Why Are Privately Run Charters Marketing to MPS Students During Instruction Time?

Milwaukee residents pack a school board meeting to say no to privately run charter schools (Photo credit: Joe Brusky).

City residents pack a school board meeting to say no to privately run charter schools (Photo credit: Joe Brusky).

Imagine your child is in math class when all of a sudden the teacher announces the lesson will be ending early so that someone can speak to the class. That person turns out to be a private third party operator who runs a privately run charter. The reason they want to interrupt your child’s instruction is to sell their unaccountable privately run charter school to your child.

That’s exactly the request being sent to fifth grade teachers in Milwaukee Public Schools through the district’s email service for a new MPS privately run charter called Milwaukee Excellence Charter School. This is the email message that was sent to a fifth grade teacher on Milwaukee’s north side:

Why are ten year old MPS students having their precious instructional time interrupted by a salesman selling his wares? Parents should be the ones making school choices for their children. Do the MPS Board of Directors and the MPS Administration know that private charter operators have unfettered access to our students during their learning time? Who has given the green light to third party operators to prey upon Milwaukee students?

Traditional MPS schools that are fully accountable to the elected school board and whose operations are completely transparent to the public do not have the luxury,  privately subsidized budget, or time to engage in marketing of their school, nor should they! Shouldn’t a school’s ability to effectively educate a child be the only marketing aspect for a school? Why and how are privately run charter schools allowed to use taxpayer money to market, when that money should be going to instruction. This is a gross misuse of taxpayer money.  You’d think MPS would be searching for ways to attract seats to the district not steal seats from it. This practice needs to be stopped and our students’ instruction time needs to be refocused on learning, not manipulating students and parents into attending schools that stifle their voice.

Alderman Zielinski Brings Problems of City Charter Schools Front and Center

The Steering & Rules Committee took up several important city 2R charter school reforms on Thursday afternoon.

The Steering & Rules Committee took up several important city 2R charter school reforms on Thursday afternoon.

We attended Thursday’s Common Council Steering & Rules Committee, where several motions of interest surrounding Milwaukee Public Schools were discussed.

Here is a recap:

Alderman Tony Zielinski brought forth a motion to the Milwaukee Common Council’s Steering & Rules Committee that would have put a 5-year moratorium on expansion of new city charter schools. These third party charter operators have a poor track record and like all other schools that are not publicly run, they have no restrictions on who they educate, allowing them to push out students they deem undesirable. They are also not accountable to a public school board, elected by the people of Milwaukee, but rather they are an appointed review board with a dubious record of oversight.

Unfortunately, the motion was defeated, with only Alderman Zielinski voting in favor. We applaud Alderman Zielinski’s efforts and appreciate that he understands that the proliferation of 2R city charter schools are strangling the life out of MPS and will push the district into bankruptcy. This fight is only beginning. We will continue to battle until all our schools are back in the hands of Milwaukee’s democratically elected school board, not unelected commissions.


Watch video of the entire hearing here.

Alderman Kovac proposed an ordinance requiring the Charter School Review Committee (CSRC) to provide in their periodic evaluation of each charter school an assessment of how its operation would affect the resources available to the students of MPS. This passed unanimously.

Kovac also proposed taking the CSRC’s staff out of the grasp of Howard Fuller’s institute at Marquette and replacing them with the publicly accountable staff of the City Clerk. In addition, President Michael Murphy declared that CSRC meetings would now be televised. These are changes that have long been asked for in making the CSRB’s activities more transparent to the public. This also passed unanimously.

Finally, the S&R Committee also took up a request for a new five-year charter for King’s Academy. Several Aldermen expressed concern over a long record of poor performance. The school’s CEO even admitted in testimony to the committee that the school had no working website. Murphy offered a motion renewing the school for two years, which is two years too long, but a clear improvement over a 5-year renewal. Kovac said he’d prefer a one year extension; Zielinski wanted none. The school received a 2-year extension despite these facts and the fact it was already on probation with support from all Aldermen present except Zielinski.

Alderman Zielinski Presents 50-Year Moratorium on Milwaukee City Charter Schools from MTEA Union on Vimeo.

We need to keep pressure on the Steering & Rules Committee members until they recognize that these charter schools cannot operate a year longer.