongoing economic crisis caused by the pandemic,” Baldwin wrote. “Thousands of uninsured and underinsured Wisconsinites are anxious, not only about what the possibility of contracting COVID-19 could mean for their health and that of their family, but also for their financial stability.”

See Baldwin’s letter: 

— Wisconsin has put over 310,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine in people’s arms. 

The Department of Health Services says it needs 1.4 million doses to be at 80 percent vaccinated — a level that would mean herd immunity. The federal government has allocated nearly 780,000 doses to the state.

The state reports 1,119 new COVID-19 cases coming into today and six deaths. The new cases lowered the seven-day average for daily confirmed cases to 1,596 from 1,702 on Friday. The death toll totals 5,691 while 532,971 Wisconsinites have had a confirmed case.

Click here for more coronavirus resources and updates: 

— The latest Wisconsin Hospital Association coronavirus update shows COVID-19 hospitalizations and intensive care unit census numbers are lower than the day and week prior.

WHA reports 761 hospitalizations and 169 ICU patients. 

Both the Alternate Care Facility at State Fair Park and bamlanivimab infusion therapy center next door have no coronavirus patients. The West Allis field hospital has treated 170 total patients since opening on Oct. 14 and has had no patients since Christmas Eve. 

<i>For more of the most relevant news on the coronavirus outbreak, reports on groundbreaking health research in Wisconsin and links to top stories, sign up today for the free daily Health Care Report from and

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— Emerging companies may apply through Feb. 12 to meet with major firms and explore potential business relationships as part of the eighth annual Wisconsin Tech Summit.

The virtual, day-long event will be held March 17. The Tech Summit will feature a series of brief meetings, or “speed dates,” to foster communication and partnership. It is produced by the Wisconsin Technology Council and the Wisconsin Healthcare Business Forum.

Participating major firms include American Family Insurance, AT&T, Exact Sciences, Kimberly-Clark, Marshfield Clinic Health System, Schreiber Foods and Titletown Tech, among others.

“There are many reasons why major companies would want to meet with emerging firms, and vice versa,” said Greg Lynch, chairman of the Tech Council and co-founder of Michael Best’s Venture Best group. “This is a way to enhance company-to-company connections in Wisconsin and beyond, with benefits to entrepreneurs and major companies alike.”

See more information: 

— Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers contributed $500,000 to the Barstool Fund to support businesses struggling due to the pandemic. 

Any struggling small business can submit their application to Barstool: 

— The latest single-housing permit numbers show that new home construction was up 10 percent in 2020 compared to 2019, the Wisconsin Builders Association released.

The data, compiled by information required to be submitted by municipalities to the Department of Safety and Professional Services, shows 12,291 new home permits were issued across the state in 2020 compared to 11,207 in 2019. WBA Executive Director Brad Boycks said the industry’s ability to continue building homes during the economic shutdown was a significant factor in the increase. 

The association also found the numbers of plats and lots also increased in 2020 over 2019 by about 34 percent and 19 percent, respectively. 

“Our members have continued to say how busy they are, and these numbers are proof of that. Business for the homebuilding industry continues to trend upwards. While we are not yet at the over 17,000 permits issued in 2006, we are well above the 5,300 permits that were issued during homebuilding’s lowest point of the recession,” said WBA President Jeff Dorner. “We are looking forward to another great year of building ahead.”


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– Breunig Honored as DBA Advocate of the Year 

– Wisconsin Gypsy Moth Population Rose in 2020 

– Compeer Financial Commits $1.9 Million to Developing Agriculture’s Workforce 


– Associated Bank CEO to retire 


– Hands-on construction training project pushes increased diversity 


– UW-Madison switches coronavirus testing protocol to drop-in format 


– Natural Resources Board Rejects Request By Lawmakers To Immediately Resume Wolf Hunt 


– The Master Lock Company to lay off 61 employees 


– Johnson Controls joins ManpowerGroup, Northwestern Mutual in putting downtown office space on the market 


– Packers Lose NFC Title Game To Bucs At Lambeau Field 


– Ryder closing Milwaukee operations, eliminating 80 jobs 


– Michels Corp. owner urges Biden to restore Keystone XL pipeline project 


<i>See these and other press releases: </i>

– UW-Madison: Campus organizations begin collaborative effort to enhance response to mental 

– Gov. Evers: State to take steps toward legal action against PFAS contaminators

– ThedaCare: Team members vaccinated the first patients in Phase 1B

– Main Street Alliance: White House commitment to smallest and minority-owned businesses key to solving economic crisis