Schools and Communities United: Auer Avenue Defense Rally Statement

Schools and Communities United co-chairs Jenni Hofschutle and Ingrid Walker-Henry release the following public statement after a powerful Wednesday Auer Avenue Defense Rally in response to an offensive press release from Senators Alberta Darling and Representative Dale Kooyenga.

“As hundreds linked arms to protect Auer Avenue School from takeover yesterday, Sen. Darling and Rep. Kooyenga issued a press release attacking Auer children, families, and educators for low test scores, and criticizing the the Auer community for standing up for their public school.
Schools like Auer Avenue — where families are struggling with poverty, segregation, joblessness, and lack of health care — need support from state legislators, not attacks and takeovers.
Darling and Kooyenga’s claim that students and parents are “forced to attend Auer Avenue Elementary School” is an insult to parents who choose Auer Avenue for their children, and shows a total lack of understanding about Milwaukee’s educational landscape.
We call upon Sen. Darling and Rep. Kooyenga to listen to residents of Milwaukee about what our schools need to be successful. Come and visit Auer and other MPS schools and talk to parents, staff and students.
We also call upon those who care about the children in Milwaukee to stand up and protect Auer Avenue School and all public schools that are the foundation of a democratic society.”

The press release shows not only a complete lack of respect for the students, parents, and educators of Auer Avenue and Milwaukee, but it also shows ignorance of the real facts about MPS schools like Auer Avenue, detailed below and this blog written earlier this week.

Test scores canary in the coalmine at Auer Avenue and dozens of schools like Auer. Fifteen years ago, Auer Avenue was a “90-90-90 school” – shorthand for high poverty, highly segregated, and high achieving. At that time, Auer Avenue had the resources needed to employ a full team of professional educators to meet the needs of their students – a critical piece of the puzzle for student success in neighborhoods with high poverty and unemployment. At that time, Auer and other high-performing, high-poverty 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.

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Many other schools at that time were also achieving at high levels despite high poverty and segregation:

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What changed? Fifteen years ago, the voucher program was just hitting its stride in Milwaukee. A 15-year streak of defunding public schools – exacerbated by an inequitable state funding system – was just getting started. Since then, over a billion dollars has been siphoned away from the children at Auer Avenue and other MPS schools, and funneled into unaccountable, under-performing voucher schools. Governor Walker put the nail in the coffin in 2011 when he made the largest cut to public schools in Wisconsin history – over a billion in total, with a tens of millions in cuts to MPS.

There is clear evidence that when students living in poverty are prioritized and invested in, with the rich resources necessary to provide students true educational opportunity, their academic achievement thrives. When these supports are withdrawn, student achievement declines.

We know what must be done to increase academic achievement for students in poverty. The people of Wisconsin have the political will to do so, and we expect state legislators to listen. It’s time to acknowledge that vouchers and funding cuts have failed our students, and return to fully funded and vibrant community public schools.

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