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!


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.


· 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

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