Milwaukee Just Beat Back a State Takeover of Their Public Schools


We did it! The Department of Public Instruction just sent a formal letter informing Milwaukee Public Schools that they are no longer in the bottom category of school ratings, moving the district out of consideration for the OSPP (Opportunity Schools Partnership program, otherwise know as the MPS takeover):

Milwaukee Public Schools is no longer required to participate in the Opportunity Schools and Partnership program, according to a letter released today by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

The letter issued today informed MPS it will not have to participate in the program because the district is no longer in the bottom category in the state school report card. Only school districts in the lowest category of the state report card for two consecutive years are required to participate in OSPP.

MPS Superintendent Darienne Driver, Milwaukee Board of School Directors President Mark Sain and Vice President Larry Miller, will be available to speak to the media at 2 p.m. today, Wednesday, Oct. 12 at MPS Central Services, 5225 W. Vliet St., Room 103.

“While we are energized by the progress we’re making, we still have significant work to do,” said Dr. Driver. “We are working with students, staff and dozens of community partners to better prepare all of our young people for success, particularly at the secondary school level.”

MPS has committed to rethinking high schools by expanding college-level Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes as well as career and technical education offerings. This year, 21 percent of all MPS high school students are taking a college-level class. The district also added more than 350 students to a culinary arts program as it expands career and technical education options.

While the details of the state report card will not be released until next month, MPS’ local STAR assessment data shows growth in student achievement and signs that the district is closing achievement gaps:

  • Literacy is improving across all grade levels.
  • The number of students on target for proficiency in reading improved last year by two percent.
  • Early reading skills increased significantly, with 51 percent of all K5 and 1st grade students on target at the end of the school year compared to only 43 percent on target at the beginning of the school year.

“We are heading in the right direction. Our collective focus as a community must be on working together to support our young people,” said MPS Board President Mark Sain. “If we continue to do the right thing for our students, we will not fail.”

Last year, the Wisconsin Legislature made changes to the school report card to improve transparency and authenticity. That included weighting school performance to account for student poverty rates, student disabilities and the length of time a school has had to influence a student’s academic progress.

Thanks to everyone who stood up and demanded better for Milwaukee students! Our fight is not over, as we expect the same politicians in Madison to continue with the attacks, but for now we celebrate! We will continue to work with parents, students, and community supporters to win the public Community Schools and equitable and fair funding ALL of our students deserve.

Extreme Inequality: MPS Per Student Funding Compared to the Surrounding Suburban Districts

The same politicians that continue to push for a state takeover of Milwaukee Public Schools conveniently leave out the fact that students in MPS are grossly underfunded when compared to students in surrounding suburban districts. On Thursday, October 6, public education supporters across Wisconsin will “Walk In” to their  schools early to cast a light on these shocking per pupil funding disparities.

RSVP to join a school in Wisconsin or a school in your state near you and send a message to politicians that we will not sit idle while our students and public schools are shortchanged and attacked.

Educate All Students: Larry Miller's Blog

 Following are per-pupil state funds comparing MPS to Milwaukee’s suburban districts.

These figures are based on audited 2014-15 figures and the three-year rolling average enrollment figure:

(2014-15 – SOURCE: WI Department of Public Instruction, School Financial Service Data Warehouse Standard Reports, Revenue Limit Per Member )

MPS Revenue Limit per pupil=$10,261

Mequon = $10,662 per pupil = $401 higher per pupil = $32.6 million annually if applied to MPS.

WFB =$11,248 per pupil = $987 higher per pupil = $80.2 million annually if applied to MPS.

Elmbrook = $11,568 per pupil = $1,307 higher per pupil = $106.2 million annually if applied to MPS

Glendale-River Hills = $12,752 per pupil = $2,491 higher per pupil = $202 million annually if applied to MPS.

Fox Point J2 =$13,577 per pupil = $3,316 higher per pupil = $269 million annually if applied to MPS.

Maple Dale  Indian Hill =$17,231 per pupil =…

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Milwaukee Voucher School Seeks Expansion to Strip Mall with Liquor Store


One of the biggest arguments made against public dollars funding privately run voucher schools is the fact that there is no public accountability for the decisions made with those dollars. Take for example the Milwaukee North Side voucher school Institute for Technology and Academics, which wants to expand its operation into a Northridge neighborhood strip mall that also houses a liquor store.

A democratically elected school board wouldn’t dare put the district’s youngest learners (K-5) in this kind of an environment because they know the voters would hold them accountable, but for a private third party operator who is to say you can’t set up school next to a liquor store? Thankfully in this case, the school must change the way the building is zoned before they can occupy, which means they have to get any zoning switch past the Milwaukee Board of Zoning Appeals (BOZA). This is where this crazy idea needs to end!

BOZA will be taking up this expansion decision on Thursday, October 6th at 4:30pm at Milwaukee City Hall:

4:30 p.m. Public Hearings  Please note that each item scheduled for a public hearing has been scheduled for approximately five to ten minutes. If an item takes longer than its allotted time, the item may be adjourned to the next available hearing date.

 Item #56    Institute of Technology & Academics, Lessee

                   8625 W. Brown Deer Road

Request to occupy a portion of the premises as an elementary school for 150 students grades K4 – 5, operating Monday – Friday 7:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. and Saturday 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m

Where will these students play? As the photo below shows, there is no playground, but only a busy parking lot on an even busier street (Brown Deer Road). BOZA needs to hear from Northridge neighbors on why this location is not safe for Milwaukee students. Please testify if you can or send your testimony to BOZA before the meeting. You can also send any written statements to us in the comments of this blog.

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This is the location ITA hopes to expand its K-5th grade program into.


This is the marquee of the strip mall. Just imagine a voucher school’s name being placed on it.

BOZA will also be rendering a decision on whether a military-style voucher school can occupy an MPS building in a Milwaukee neighborhood at 4pm on Thursday, October 6th as well so come and defend public education on both counts.

Rally Against Military Voucher School in Riverwest

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!
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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Wisconsin Day to Reclaim Our Schools

We will unite with hundreds of school districts across the nation on Thursday, October 6 to demand publicly funded, equitable, and democratically controlled public schools. This national action will help shift the public debate and build a national movement for strong public schools for every child.

Here in Milwaukee, we will be organizing one of two powerful actions at each school around public education funding. Each school will hold either a morning walk-in or an afternoon neighborhood walk with parents, students, community members, and educators.

These actions will help us build our movement to expose and reverse the funding inequities that exist in Wisconsin’s public schools.

Begin organizing your school community’s Oct. 6 action today! Talk with your MTEA building leaders and register your school here.

Follow these instructions to set up your school’s Action Network event page.


List of Participating Schools

Milwaukee Public Schools:

Accelerated Learning



Allen Field

Alliance High School


Audubon Middle School

Audubon High School

Barbee Montessori


Bay View High School


Bradley Tech High School


Brown Street

Browning Community School


Carson Academy


Chinese Language Academy







Craig Montessori



Eighty-First Street




Fernwood Montessori

Fifty-Third Street

Forest Home



French Immersion


German Immersion




Greenfield Bilingual


Hamilton High School


Hawley Environmental

Hayes Bilingual



Honey Creek

Hopkins Lloyd Community School

Howard Montessori

Humboldt Park





King Middle School




Lincoln Avenue Community School

Lincoln Center of the Arts



MacDowell Montessori

Madison High School (JMAC)


Marshall High School

Marvin Pratt

Maryland Avenue Montessori

Meir Elementary

Meir MS/HS

Milwaukee Sign Language



M.L. King Elementary


New School for Community Service

Ninety-Fifth Street

North Division High School




Project Stay

Pulaski High School

Reagan High School


Riverside University High School

Rogers Street Academy


School of Languages

Rufus King High School


South Division

Spanish Immersion

Starms ECC








Vincent High School

Washington IT High School


Wedgewood International

Westside Academy I




Kenosha Public Schools:

Indian Trail High School & Academy


LaCrosse Public Schools:

Central High School 

Lincoln/SOTA II/Coulee Montessori


Logan High School

Logan Middle Schooll

North Woods


State Road

Summit Environmental


Racine Public Schools

Dr Jones EL


Horlick High School

Jerstad Middle School

Mitchell EL

Mitchell Middle School

Racine Case High School

Racine Park High School

Tomahawk Public Schools

Event Page


BizTimes Editor Blames the Victims in Milwaukee


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.

Biased Author of City’s “MPS Impact Statement” Revealed


Marva Herndon and Larry Hoffman testify on behalf of Schools and Communities United before the Milwaukee Common Council’s Steering & Rules Committee.

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.

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.


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”.

Ron Johnson ADA

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?