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Burke’s fellow school board members: What plagiarism scandal?

By   /   September 25, 2014  /   News  /   No Comments

By M.D Kittle | Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON, Wis. — In the wake of a plagiarism scandal dogging Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke, the Republican Party of Wisconsin is calling on the Madison Metropolitan School District to convene a special meeting to review the district’s plagiarism policies.

Perhaps the GOP shouldn’t hold its breath.

Some of Burke’s peers on the Madison School Board don’t see a scandal at all.

“I don’t look at this as a big deal. That isn’t a firestorm. That was a guy who copied and pasted work into a document,” Dean Loumos, who represents Seat 3 on the Board of Education, told Wisconsin Reporter when reached by phone Wednesday afternoon.

He then said he didn’t wish to comment further.

Ed Hughes, who represents Seat 7, said, “I don’t think there’s any plagiarism that I’m aware of, and I don’t have any comment other than that.”

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TEACHABLE MOMENT? Democratic candidate for governor, Mary Burke, doesn’t see a plagiarism scandal dogging her campaign as a big deal, and neither do some of her peers on the Madison Metropolitan School Board.

Most of Burke’s fellow board members either declined comment on the issue or did not return requests for comment

Burke, a former executive at her family-owned Trek Bicycle Corp., represents Seat 2 on the board, an elected post the Madison millionaire spent more than $128,000 campaigning for in 2012.

Last week, Buzzfeed, which has had its own PR black eyes with plagiarism, reported that Burke’s jobs plan, “Invest for Success” pilfers entire passages from the economic development blueprints laid out by Delaware Democratic Gov. Jack Markell in 2008, and Democratic gubernatorial candidates Ward Cammack of Tennessee in 2009 and John Gregg of Indiana in 2012.

A spokesman for the Burke campaign blamed an “expert” named Eric Schnurer, “who also worked on the other campaigns(,) as responsible for the similar text, a case of self-plagiarism.” Schnurer is founder and president of Philadelphia-based consulting firm Public Works.

BuzzFeed followed up with revelations that Burke’s other policy proposals lifted passages from other sources.

The Burke campaign has spent the past several days throwing Schnurer under the bus. As of late Wednesday night, the campaign consultant had not said anything publicly about the scandal, or his alleged role in it. He has not returned several phone calls and emails from Wisconsin Reporter seeking comment.

Earlier this week, on National Public Radio affiliate WUWM’s “Lake Effect” public issues forum, Burke defended her jobs plan and mostly shrugged off the plagiarism charges. She said she drew from “best practices all over the country on how we can make sure Wisconsin’s economy is moving forward.” Arguably, it could be said Burke borrowed a bit from the campaign slogan of her opponent, incumbent Republican Gov. Scott Walker: “Let’s keep moving Wisconsin Forward!” But imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, after all.

“The thing that was wrong was Eric used some very similar language — some exact wording — that he had used in other plans that he had provided to other campaigns, and that’s wrong and that’s why we cut ties with his firm,” Burke told the station, insisting the copy and pasting was minimal in comparison to the entire document.

Critics say Burke could take a tip from her school district’s Positive Behavior Support section of the Student Conduct and Discipline Plan, under the heading: Be Responsible. The section advises:

“Do/Produce your own work.”

“Take ownership for your actions.”

Students who commit acts of academic theft could face some stern consequences in the Madison School District.

“(R)epresenting another’s work as one’s own, plagiarism, or sharing of answers or solutions on any assigned individual effort is unacceptable behavior and may result in a zero grade or other disciplinary action,” according to district policy.

Smelling blood, the Republican Party of Wisconsin issued a media release Wednesday urging the school district to convene a special meeting to review Burke’s “clear violation of the district’s plagiarism policies.”

“Burke’s blatant plagiarism of several core campaign plans is unacceptable and reflects poorly on her judgment. She must be held to the same standards as her district’s students — and finally come clean about her dishonest behavior,” said Joe Fadness, executive director of the Wisconsin GOP.

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M.D. Kittle is national First Amendment reporter at Watchdog.org. Contact him at [email protected]