I don’t believe that this has been reported anywhere else. Last week at the NAACP National Convention in Cincinnati, the delegates voted in a new resolution on charter schools. It’s app…
Milwaukee BizTimes editor, Andrew Weiland recently wrote an editorial called, “Superman! Where are you?” In the piece he questions why the Milwaukee Common Council is refusing to approve the reappointment of Department of City Development (DCD) Commissioner Richard “Rocky” Marcoux. Weiland argues that Marcoux should be reappointed because of the rapid development in downtown Milwaukee, while the Milwaukee Common Council argues that this development has been disproportional to the development of low-income neighborhoods that are suffering. South Side Alderman Tony Zielinski had this to say about the performance of Marcoux:
When I hear statements to the effect of what a great job is taking place (by Marcoux), I just have to stand up and say, you’ve got to be kidding. We have, if not the highest, one of the highest African-American male unemployment rates in the country. What has been advanced to address that issue in 12 years? You talk about development…look at the central city. What kind of development have we seen in the central city in the last 12 years? With the development we have had, it’s been downtown. Instead of addressing those most in need in our community, we are focusing on other areas, and we are not even doing a good job at that.”
Zielinski is absolutely correct! Milwaukee needs a balanced approach to development in Milwaukee and not just a “market-driven” approach as Weiland suggests. The market has ignored these communities and Weiland, who lives in Muskego, does not care for these families, who also would like to see DCD paying attention to their neighborhoods, and not just catering to the needs of wealthy developers downtown.
Next, Weiland had the gall to blame the city’s lack of economic development and jobs on Milwaukee Public Schools:
The lack of economic development in the central city is also market-driven. The high violent crime rate, poverty and poor performance of Milwaukee Public Schools creates an environment the marketplace wants to avoid. The DCD can’t change that fact.
MPS didn’t defund itself. So if the economy is failing you can’t blame it on a school district that has been attacked and defunded for decades.
Just fifteen years ago…high-poverty (MPS) schools were fully staffed with librarians, guidance counselors, full-time reading specialists, art, music and physical education specialists, program implementers, technology teachers, paraprofessionals, special education teachers, nurses, social workers, psychologists, speech pathologists, and classroom teachers with small classes that allowed them to provide plenty of individual attention to children.
These same positions have been stripped out of MPS year by year, but Weiland, whose home district of Muskego still enjoys many of the positions MPS has seen cut, somehow thinks he knows what’s best for Milwaukee. It’s the same kind of hypocrisy we’ve seen from MPS Takeover co-authors Rep. Dale Kooyenga and Sen. Alberta Darling, who blame MPS for not getting higher test scores, while at the same time presiding over a state budget that allocates more money per pupil for their own students than MPS. They claim to want to “help” our students, but their actions speak louder than their words.
We don’t want the “help” of Rocky Marcoux, Dale Kooyenga, Alberta Darling, Andrew Weiland, or his “market-driven” approach to economic development in Milwaukee, because we’ve seen what their idea of help amounts to in practice. It’s good to see the Common Council taking a different approach.
The fox was let into the henhouse.
Charter schools that aren’t part of a public school district can pose a great risk because the funding diverted to them can eventually bring down the district. The Milwaukee Common Council recently passed an ordinance that requires the city’s Charter School Review Committee (CSRC) to produce an Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) financial impact statement for any new charter school they authorize for approval.
The Next Door Foundation school recently applied for a city charter under this new policy.
CSRC staffer Jarett Fields was tasked with the responsibility of researching and writing the very first impact statement to help inform the committee members before making their decision. Fields, who at the time was employed by Marquette’s Institute for Transformational Learning, presented it at the April 4 meeting of the CSRC. Fields’s statement and verbal explanation of it seemed to deliberately minimize the effects the new charter would have on MPS.
The CSRC voted to approve the new charter school and recommend it to the Common Council’s Steering and Rules Committee, which has oversight over the CSRC. But in testimony at the June 2 Steering and Rules hearing, a Schools and Communities United representative pointed out that the statement was incomplete and failed to provide sources for its information. Thankfully at that hearing Alderman Tony Zielinski and author of the impact statement legislation, Ald. Nik Kovac, discovered the real author of the statement — the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL), a right wing, Bradley Foundation funded, anti-public education group!
That’s right, the same group that takes millions of dollars from the Bradley Foundation to end public schools was allowed to write the first MPS Impact Statement. A study by One Wisconsin Institute states:
In service of the goals of its benefactor, WILL has undertaken an aggressive campaign of actual and threatened litigation to ward off scrutiny of and crackdowns on voucher program abuses, to force taxpayers to underwrite transportation for private school voucher students and to advocate for further expansion of the voucher program in the media and with the release of pseudo-science.
Just last week a “report” that WILL released a while back in support of charter schools was debunked by actual researchers. How are Wisconsin policy makers, taxpayers, educators, and administrators able to make informed decisions about the future of public education when every step of the way WILL muddies the debate with an aggressive agenda aimed at destroying public education.
Jarett Fields, clearly unable to understand the factors involved in school finance or the data provided by the Department of Public Instruction, or MPS, did not turn to any other Wisconsin education expert for assistance, but instead turned to WILL to write the statement. Fields recently resigned his position as staffer for the CSRC.
This guest blog, on the growing destruction to public education in Wisconsin from the creation of a school voucher program a quarter of a century ago, was written by retired educator / activist Sheila Plotkin. Sheila has also been dubbed an “Independent Guerilla Journalist,” by Matt Rothschild.
Phase 1: 26 years ago, education by exclusion was wrapped in the camouflage of “parental choice”. Charter schools were touted as citadels of best practice, hotbeds of innovation, and a much-needed alternative to “failing” public schools. The courts determined that as long as taxpayer money (vouchers) went to the child and not the school, such public support for religious and other private education did not violate the constitution. The bulging public pocket was now open for picking.
But, the privatizers had a problem: public schools were not failing fast enough, and in some cases, despite the ravages of institutional racism, poverty, joblessness, crime, and social and family upheavals, they were actually successful. Most parents continued to choose their public schools. What to do?
Phase 2: Divide and conquer. Make teachers and their representatives the enemy of “parental choice”. Cap salary growth at artificial levels. When teachers object to be being singled out in this fashion, label them as greedy suckers at the public teat. Turn parents against their children’s teachers and other public employees.
How’d that work out for the privatizers? Well, they could see some progress, but it was agonizingly slow. Teachers continued to do their jobs, and public schools continued to succeed. Something more was required.
Phase 3: Politically engineer faster failure. Cut public education budgets by a couple of billion dollars. Expand education by exclusion across the state, and funnel those billions into private hands. As locally elected school boards struggle to provide the same or better services with decreasing funds, craft legislation to label and punish them as “failures”. Create separate standards for education by exclusion, and continue the drumbeat of “public school failure”.
Ignore the voices of protest. Ignore the research that shows education by exclusion is no better and often worse than public education. Ignore those privatizers who take taxpayer money and run, leaving betrayed parents and children in their wake. Sell superintendents and school board leaders the concept of “partnership” and joint decision-making on behalf of the children they serve. Make special education students eligible for education by exclusion so you can say you’re not discriminating against them. Hold public hearings to demonstrate your willingness to listen. Ignore what you hear.
So far, so good.
Phase 4: Eviscerate local control. Create a plan to take over public schools and hand them over to privatizers in bulk. Start in Milwaukee where it all began. Under the guise of “partnership”, tap two white, wealthy, suburban legislators to draft legislation empowering the county executive to appoint an education by exclusion czar whose power supercedes that of the elected school board. Hold public hearings to demonstrate your willingness to listen. Ignore what you hear.
But, trouble is brewing. The hearings are raucous with uncomfortable questions neither the czar nor the county executive want to answer. Parents, students, and teachers are marching in the streets. Local leaders are joining them in protest. The czar suddenly resigns.
This is not good.
Phase 5: Remove the camouflage, and roll out the big guns. Two more wealthy white legislators step to the front lines. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald threatens to tighten the noose around the necks of Milwaukee’s children if their grown ups won’t lie down and shut up. Senator Ron Johnson introduces legislation that will prohibit the Justice Department from protecting special needs children who are thrown out of education by exclusion because they “don’t fit in”.
26 years of concerted effort, multi-millions in lobbying expenses, and skillful masking of the real intent of “parental choice” has come down to this: the GOP has the legislature, the statehouse, the Supreme Court and the public square. They have all the power necessary, and they can take what they want. They have promised Wisconsin’s treasure to their education by exclusion donors. It is time to keep that promise.
Phase 6: First Milwaukee, then Madison, Racine, Kenosha, and more. The public school dominoes will fall, taken down by those who swore to serve but chose to dominate instead. Education by exclusion at public expense for private profit will become Wisconsin’s new normal. The last and most fertile common ground on which the American Dream was built and from which it drew its nutrients, will lie fallow, polluted by greed, a brownfield to remind us of the community we once were.
There can no longer be any doubt that 26 years ago the goal of the skillfully disguised “parental choice” program was the complete destruction of public education. That goal is within reach.
Will the teachers and parents and children of Milwaukee Public Schools continue to stand alone against the power of the state? Will the rest of us wait silently until our schools are stolen? The battle is joined. The front lines are defined. Which side are you on?
The Milwaukee Branch of the NAACP issued the following statement in response to threats against MPS made from Wisconsin Republican Senator Scott Fitzgerald, Representative Dale Kooyenga, and Senator Alberta Darling.All three lashed out at the families and students of MPS, last week, following the resignation of Takeover Czar Means and the outright refusal of the people of Milwaukee to accept a Takeover of their public schools. The NAACP’s statement correctly identifies whom the anger should be focused on.
The Republicans showed all their cards and intentions for Milwaukee Public Schools on Thursday, a day after the resignation of Takeover Czar Means. Listen to what Rep. Dale Kooyenga had to say on the right wing Jay Weber talk radio show (video below). Kooyenga and Weber revealed what the real Republican priority is for Milwaukee students, and it isn’t about caring or improving public schools.
If the Takeover co-authors Kooyenga and Sen. Alberta Darling really cared about Milwaukee children and families, would they be presiding over budgets that provide students in their own wealthier districts with thousands of dollars more than students in MPS?
The following statement was released, Friday, July 1st, by Wisconsin Jobs Now Executive Director Martha De La Rosa in response to the resignation of MPS Takeover Czar Demond Means, and the subsequent threats to defund MPS from Republican leadership:
“With the departure of Dr. Means as commissioner of the so-called “Opportunity Schools and Partnership program,” the attempt by legislative Republicans to take control of Milwaukee Public Schools has failed.
“Dr. Mean’s resignation is a victory for Milwaukee’s children and a defeat for legislative Republicans who have shown an increasingly clear bias against the people of Milwaukee, and for their accomplice County Executive Chris Abele.
“Milwaukee’s Public Schools need full funding so our kids can get the quality education they deserve, not experiments in taking control away from our locally elected school board and handing it to an unaccountable political appointee.
“The white Republican legislators who don’t represent Milwaukee but think they can experiment on the mostly Black children of MPS need to understand that we will not allow them to risk our children’s future for their political gain.
“Wisconsin Jobs Now will continue to support efforts by parents and educators to establish real community schools and will fight back vigorously against any attempt to appoint another Takeover Czar or expand the failed takeover legislation.
“Recent statements by legislative Republicans who have threatened to further cut MPS funding as punishment for not implementing their racist experiment prove that they have zero concern for the quality of education in our city. We will fight back even harder against their next assault on our children.”
Assembly Democratic Leader Rep. Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) and Assembly Democratic Caucus Chair Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa (D-Milwaukee) released a statement on Friday afternoon admonishing the rhetoric from GOP legislators threatening to defund MPS, one day after the resignation of the MPS Takeover Czar and a growing movement against implementing an unjust law on the city of Milwaukee.
County Executive Chris Abele continues to cooperate with a Takeover of Milwaukee Public Schools despite growing community outrage against it. We want our public schools to be publicly accountable and transparent to the taxpayers who fund them. All students have a right to a fully resourced public school, regardless of their zip code.
Join Schools and Communities United on Monday, June 20 at 2pm outside the Milwaukee County Courthouse to demand public community schools, not a takeover for Milwaukee.
Facebook event page is here.