Madison East Students Take Sen. Ron Johnson to School on Vouchers

Madison East Students Take Ron Johnson to School on Vouchers, Betsy DeVos from MTEA Union on Vimeo.

Wisconsin Republican Senator Ron Johnson has been avoiding constituents since the election of Donald Trump, so he probably thought he could handle some Madison East High School students, but boy was he wrong!

In the nearly 45 –minute Thursday question and answer session, recorded on social media by a student in the audience, Johnson was grilled on his views on public education and an array of other issues. His answers and interactions show just how uninformed his views on public education are and just how brilliant and amazing Wisconsin students are.

The exchange began when Madison East student, Lydia Hester, walked up to the microphone and asked Johnson:

I’m a freshman here at East. I’d like to know how you feel about privatizing schools? How you are able to be here and say that you want to help students when you voted for Betsy DeVos, who has no experience with public schools? DeVos has been pushing for “school choice” for twenty years. This is creating charter schools that replace public schools. Public schools are losing their funding from voucher schools. Public schools are being forced to shut down in Milwaukee. How can you say this will help us?

Johnson responds by telling the students voucher schools offer students a “golden ticket” out of “failing schools,” telling students they needed to watch a one-sided movie that touts corporate education reform, which has exacerbated the condition of public schools. Perhaps Johnson’s campaign donations from school privatizers have clouded his views on this issue. Research (link) continues to show that students in voucher and private charter schools perform no better than students in public schools. As public funds are diverted to the private voucher schools Johnson praises, public school budgets shrink.

Just recently news broke in Milwaukee that a charter school, Universal Academy, abruptly closed its doors on a third school in the city in six months, leaving Milwaukee Public Schools and Wisconsin taxpayers with a nearly $1 million dollar tab. Now families, students, and educators are being forced to scramble and pick up the pieces in the middle of the school year.

Another student followed by comparing Johnson’s earlier remarks about stabilizing the situation in Syria to first stabilizing Wisconsin public schools before experimenting with other reforms:

Earlier in the talk you talked how the solution for refugees (Syria) was to stabilize the area that they’re coming from rather than bringing more here. We could kind of use that as a parallel to what you were just saying about school choice. To say that we can’t all mobilize and leave our places of origin, which is what the refugees want to do, we need to stabilize the situation here so I don’t understand how you can have the two reversed views.

Vouchers have been a destabilizing force for families and public schools in this city for decades. Fly-by-night private schools closing down have become commonplace in Milwaukee and other places that unaccountable vouchers have sunk their roots in. Over fifty voucher schools have closed their doors in Milwaukee, costing taxpayers over a hundred million dollars!

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Graphic from a 2015 blog, when another failed voucher school, Daughters of the Father went under leaving families and MPS in a lurch. Other vouchers schools have failed since.

Finally a third student asked this brilliant question that Johnson handled about as well as Betsy DeVos did in her Senate confirmation hearing:

Do you think we should use standards of proficiency or standards of growth to measure student achievement, especially in relation to English classes which aren’t as straight-forwardly graded as math classes and why?

Johnson’s response:

You’re getting into some pretty esoteric educational pedagogy and I’m not an educator, I’m an accountant, I’m a plastics manufacturer.

Again, why are these politicians, who know nothing about educational policy, playing educator? Johnson forgets to mention that MPS schools were producing great results for students of color up until school vouchers and private charters started diverting money nearly 25 years ago in Milwaukee, the birthplace of a voucher district. Johnson didn’t want to admit that MPS students receive thousands of dollars less in per pupil funding than nearby suburban students, or that legislation to take over a democratically elected school board had been forced upon Milwaukee residents.

Johnson may have thought he could school a bunch of high school students, but these public school students could see right through his lies.

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Photo credit: Joe Brusky

School Board Candidate Admits She Supported MPS Takeover Scheme

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There was a lot of head turning when District 4 school board candidate Aisha Carr’s campaign finance reports went public. Those statements revealed almost $4,000 in donations from the Milwaukee Metropolitan Manufacturers Association (MMAC), otherwise know as the Milwaukee Chamber of Commerce. The MMAC has been the push behind efforts to privatize Milwaukee Public Schools for years.Aisha Carr Report 2 On their  website they advocate for public school resources to be siphoned off to fund unaccountable private charter and voucher programs. Carr has maintained she doesn’t support publicly financed private school vouchers and charters schools at recent candidate forums despite this significant chunk of MMAC campaign cash, but a recent piece in the Milwaukee Community Journal revealed otherwise.

 

In the article Carr has this to say about the MPS Takeover effort that was forced on the people of Milwaukee without any public input in the middle of the night as part of an Omnibus Budget bill in 2015:

By opposing that effort (MPS Takeover), the union and district was, in essence, turning their backs on the children, mostly black children. And they have done nothing since then to address the failure. That’s insulting.

So there you have it. Aisha Carr would have defied MPS Superintendent Dr. Darienne Driver, Board President Mark Sain and the popular grassroots movement built against the Takeover to stand with Republicans Sen. Alberta Darling and Rep. Dale Kooyenga and their Takeover scheme. This privatization agenda is the same one being pushed now nationally by Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos. Carr has publicly stated she supports Superintendent Driver’s reform agenda, but Driver and Board President Sain stood with the community against the MPS Takeover. It turns out Carr has stood with Darling and Kooyenga all along. The article went on to say:

Among her priorities would be community outreach, engaging the community to have a more direct role and influence on the district and the board. Less than 10% of eligible voters participate in school board elections.

Now that’s a rich quote. Carr wants to get the community more involved by taking more MPS schools out of the democratic control of the community? How does that logic work? A state takeover of schools only reduces the community’s ability to have a say at the school board because private institutions are under zero obligation to provide a forum to listen to parents’ concerns. There is zero accountability in Carr’s preferred model. That’s why every community in Wisconsin has a tradition of democratically elected school boards, but the same people who support Carr don’t want democracy for Milwaukee’s majority minority population.

Carr said the board should also establish a working relationship with state lawmakers. Currently the relationship – if you can call it that – is best described as adversarial.

Yes, an “adversarial” relationship is what develops when your funding is cut by over a billion dollars. Why would Milwaukee want to go to the same Republican legislators who have robbed our children and our community and ask to work together? The real Aisha Carr has revealed herself clearly. Get out and vote for Annie Woodward for District 4! Annie stood strong with Superintendent Driver and Board President Sain against the MPS Takeover because they knew passing parents’ democratic control to private third party operators isn’t the way to improve public education in Milwaukee. Annie understands that we must stand strong in support of public education, continue to push for a robust expansion of public Community Schools, and close the current per pupil funding disparities MPS students face compared to their suburban counterparts.

Annie Woodward is the People’s Candidate for MPS School Board District 4!

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Annie Woodward helps beautify the halls of Washington High School for an MLK Service Day Project.

 

 

 

 

 

 

#GoPublic with Your ❤ for Public Schools

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On Monday, April 3, we would like to encourage parents, students, community members, educators, etc. to gather in front of one of their local public schools and encourage others to #GoPublic.

Suggestions:

· Gather before school, after school, or whenever is most convenient for your community. This event could last as little as 10 minutes.

· Ask people to wear a pro-public school t-shirt (“I Love My Public School”, “Go Public”, etc.) or school spirit wear from your local school.

· Make a few signs to remind people that they have 2 important opportunities to speak up for public schools:

o Vote on April 4! State Superintendent of Public Instruction & local school boards

o April 5: Attend the JFC hearings and “People’s Tailgate” at State Fair Park (right now plans are shaping up to hold a Press Conference at 7 am and have an afternoon celebration from 4 – 6 pm that will include students, brats, hotdogs, 20 ft diameter parachutes, etc. There will be tents and tables in the parking lot all day that will serve as a homebase for people giving testimony and showing up to support public schools.)

· Capture photos for social media and post them on your platform; use the hashtags #GoPublic and #WIBudget2017.

Encourage community members to share the posts on social media as well

· Coordinate this effort with MPS and several suburban school districts to amplify our united message.

Send any photos taken to bruskyjb@yahoo.com.

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Join a Weekend of Art in Support of the Public Schools All Our Students Deserve

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The Milwaukee Art Build for Public Education is only 10 days away!

The beautiful images for posters, banners, signs, etc are being created by MPS art educators and other local artists.

We will needs lots of help to make all the work designed happen. Please consider getting other public education advocates to commit to helping. The work produced during this Feb. 3-6 weekend will help us keep public education per pupil funding requests and other anti-public education legislation that will certainly arise during the 2-year budget process in the media and on the minds of Wisconsin residents.

We will need help painting, stapling, tracing, coloring, cleaning, setting up, breaking down, etc. So as you can see this means we need help from people of every skill level.

Here’s how you can help!

Please sign up to join us the weekend of February 3 – 6 here.

Please print up these flyers and share them to help build turnout from your school, family, organization, etc.

Join us on Saturday or Sunday or both days to help us. We’re located in the upstairs of 735 E. Center St., which is above Company Brewing.

Tentative build schedule:

Saturday, February 4: 10am – 10pm
Sunday: February 5: 10am – 10pm

Handbill Flyer:

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Full Page Flyer:

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See you soon!

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Time Slots Available to Join the Milwaukee Art Build for Public Education!

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Happy New Year Supporters of Public Education!

As we write this email, our Wisconsin state legislators are beginning to work on a new two-year state budget and we want to invite you to an “Art Build for Public Education” the first weekend in February to create materials to use during the upcoming state budget battle.
Click here to register for the Art Build for Public Education.
We remember the last two-year state budget that in addition to slashing public school funding also included a midnight state Takeover of the Milwaukee Public Schools. Committed advocates like you that pushed back against the legislature taking away community control of our public schools and eventually thwarted the 2015 legislation. We know this legislative cycle the privatizers will come back even harder and we continue to build a movement against any state takeovers of our public schools. We are committed to fighting for expansion of the public Community Schools model that has a proven track record of strong performance and currently serves 6 million students.

The “Art Build for Public Education” is taking place Friday, February 3 through Sunday, February 5 in Milwaukee. A committee of MPS art educators and other community artists are developing images and slogans to be used for the weekend art build. The build will require lots of volunteers of every skill level to construct signs, banners, posters, etc. in anticipation of this long state budget fight.

To register for an Art Build shift, click here.

Public education advocates will have many opportunities in the coming months to fight for greater funding for our children’s schools and against state takeovers that hand our democratically controlled school boards over to private third party operators. The materials created from this art build will support this fight across the state.

Please consider signing up for spots during the weekend to help here.

 

The Facebook event page can be found here.

What: Milwaukee Art Build for Public Education

Where: 735 E. Center St, Milwaukee, 53212 (Above Company Brewing)

When: February 3 – 5

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#DumpDeVos Letter Writing / Phone Campaign

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Detroit Knows Best About Betsy DeVos

Read what Detroit resident Mother Helen Moore has to say about Betsy DeVos:

In 2000 Betsy DeVos, a billionaire, led the voucher proposal placed on the Michigan ballot. Many of us met and organized to defeat her effort.  We won, but she never stopped.  She spent millions of her and her husband’s money to organize support for her efforts.  She gave millions to the politicians to support her efforts to destroy public schools which has had an adverse impact on black and brown school systems in Michigan.  She even organized her own corporation, Great Lakes Education Project, carry out her mission to destroy public education.  She has been nominated as the Secretary of The US Department of Education. In my opinion this will destroy any hope of maintaining a sustainable education for our students.

On January 11 at 10:00 am the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee will begin a hearing on the nomination of Betsy DeVos to serve as Secretary of Education.

It is critical that we join with Journey for Justice and other pro-public education organizations to express our strong concerns regarding her nomination.

Letter Writing Tips:

  • Michigan has had charter schools for almost 20 years, and Detroit now has an education system that has been described as “deeply dysfunctional,” and “where failure is rewarded with opportunities for expansion.” Devos basically funded the dismantling of the Detroit public school system.
  • According to the Detroit Free Press, “38% of charter schools that received state academic rankings during the 2012-13 school year fell below the 25th percentile, meaning at least 75% of all schools in the state performed better. Only 23% of traditional public schools fell below the 25th percentile.” The privatization movement in Michigan, in large part bankrolled and advocated for by Devos is an abject failure.
  • In 2008, Ms. DeVos’ PAC violated Ohio’s campaign finance laws, and was fined $5.3 million.  Her PAC ignored a state advisory ruling that its action would be illegal and yet went ahead anyway.  The fine remains unpaid and she gets rewarded with a cabinet post.
  • Because of Ms. DeVos efforts, nearly $1 billion of public education dollars have been drained each year from Michigan public schools into mostly for-profit charter schools of poor quality.  According to the New York Times, “divisive politics and educational ideology … have combined to produce a public education fiasco that is perhaps unparalleled in the United States.” [2]
  • The Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll reveals that only 31 percent of Americans favor allowing students to attend private schools at public expense. [3] Since 1972, all attempts to create state voucher programs through referendum have failed, generally by two-to-one margins. [4] Recent research has concluded that public school students who receive vouchers to attend private schools score much lower on both reading and math tests than similar students who remain in the public schools. [5]

Sample Form Letter

Dear Senator __________,

I am writing to let you, as a Senator on the HELP Committee, that I am in opposition of Betsy DeVos being appointed the Secretary of Education. I want all members of the HELP Committee to know that I would like them to strongly oppose the appointment of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education. I believe in my community’s public schools. Betsy DeVos believes in school privatization and vouchers, which has harmed children in communities across the country.

The charter system she bankrolled in Michigan is among the worst in the country. Instead of education equity, she promotes vouchers and online schools. I choose great public community schools for our children. Schools that focus on smaller class size, positive discipline practices, and parent and community engagement.

Betsy DeVos is unqualified to make that a reality. I am asking the HELP Committee to vote against the confirmation of Betsy DeVos.

Sincerely,

Your Name

_______________________

Call HELP Committee Members:

Script: My name is xxxx and I am calling to let the Senator know that I would like him/her to oppose the appointment of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education.

DeVos and her family heavily lobbied the Michigan legislature to shield the charter industry from greater oversight. She pushes for-profit charter schools and online schools, which consistently fail the students that they are supposed to serve.

I want my tax dollars to stay in my community to support my public schools.  Betsy DeVos is bad for American education. She is unqualified to serve as Secretary of Education.

Member Washington Phone Fax Additional Phone Numbers
Chairman

Senator Lamar Alexander

(Republican – TN)

P: (202) 224-4944 F: (202) 228-3398

(423) 752-5337

(731) 664-0289

(901) 544-4224

Ranking Member

Senator Patty Murray

(Democratic – WA)

P: (202) 224-2621

F: (202) 224-0238

(425) 259-6515

(360) 696-7797

Senator Michael B. Enzi

(Republican – WY)

P: (202) 224-3424

F: (202) 228-0359 (307) 261-6572

(307) 772-2477

Senator Richard Burr

(Republican – NC)

P: (202) 224-3154 F: (202) 228-2981 (828) 350-2437

(336) 631-5125

Senator Bernie Sanders

(Democratic – VT)

P: (202) 224-5141 F: (202) 228-0776 (802) 862-0697

(802) 748-9269

Johnny Isakson

(Republican – GA)

P: (202) 224-3643 F: (202) 228-0724 (770) 661-0999
Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr(Democratic – PA) P: (202) 224-6324 F:: (202) 228-0604 (215) 405-9660

(570) 941-0930

Senator Rand Paul

(Republican – KY)

P: 202-224-4343 (270)-782-8303

(859)-426-0165

Senator Al Franken

(Democratic – MN)

P: (202) 224-5641 (218) 722-2390

(218) 284-8721

Senator Susan Collins

(Republican – ME)

P: (202)224-2523 F: (202)224-2693

(253)383-5841

(207) 622-8414

(207) 945-0417

Senator Michael F. Bennett

(Democratic – CO)

P: 202-224-5852 F: 202-228-5097 303-455-7600

719-542-7550

Senator Lisa Murkowski

(Republican – AK)

P: (202)-224-6665 F: (202)-224-5301 (907) 456-0233

(907) 271-3735

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse

(Democratic – RI)

P: (202) 224-2921 F: (202) 228-6362 (401) 453-5294
Senator Mark Kirk

(Republican – IL)

P: 202-224-2854 F: 202-228-4611 (312)-886-3506

(217)-492-5089

Senator Tammy Baldwin(Democratic – WI) P: (202) 224-5653 (715) 832-8424

(920) 498-2668

Senator Tim Scott

(Republican – SC)

P: (202) 224-6121, Toll Free: (855) 425-6324 F: (202) 228-5143 (803) 771-6112
Senator Christopher S. Murphy

(Democratic – CT)

P: (202) 224-4041 F: (202) 224-9750 (864) 233-5366

Senator Orrin Hatch

(Republican – UT)

P: (202) 224-5251 F: (202) 224-6331 (435) 586-8435

Senator Elizabeth Warren

(Democratic – MA)

P: (202) 224-4543 (617) 565-3170

(413) 788-2690

Senator Pat Roberts

(Republican – KS)

P: 202-224-4774 F: 202-224-3514 (620) 227-2244

(785) 295-2745

Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D.(Republican – LA) P: (202) 224-5824 F: (202) 224-9735

(318) 448-7176

(225) 929-7711

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Photo credit: Joe Brusky / Overpass Light Brigade

Updated: @NAACP Holding Charter School Hearings Across Nation

The task force will be taking input from advocates, teachers, parents, and policy experts across the nation. The task force will focus primarily on issues surrounding “inadequate school funding, charter school accountability and its impact on school funding for under-funded districts.”

Source: Updated: @NAACP Holding Charter School Hearings Across Nation

Join the Milwaukee Art Build for Public Education!

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Photo of an art build in New York City before the People’s Climate March in 2014 (photo: Joe Brusky).

“We need teachers, we need books! We need the $ that Walker took!

Join us for a weekend of art in support of the fully funded public schools all our children deserve. We will be making banners, posters, and other pieces in preparation for the coming two-year Wisconsin state budget battle as we demand fair funding for Milwaukee Public School students.

Wisconsin Public Schools have seen a billion dollars cut since 2011, as well as a 2015 public takeover of MPS that was snuck into the last state budget and met fierce resistance and eventually was defeated. MPS students currently receive $1,000+ less per pupil in state funding when compared to their surrounding suburban colleagues. These massive disparities must be erased! We will stand for fair funding for our students and against state takeovers of our public schools. We will make sure our state politicians hear and see us in support of fair funding and treatment of ALL our students and with this art build we will be impossible to ignore.

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Photo from a 2016 art build in Milwaukee in support of the Day Without Latinos (Photo: Nicolas Lampert).

Join us on Saturday or Sunday or both days to help us. We’re located in the upstairs of 735 E. Center St., which is above Company Brewing.

Tentative build schedule:

Saturday, February 4: 10am – 10pm
Sunday: February 5: 10am – 10pm

Sign up for a time slot or join us the whole weekend!

Facebook Event Page is here.

#FundOurFuture.

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The Art Build space is just above Company Brewing. The Door to enter is on the far right (Photo: Nicolas Lampert).

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What Real School Choice Would Look Like – And Why What They’re Selling Isn’t It

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I can’t hear the words “School Choice” without thinking of Inigo Montoya from the classic film “The Princess Bride.”

I hear Mandy Patinkin’s voice saying, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Because just like the constant cries of “Inconceivable!” from Sicilian boss Vizzini (portrayed by the inimitable Wallace Shawn), policymakers seem a bit confused.

You would expect School Choice to mean that parents would get to choose the school their children attend. However, the policy being pushed by corporate education reformers has nothing to do with that.

It’s about allowing schools to choose students, not the other way around.

Want your child to attend a charter school? Great! In many cases he needs to meet the requirements of admission – good grades, well behaved, no learning disabilities – otherwise they boot him back to the…

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New Call for MPS Takeover: Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC) 2015-2017 Agenda Takes Aim at Democratically Controlled School Board

Photo credit: Sue Pezanoski-Browne

It appears the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC) learned nothing from the most recent state Takeover of MPS that was emphatically turned back by the people of Milwaukee. MMAC’s 2015-’17 agenda makes interference with the democratically elected Milwaukee school board a goal. MPS students receive thousands of dollars less in per pupil funding than their suburban counterparts, yet groups like MMAC, rather than help create jobs for a city rocked by unemployment and crippling poverty, can only offer up ideas that take away the voice and self-determination of the people of Milwaukee. Our students deserve the same opportunities that students in suburban schools enjoy instead of only being given options that privatize the public schools.

Educate All Students: Larry Miller's Blog

The MMAC is calling for another attempt at governance takeover of the MPS school board. Their 2015-2017 legislative agenda (see right hand column on their web page at the following link) calls for “Fundamentally reform MPS governance and empower the MPS Superintendent to make reforms within the district.”

http://www.mmac.org/k-12-education.html

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