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Take a look at the stories from around our area and world that are making news today.

Isthmus Montessori finds another route to getting public school status: Jenny Peek writes in Isthmus: "For years, Isthmus Montessori Academy has been unsuccessfully trying to get the Madison school district to accept it as a public charter school. But the progressive school found another route — through a program created by conservative Republicans. In a Jan. 31 letter to state Superintendent of schools Tony Evers, Gary Allen Bennett, director of the UW-System’s Office of Educational Opportunity, wrote that his office intends to enter into a charter contract with Isthmus Montessori Academy. The UW Board of Regents has final say over its approval. 'We really believe that IMA was worth taking a chance,' Bennett tells Isthmus. 'It was worth creating new access to a proven model, and we believe Madison owes it to our community to make sure economic privilege is not a determining factor in educational opportunity.' If approved by the Regents, most families at Isthmus Montessori will no longer have to pay tuition (exceptions would include the school’s 3K daycare program or afterschool programming). The Office of Educational Opportunity, OEO, was created in 2015 by Republican lawmakers as part of the state’s 2015-2017 biennial budget." Read more.

Another 'flip flop' in Congress? 2018 midterms give Democrats hope: Bill Glauber, Todd Spangler, Ali Schmitz of USA TODAY NETWORK write: "U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman, R-Wis., should be feeling safe heading into this year’s elections: He’s a two-term incumbent in a rural-suburban district that hasn’t elected a Democrat since the 1960s. Donald Trump had a 17-point margin of victory here over Hillary Clinton in 2016. But last year, Grothman – a longtime state legislator from the 6th Congressional District that stretches from Lake Michigan through the center of the state north of Milwaukee and Madison – told people he could be facing the 'toughest race of my political career.' Fundraising was lagging and a potentially viable Democratic opponent – Dan Kohl, the nephew of former U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl – was mounting a challenge. At a recent town hall meeting in Theresa, a village about 40 miles north of Milwaukee, Grothman heard constituents fret over Social Security, immigration, the debt, farming and more – and not all of them happy with the direction of a Republican-led Congress. 'The truth is, I’ve always been a Republican, but I’m starting to feel like the Republican Party does not represent me at all,' said 57-year-old Anne Rinzel, who raises crops in nearby Lomira. She's an advocate for the Affordable Care Act, saying it’s helped pay her daughter’s medical bills." Read more.

Congress votes to end government shutdown: John Bresnahan, Jennifer Scholtes and Heather Caygle of Politico write: "After five and a half hours of a government shutdown, Congress passed a sweeping budget deal early Friday morning that will keep the doors open at federal agencies and lift stiff spending caps — giving Republicans another legislative victory, although it came at a high price. The measure faced opposition from the right and left, but lawmakers were loath to force a protracted shutdown fight. And many lawmakers were eager to see higher spending on defense and domestic programs. The House vote, around 5:30 a.m., was 240-186. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) had urged her members to oppose the bill over the GOP’s failure to resolve the standoff over 700,000 Dreamers, but her efforts ultimately fell short. Seventy-three Democrats ended up backing the bipartisan package, which came after months of closed-door talks. The defeat was a bitter one for Pelosi and other top Democrats, who have sought for months to tie a resolution of the fight over the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to the budget caps negotiations.'" Read more.

Knives come out for Kelly: Niall Stanage of The Hill writes: "Sources close to the White House say chief of staff John Kelly has suffered a serious blow to his standing from the bungled resignation of staff secretary Rob Porter, who has been accused of domestic abuse. Kelly’s most vehement critics even suggest the episode could herald his demise within the administration. 'We’ll see this as an inflection point when he is fired,' said one source within President Trump’s orbit. The source, who requested anonymity to speak candidly, blasted Kelly as 'tone deaf and politically inept.' A second source close to the Republican Party complained, regarding Kelly, that 'everybody knows he limits access and information flow to POTUS on a daily basis; this could be the beginning of the end of that — and maybe Kelly as chief.' Such predictions can be motivated in part by personal rivalries. Some people who had become accustomed to having relatively free-flowing access to Trump have found their contact sharply reduced since Kelly replaced Reince Priebus as chief of staff last July. But Kelly's woes deepened late Thursday when The Washington Post reported that White House counsel Donald McGahn had first informed Kelly of the abuse allegations against Porter last fall. Instead of firing Porter, according to the Post, Kelly gave him a bigger role." Read more.

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Dozens of crashes, cancellations as nearly 5 inches of snow pounds Chicago area overnight: Madeline Buckley of the Chicago Tribune writes: "Snow pounded the Chicago area overnight, resulting in nearly five inches of accumulation so far, more than two dozen crashes on city expressways and hundreds of canceled flights. The snow is expected to continue until about mid to late morning on Friday, and is likely to snarl traffic and cause problems during the morning commute, according to the National Weather Service. Metra has issued a winter weather advisory asking riders to allow extra time for the commute and check service alerts for delays. So far, a Union Pacific Northwest train scheduled to arrive in Chicago at 6:10 a.m. is delayed due to weather and the BNSF line will operate an alternate schedule. Chicago Public Schools canceled classes for Friday, along with dozens of suburban schools. Officials are asking people to postpone any unnecessary travel. Most area expressways are covered with snow and ice and visibility is low, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation winter condition report. Red Line trains are standing at Howard due to mechanical problems, creating significant delays for southbound travel. Other CTA train and bus lines were running normally." Read more.

Female California lawmaker behind #MeToo push is accused of groping male staffer: Derek Hawkins of the Washington Post writes: "A California lawmaker who has gained national recognition for fighting against sexual misconduct in the state Capitol is accused of groping a former legislative staffer. The staffer, Daniel Fierro, told The Washington Post on Thursday that Democratic Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, who has become a prominent figure in the #MeToo movement, approached him alone after an assembly softball game in 2014, squeezed his buttocks and tried to touch his crotch. He said Garcia was visibly intoxicated. Fierro, who was 25 at the time, did not report the incident because he worried about the long-term consequences that could come with accusing the powerful lawmaker, who chairs the Legislative Women’s Caucus and the Natural Resources Committee. But in January he told his former boss, Democratic Assemblyman Ian Calderon, who referred the matter to an assembly panel that is now investigating Garcia. Politico was the first to report on Fierro’s allegations. The story also included sexual misconduct allegations against Garcia from an anonymous male lobbyist that The Post was not able to independently verify." Read more.

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