BizTimes Editor Blames the Victims in Milwaukee

Marcoux

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.

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“Separate and Unequal,” 62 years later

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Written by: Jamaal Smith

On May 17, 1954, a landmark decision was made when the United State Supreme Court ruled state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students as unconstitutional. In a unanimous 9-0 decision, the Warren Court stated that “separate educational facilities were inherently unequal,” and violated the Equal Protection Clause in the Fourteenth Amendment. The Brown decision was pivotal in the fight for integration during the Civil Rights era. The expectation was that ALL children would have equal access to quality education and opportunity, which should be a fundamental right, regardless of race. However, 62 years since the historic “great equalizer” decision, black and brown students are again the targets of racial inequality within the educational system.

 

Emma Brown, columnist for The Washington Post, recently reported that, according to the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office, “the number of high-poverty schools serving primarily black and brown students more than doubled between 2001 and 2014.” This study is holding true in the state of Wisconsin, as GOP lawmakers have devised laws that continue supporting “separate and unequal” practices. One of those strategies was the elimination of the Chapter 220 program, which allowed for students of color from high-poverty neighborhoods to attend schools in predominantly white suburban school districts. In addition, two Republican legislators, State Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) and State Rep. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield), created the Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program, a law intended to hand underfunded MPS schools to private, unaccountable operators. Cities like New Orleans and Detroit have been subjected to similar “Recovery Districts” with catastrophic results, but the commonality that exists between those cities and Milwaukee is that these laws are constantly imposed on black and brown communities without input. The OSPP legislation was passed in the middle of the night without a public hearing even taking place.

 

The OSPP legislation hands authority to a Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele with no college degree, who appointed Dr. Demond Means, Superintendent of the predominantly white Mequon-Thiensville School District, as the Commissioner over a predominately nonwhite district. Abele and Means created a proposal that claims MPS can still remain in tact even if one of the schools were moved under the OSPP district, which is inconsistent with the law. At a recent debate with MTEA Executive Director Lauren Baker at Marquette University, Rep. Kooyenga even stated that he was not a supporter of Dr. Means’ proposal because it counters what was written in the legislation. What is most disconcerting with Abele and Dr. Means is that they both admit the OSPP legislation is an unjust law, but insist the democratically elected school board of MPS should give up local control of their publicly-funded schools. Based on this rational, Civil Rights leaders should not have fought against the injustices within Jim Crow because they were law, right. Or the Black Codes, which brought about involuntary labor on freed slaves for minor “infractions” passed by southern states after the Civil War.

 

Just as it was not acceptable to comply with an unjust law then, the same ideology should exist on unjust laws now. An unjust law is no law at all!

 

We must continue the fight against modern day segregation and racial discrimination within our education system. Our children deserve our efforts to stand up for their future just as those before us stood for ours. Bishop Desmond Tutu said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” In the face of an obvious wrong, the time is now to stand and fight for what is right!

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Milwaukee Public School Parents Grill County Executive Abele on Takeover

MPS parent Angela Riley asks County Executive Chris Abele a question about his role in a Takeover of MPS.

MPS parent Angela Riley asks County Executive Chris Abele a question about his role in the Takeover of MPS.

“You’ve entered into these conversations with legislators who don’t live here, they don’t know my kid, they don’t love the city the way I count on you to love the city. I voted for you, but I didn’t vote for you to be in charge of schools. Superintendent Dr. Driver has said very clearly, and I trust her because she is smart, this takeover will dismantle public education. I need to hear from you: What is your commitment to the children of Milwaukee?

– MPS Parent Kelly O’Keefe-Boettcher

Milwaukee Public School parents paid $20 to attend a Wispolitics.com luncheon at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee on Thursday. County Executive Chris Abele spoke on the contract negotiations with city bus drivers and the Buck’s arena deal, but his back and forth with MPS parents over his role in the Takeover of MPS was definitely the highlight of the session.

Kelly O’Keefe-Boettcher’s question (quoted above) was first. As Abele dodged her question, another MPS parent, Angela Riley, interrupted his rambling response to ask:

“If you could speak to what she’s asking about the Takeover – What she’s saying, and beautifully by the way. I’m an MPS parent for twenty one years and what’s going on is very concerning to me and all the other MPS people in my community. How can you support something that takes our voice away?”

Abele responded that he told Senator Darling and Representative Kooyenga “This is not the way I would approach this…they have the votes to do this.” Riley again interjected that he didn’t have to accept the newly created commissioner position saying:

“Not if you stand with us in opposition to it, if it’s something you don’t like and don’t want to do. There are hundreds of people, I sat in a meeting with over 400 parents and educators that are in opposition to this. This is a very real thing, these are your constituents. These are our children we’re talking about. If you don’t support it then please stand with us in opposition to it.”

The next question came from MPS parent Martha Treder:

Abele replied, “There’s a lot of people that would jump, happily, at this position.” Treder followed up asking who’s interest he was serving by facilitating the Takeover? MPS parent Angela McManaman finished asking:

The Takeover of Milwaukee Public Schools doesn’t happen if Abele turns down this position. Call him and tell him NO to taking control away from our democratically elected School Board.

Watch these four MPS parents holding Abele accountable:

MPS Parents Grill Chris Abele on Takeover from MTEA Union on Vimeo.

Raise Your Hands

Milwaukee Common Council Formally Denounces MPS Takeover; Reins In City Charters

Milwaukee city leaders made it clear on Tuesday morning that they are unanimously opposed to a Takeover of Milwaukee Public Schools. They also took some positive steps towards greater transparency and accountability towards city charter schools with checkered track records that have recently come to light thanks to the efforts of Schools and Communities United.

Here are the motions the City Council passed unanimously (Coggs and Donovan absent):

1.  Alderman Zielinski’s resolution opposing the Darling-Kooyenga plan to take over MPS schools and conveying that opposition to Milwaukee’s delegation in the Legislature.
 Stop-Takeover-Motion
2.  Alderman Kovac’s ordinance requiring the Charter School Review Committee (CSRC) to include impacts upon MPS in their periodic assessments of each City charter school.
A substitute ordinance relating to the criteria for the chartering of schools.
This ordinance requires the charter school review committee to include with committee findings transmitted to the city clerk an assessment of how the operation of school once chartered will affect the resources available to students served by the Milwaukee public school system under the applicable state funding formula.
3.  Ald. Kovac and Pres. Murphy’s ordinance assigning the City Clerk’s staff to the CSRC – duties previously done by Howard Fuller’s Institute for the Transformation of Learning at Marquette.
4.  An amendment to the City’s broadcast schedule, sponsored by Murphy, Kovac, and Ald. Bohl, placing the Charter School Review Committee on the list of groups whose meetings are to be videoed.  This is significant because it provides a record of the debate and what decisions are made, increasing transparency.

Fighting to Save Bilingual Education in Milwaukee

“When you get a bilingual education, you preserve your native language. That’s important. You also learn to see both sides of things.”

Claudio Calvario (valedictorian at ALAS high school.)

This story comes from the Schools and Communities United “Fulfill the Promise” Report.

Claudia Calvario was born in Sayula, Mexico and came to Milwaukee when she was seven years old. She did not speak a word of English and had no legal papers.

Claudia is the first in her family to attend college. She was the valedictorian at ALAS, an MPS school where students learn in both English and Spanish, in 2014.

A twist of fate brought Claudia to ALAS. When it came time to choose a high school, she went to a fair at Grand Avenue Mall. ALAS was the only school at the fair that was bilingual. “My mother said, ‘That’s the school for us,’” she remembers.

This fall ALAS became part of a reinvigorated bilingual program at South Division High School. It has the largest bilingual high school program in Wisconsin.

MPS is known nationally for bilingual programs that encourage students to maintain their Spanish while learning English.

The district provides bilingual education to almost 5,900 students at 24 schools, and offers English Language Learner (ELL) services to almost 5,200 students.

Some 15 languages are spoken at South Division, from Hmong to Burmese, Arabic, Somali and Karen. MPS enrolls students speaking 49 languages.

Recognizing the legal rights of English Language Learners is one of several areas where public schools differ significantly from private schools. There is, for instance, no state law requiring bilingual or ELL services at voucher schools.

In Milwaukee, as is true throughout the country, student demographics are changing dramatically; by 2050, whites will be a minority in the United States. As demographics reshape the United States, the role of public education in building
a multiracial democracy is increasingly essential.

If MPS schools are handed over to private third party operators through the Senator Alberta Darling and Representative Dale Kooyenga’s Takeover bill, then these newly created charter schools would not be required by law to have bilingual education programs since they would be privately run. We must make sure that MPS schools stay in the hands of our democratically elected school board, who are accountable to the people of Milwaukee through elections and who have shown to value bilingual education in our schools.

The Wisconsin Association of Bilingual Education has already started to organize to fight the Takeover as well preserve bilingual education in Milwaukee. Join them!

A group of parents in Milwaukee are already organizing to fight the Takeover of MPS and preserve bilingual education for future generations.

A group of parents in Milwaukee are already organizing to fight the Takeover of MPS and preserve bilingual education for future generations.

Out of the Pews and Into the Streets to Stop the Takeover of Milwaukee Public Schools

    Rev Willie Brisco speaking at a recent walk-in in support of oublic education and against the Takeover of MPS at North Division High School.

Rev Willie Brisco speaking at a recent walk-in in support of public education and against the Takeover of MPS at North Division High School.

Via MICAH (Milwaukee Inner City Congregations Allied for Hope

We will gather at Bethesda Baptist Church for a prayer vigil to move out of our faith communities and into our larger community, joining our Schools and Communities United partners, to confront the proposed takeover of our civil right to a voice in our public schools.
We will emerge from worship to lock arms in the struggle, with our coalition partners.
We will march to Hopkins Lloyd Community School to surround our beloved community school with our support. This school belongs to its hard-won community, not to those who would strip our rights and our legacy.

When: Thursday, June 11th @ 4:30pm – 6:30pm

Where: Bethesda Baptist Church Inc (2909 N 20th St, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53206)

Facebook event page can be found here.

This is Why Milwaukee Needs a Moratorium on 2R City Charter Schools

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The Takeover of the Milwaukee Public Schools didn’t just start with Senator Alberta Darling and Representative Dale Kooyenga’s MPS Takeover bill. It started decades ago and one of the ways it has pecked away at MPS is through the proliferation of 2R city charters. These third party operators are issued charters by the city of Milwaukee. They 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. Our schools need to be accountable to the elected Milwaukee Board of School Directors and not an appointed review board and the four city charter schools highlighted in this blog, show exactly why.

 

Milwaukee Collegiate Academy

Milwaukee Collegiate Academy is a 2R city of Milwaukee charter school. It operates outside the Milwaukee School Board and is instead accountable to a appointed board.

Milwaukee Collegiate Academy is a 2R city of Milwaukee charter school. It operates outside the Milwaukee School Board and is instead accountable to a appointed board.

Milwaukee Collegiate Academy is in its 11th year of operation, first as a private voucher school and now a Milwaukee City charter. In both 2011-12 and 2012-13, the school expelled 11% of its students. In 2013-14 it expelled 16% of its students. That’s 5 times more expulsions than any other City-chartered school and 10 times more than Milwaukee Public Schools high schools. Its suspension rate was 56% in 2011-12 and 42% in 2012-13, higher than any other City charter school or MPS high school.

 

Northpoint Lighthouse Academy

The city charter school Northpoint Lighthouse Academy is housed in an abandoned factory.

The city charter school Northpoint Lighthouse Academy is housed in an abandoned factory.

North Point Lighthouse Academy is a Milwaukee city charter school run outside the control of the local school board. Sadly for its students, It is located in a former steel fabrication plant amid industrial and commercial properties and has an electricity tower and a transformer in back. In 2012-13, the school paid a $111,378 management fee to its parent, Lighthouse Academies as “pay down with interest” on prior funding.

 

Milwaukee Math & Science Academy

The Milwaukee Math & Science Academy has has several affiliates recently raided by the F.B.I.

The Milwaukee Math & Science Academy has has several affiliates recently raided by the F.B.I.

In June 2014, FBI agents raided 19 of its schools in Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. In July, the corporate headquarters in Illinois was raided. An FBI statement said they were part of “an ongoing white collar crime investigation.” Also in July 2014, the Ohio Department of Education began an investigation into alleged “attendance rate falsification and test tampering” at a Concept Schools facility. Other investigations concern its use of H1-B visas (Visas made available for workers in areas of high need) to bring teachers from Turkey when there is a supply of local teachers.

 

King’s Academy

King's Academy has been a school for 16 years with little results to show for it.

King’s Academy has been a school for 16 years with little results to show for it.

King’s Academy is in its 5th year as a City charter; before that it was a private religious voucher school for 11 years. In December 2014, the City’s Charter School Review Committee recommended putting King’s Academy on probation, because of poor academic performance and high turnover in staff and administration. In its 16th year as a school, it “hasn’t risen to the level one might expect” (Review Committee member) and has experienced extremely high teacher turnover.

Milwaukee Alderman Tony Zielinski has authored a resolution for a 5-year moratorium on any new City of Milwaukee charter schools. It’s a significant step in the right direction to start to turn back the Takeover of MPS. This resolution will be introduced at the Steering & Rules Committee hearing on Thursday, June 11th. We need to turn out a large crowd for this hearing, in order to begin the process of putting Milwaukee schools back in the hands of the people, and not unelected commissions!

What: Steering & Rules Committee hearing on a 5-year moratorium on any new city of Milwaukee 2R charter schools.

When: Thursday, June 11th @ 1:30pm

Where: Milwaukee City Hall, Room 301-B

Facebook event page can be found here.

 

Alderman Tony Zielinski Brings City of Milwaukee Charter School Moratorium Forward

The unelected Charter School Review Board testifies before the Steering & Rules Committee.

The City Charter School Review Board testifies before the Milwaukee Common Council’s Steering & Rules Committee.

The Takeover of the Milwaukee Public Schools didn’t just start with Senator Alberta Darling and Representative Dale Kooyenga’s MPS Takeover bill. It started decades ago and one of the ways it has pecked away at MPS is through the proliferation of 2R city charters. These third party operators are issued charters by the city of Milwaukee. They have a poor track record for performance 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 commission with a dubious record of oversight. It is important to note that these are not the same charter schools that are accountable to the Milwaukee School Board. These charter schools are not part of this effort.

Milwaukee Alderman Tony Zielinski has authored a resolution for a 5-year moratorium on any new City of Milwaukee charter schools. It’s a significant step in the right direction to start to turn back the Takeover of MPS. This resolution will be introduced at the Steering & Rules Committee hearing on Thursday, June 11th. We need to turn out a large crowd for this hearing, in order to begin the process of putting Milwaukee schools back in the hands of the people, and not unelected commissions!

Milwaukee Collegiate Academy is a 2R city of Milwaukee charter school. It operates outside the Milwaukee School Board and is instead accountable to a appointed board.

Milwaukee Collegiate Academy is a 2R city of Milwaukee charter school. It operates outside the Milwaukee School Board and is instead accountable to a appointed board.

Here is the contact information for members of the Steering & Rules Committee. Please contact them and tell them to support the Zielinski Moratorium Resolution.

Here is Zielinski’s Resolution:

A substitute ordinance relating to the chartering of schools by the city.

This ordinance establishes a 5-year moratorium during which the City of Milwaukee will grant no school charters to schools not currently chartered by the City.

Whereas, The granting of school charters, which are intended to provide innovative educational programs to help struggling students succeed, requires considerable expertise and an in-depth knowledge of the latest innovations in education; and

Whereas, While the City of Milwaukee relies upon the expertise of the Charter School Review Committee when granting school charters, the City itself has no direct expertise in education policy innovations and school operations; and

Whereas, Many of the schools chartered by the City are struggling and are either underperforming their public-school counterparts or are not performing significantly better than public schools; and

Whereas, The lagging performance of schools chartered by the City may suggest the City is not sufficiently knowledgeable about education policy and innovation to be the best judge of which school proposals are most likely to succeed and should be chartered by the City; now, therefore

The Mayor and Common Council of the City of Milwaukee do ordain as follows:

Part 1. Section 330-4 of the code is created to read:

330-4. Moratorium. 1. PURPOSE. The city recognizes that many of the schools chartered by the city are either under-performing the available public schools, or are not performing significantly better than public schools, and acknowledges this underperformance may indicate an inadequacy in the city’s school chartering process. The city further acknowledges, given the paramount role of education to the children of the community, that the most prudent action for the public good is to establish a moratorium on city-granted school charters to give the city time to evaluate its school chartering process before proceeding to grant any additional school charters.

2. Moratorium. A moratorium on the granting of school charters to schools not chartered by the city as of the effective date of this section [city clerk to insert date] is established commencing on the effective date of this section [city clerk to insert date] and terminating on the first business day following the fifth anniversary of the effective date [city clerk to insert date].

What: Steering & Rules Committee hearing on a 5-year moratorium on any new city of Milwaukee 2R charter schools.

When: Thursday, June 11th @ 1:30pm

Where: Milwaukee City Hall, Room 301-B

Facebook event page can be found here.

Reagan High School Student Explains Why MPS Students Walked Out Monday

Reagan High School student Rafael Diaz is wise beyond his years. Rafael’s school is not on a list to be handed over to third party operators, but that doesn’t mean he and his classmates aren’t fighting back. Watch to see why he and other Milwaukee Public School students walked out of classes on Monday afternoon.

Why Milwaukee Students Walked Out from Occupy Riverwest on Vimeo.

Students Walk Out to Protest MPS Takeover

south division walkout

Students took to the streets today to stand up for public schools in Milwaukee and protest a proposed takeover of their schools. Students walked out of their classes at several area schools and joined together in front of South Division High School, a school that could be targeted for takeover under a plan being advanced by Rep. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield) and Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills).

While many of the students who are actively protesting against the takeover attend schools targeted for takeover, others attend some of Milwaukee’s highest-performing schools. At a rally last week, Reagan High School student Paola Gonzalez told the crowd: “Reagan is not in danger of being privatized, but I am here to stand in solidarity…once one of our schools is targeted, all of MPS is targeted. Senator Darling and Representative Kooyenga, you do not represent the city. You have no business telling us what to do.”