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

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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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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Rally Against Military Voucher School in Riverwest

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Download this flyer in PDF.

Education Workers, Neighbors, Parents, Students and all concerned about the future of Public Education are invited to protest the Sale of the Milwaukee Public School building at 500 East Center Street to the Right Step Military Voucher School.

• Right Step is currently under investigation by the FBI for child abuse.

• Neighbors are concerned that the small building is not fit for a school. This type of cutting corners is typical of Voucher schools that put profit before Education.

• Right Step has proposed marching students through the Riverwest Neighborhood. We say NO to military style education.

• The sale of a public building to a private voucher school is an attack on Public Education and a part of the broader Takeover plan. The dismantling of public infrastructure like our Education system is an attack on working people.

Gather at the Parking Lot of Gordon Park at 3:00pm. We will march down Center Street and Rally in front of the MPS owned building at 500 East Center Street.

Defend Public Education * No Unaccountable Profit Driven Voucher Schools * No Military Style Education

Come join friends and neighbors with noise makers, banners, signs and flags to celebrate community, and defend public education.


When: October 1st at 3:00pm

Where: Gordon Park Pavilion (Map embedded below)

Facebook event page is here.

 

Milwaukee Private Head Start Operator Offering Cash Bribes for Enrollment

Look what was sent to us!
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The Milwaukee private Head Start operator, Acelero Learning is offering a $50 cash enrollment bribe to entice parents to send their K3-K5 students to their program.
In 2014, It was reported that several private city charter schools were using cash bribes to lure parents away from accountable public operators using public taxpayer money. The campaign was successful in passing a citywide ordinance banning such a practice from the City of Milwaukee charter schools.
It was argued then that an educational institution should be able to attract students on the merit of their academic programs, not on the size of their cash bribe.
Private third party operators shouldn’t be able to earmark taxpayer dollars to recruit students.

Sign this petition ending this practice in the State of Wisconsin.

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BizTimes Editor Blames the Victims in Milwaukee

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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.

Education by Exclusion Has Arrived at Phase 6

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Sheila Plotkin testifies against AB1 before the Assembly Education Committee in January of 2015.

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.

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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”.

Fifteen years ago, MPS schools like Auer Avenue were 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.

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”.

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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?

 

Milwaukee NAACP Issues Statement Against Republican Threats to Defund MPS

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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.

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Rep. Kooyenga and Radio Show Host Share Laugh Over Thought of Defunding MPS

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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?

Rep. Dale Kooyenga Reveals Real Plans for MPS on Right Wing Radio from MTEA Union on Vimeo.

Another Round of GOP Threats Against MPS

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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.

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