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

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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!

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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.

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.

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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.

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