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!


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

List of Participating Schools for 2/17 “Walk In for Public Schools”


Join us as we “Walk In” to build the schools and communities our children deserve!

We want vibrant, public community schools that welcome and serve all children. We want public schools that are responsive to parents and the locally elected school board. We want public schools that offer special education services, bilingual education, and other programs that our children need.


sign up to host a walk in at a public school near you if you don’t see your school on the following list. Instructions to help set up and host an Action Network event page are here.

English walk in flyer                                               Spanish walk in flyer


This is the official list of participating schools for the February 17th National “Walk In” day of action (check back as it is still growing).


Milwaukee Public Schools:

Academy of Accelerated Learning 3727 S 78th St, 53220-1603

ALBA  1712 S 32nd St, Milwaukee, WI 53215

Alcott School 3563 South 97th Street, 53228

Allen Field 730 W Lapham Blvd, 53204-3496

Alliance 850 W Walnut St, 53205

Audubon MS & HS 3300 S 39th St , 53215-4099

Auer Avenue  2319 W Auer Ave, 53206-1799

Barton Elementary  5700 West Greentree Rd, 53233

Bay View HS  2751 S Lenox St, 53207-2299

Bethune  1535 N 35th St, 53208-1811

Bradley Tech High School  700 S Fourth St, 53204-1596

Brown Street Academy 2029 N 20th St, 53205-1140

Browning  5440 N 64th St, 53218-2792

Bruce  6453 N 89th St, 53224-5398

Bryant Elementary 8718 W Thurston Ave, 53225-2897

Burbank Elementary 6035 W Adler St, 53214-1899

Cass Street 1647 N Cass St, 53202-2099

Clemens 3600 W Hope Ave, 53216-1761

Clement 3666 S Clement Ave, 53207

Community High School 6700 N. 80th St., 53223

Congress 5225 W. Lincoln Creek Drive, 53218

Cooper Elementary 5143 S 21st St, 53221-3599

Craig Montessori  7667 W Congress St, 53218-5395

Curtin 3450 S 32nd St, 53215-4299

Doerfler 3014 W Scott Street, 53215

Eighty-First Street  2964 N 81st St, 53222-4897

Elm Creative Arts 900 W Walnut St, 53205-1099

Engleburg  5100 N 91st St, 53225-4131

Fairview 6500 Kinnickinnic River Pky, 53219-3099

Fernwood Montessori 3239 S Pennsylvania Ave, 53207-3199

Fifty-Third Street School  3618 N 53rd St, 53216-2952

Forest Home 1516 W Forest Home Ave, 53204-3294

Franklin 2308 W Nash St, 53206-1830

Fratney School 3255 N Fratney St, 53212-2297

French Immersion 2360 N 52nd St, 53210-2796

German Immersion 3778 N 82nd St, 53222-2999

Golda Meir Upper Campus 1615 W Martin Luther King Dr, 53212

Golda Meir Lower Campus 1615 W Martin Luther King Dr, 53212

Grant School 2920 W Grant St, 53215-2490

Grantosa 4850 N 82nd St, 53218-3604

Greenfield Bilingual 1711 S 35th St, 53215-2094

Groppi H.S. 1312 N 27th St, 53208-2499

Hamilton H.S. 6215 W Warnimont Ave, 53220-1399

Hartford Avenue 2227 E Hartford Ave, 53211-3199

Hawley 5610 W Wisconsin Ave, 53213-4258

Hawthorne 6945 N 41st St, 53209-2297

Hayes Bilingual  971 W Windlake Ave, 53204-3822

Hi-Mount 4921 W Garfield Ave, 53208-1197

Holmes 2463 N Buffum St, 53212-2999

Honey Creek Elementary 6701 W Eden Pl, 53220-1335

Hopkins Lloyd Community School  1503 W Hopkins St, Milwaukee, WI 53206-2164

Howard Montessori 357 E Howard Ave, 53207

Humboldt Park 3230 S Adams Ave, 53207-2706

IDEAL 1420 W Goldcrest Ave, 53221-5099

Jackson 2121 W Hadley St, 53206-1698

James Madison Academic Campus (JMAC) 8135 W Florist Ave, 53218-1745

Kagel Elementary 1210 W Mineral St, 53204-2192

Keefe Avenue Elementary 1618 W Keefe Ave, 53206-2396

Kilbourn  5354 N 68th St, 53218-2999

King MS 4950 N 24th St, 53209-5696

Kluge  5760 N 67th St, Milwaukee, WI 53218-2307

Lincoln Center of the Arts 820 E Knapp St, 53202-2799

Lloyd Barbee Montessori 4456 N Teutonia Ave, 53209-6290

Longfellow 1021 S 21st Street, 53204

Lowell Elementary 4360 S 20th St, 53221-2367

MHSA 2300 W Highland Ave, 53233-1099

M.L King Elementary 3275 N Third St, 53212-2064

MacDowell Montessori 6415 W Mt. Vernon Ave, 53213

Manitoba 4040 W Forest Home Ave, 53215-3599

Maryland Montessori  2418 N Maryland Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53211-4487

Milwaukee School of Languages 8400 W Burleigh St, 53222-3798

Milwaukee Sign Language 7900 W Acacia Rd, 53223-5699

Milwaukee Spanish Immersion 2765 S 55th St, 53219-3269

Mitchell School 1728 S 23rd St, 53204-3099

Morgandale 3635 S. 17th, 53221

Morse•Marshall  4141 N 64th St, Milwaukee, WI 53216-1198

Neeskara School 1601 N Hawley Rd, 53208-2199

New School for Community Service 609 N Eighth St Second Floor, 53233-2405

North Division 1011 W Center St, 53206

Obama/SCTE 5075 N Sherman Blvd, 53209-5919

Parkside of the Arts 2969 S Howell Ave, 53207

Parkview Elementary  10825 W Villard Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53225-3898

Pierce Elementary 2765 N Fratney St, 53212-2698

Project Stay 609 N Eighth St, 53233-2405

Pulaski High School 2500 W Oklahoma Ave, 53215-4498

Reagan H.S. 4965 S 20th St, 53221-2859

Riley Elementary 2424 S Fourth St, 53207-1492

Riverside University High School 1615 E Locust St, 53211-3298

Rogers Street 2430 W Rogers St, 53204

Roosevelt Middle School of the Arts 800 W. Walnut St, 53205

Rufus King International High School 1801 W Olive St, 53209-6898

Sherman Multicultural Arts 5110 W Locust St, 53210-1626

Silver Spring 5131 N Green Bay Ave, 53209-5791

South Division H.S. 1515 W Lapham Blvd, 53204-3296

Starms Discovery  2035 N 25th St, 53205-1008

Starms Early Childhood  2616 W Garfield Ave, 53205-1099

Story School 3815 W Kilbourn Ave, 53208

Stuart Elementary 7001 N 86th St, 53224-4899

Thoreau 7878 N 60th St, 53223-4109

Townsend 3360 N Sherman Blvd, Milwaukee, WI 53216-3559

Trowbridge 1943 East Trowbridge Street, 53207

Victory 2222 W Henry Ave, 53221-4999

Vieau 823 S Fourth St, 53204-1724

Vincent H.S.  7501 N Granville Rd,  53224-3998

Washington H.S.2525 N Sherman Blvd, 53210

Wedgewood Park 6506 W Warnimont Ave, 53220-1398

Westside I Academy 1945 N 31st St, 53208

Westside II Academy  1940 N 36th St, Milwaukee, WI 53208

Whitman 4200 S 54th St, 53220-3197

Zablocki 1016 W Oklahoma Ave, 53215-4796


Green Bay Public Schools

Sullivan Elementary 1567 Deckner Avenue, 54302


LaCrosse Public Schools

Central High School 1801 Losey Blvd., 54601

Emerson High School 2101 Campbell Rd, 54601

Hamilton High School 1111 S. 7th St, 54601

Hintjen High School 3505 S. 28th St, 54601

Lincoln Middle School 510 S. 9th St, 54601

Logan High School 1500 Ranger Dr., 54603

Logan Middle School 1450 Avon Street, 54658

Longfellow Middle School 1900 Denton St, 54601

Northside Elementary School 1611 Kane Street, 54601

Northwoods Elementary School N2541 Sablewood Rd, 54601

Southern Bluffs Elementary 4010 Sunnyside Drive, 54601

Spence Elementary 2150 Bennett St, 54601

State Road Elementary 3900 Pammel Creek Road, 54601

Summit Elementary 1800 Lakeshore Drive, 54603


Racine Schools

Jerstad-Agerholm MS 3601 LaSalle St, 53402

Racine Early Education Center 2015 Franklin St, 53403

Washington Park H.S. 1901 12th St, 53403

William Horlick H.S. 2119 Rapids Drive, 53404


Tomah Schools

La Grange Elementary 600 Straw Street, 54660

Lemonweir Elementary 711 N. Glendale Ave,  54660

Photo credit: Overpass Light Brigade

Photo credit: Overpass Light Brigade

Cities Across the Nation Ready to Walk In for Public Education on February 17th

Parents, students, educators, and community members: Please join us at a public school near you on Wednesday, February 17th at 7:00 a.m. to celebrate public education and to stand up for public schools that welcome and serve all children. Public education supporters in Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago, Green Bay,  Boston, and dozens of other cities around the nation will be also be walking in the same day.

Public education supporters will gather in front of their schools before the day starts to chant, march and share information about how school takeovers hurt our students. We will also educate others about public community schools that we know are a better solution than handing schools over to private third party operators. Finally, attendees will walk in to the school collectively just before the start of the school day as a community.

RSVP to attend an already established event or sign up to host a walk in at a public school near you. Keep checking back because new locations are signing up daily.
Instructions to help set up and host an Action Network event page are here.

Facebook event page for the day of action can be found here.

Milwaukee Walks-In for Public Education from MTEA Union on Vimeo.

Speak Up for Pulaski High School Students | 10/5

What: MPS Superintendent Dr. Darienne Driver and School Board director Bonds have scheduled two meetings at Pulaski High School (Oct. 5th and 12th) to try and sell their Takeover of Pulaski. We know that no matter how much they try to dress up this Takeover as a good thing that Pulaski will not be handed over to privately-run charter schools that operate outside the democratically elected school board. Let’s show up and show out for our students and the future of public education in Wisconsin. Not one student, not one school takeover!
Read how this experiment isn’t working in New York City here.
Where charters operate in independent buildings, the differences in resources are less stark. But co-location forces each side to contend with the fact that the charters are able to offer their students far greater advantages while siphoning off resources from children on the other side of the building. In New York, it is particularly acute as students at traditional schools are in dire need while charters enjoy the spoils of both public funding and wealthy private benefactors. It may be co-location, more than any other factor, that has frayed the nerves of parents, teachers and students, and stirred a debate that has taken a decidedly polarizing and political tone.
When: Monday, October 5th from 5:00pm – 7:00pm
Where: Pulaski High School

 RSVP to attend here.
Updates on this event and the attempt to take over Pulaski can be found here.
Updates on the attempt to take over MPS can be found here.
October 5th Facebook event page can be found here.
October 12th Facebook event page can be found here.

50+ Milwaukee Voucher Schools Forced to Close Doors Since 2004

Daughter’s of the Father Christian Academy voucher school just abruptly closed its doors nine days into the school year making it 50+ Milwaukee voucher schools to be forced to close since 2004. Whether they have not met requirements related to finances, accreditation, student safety, or auditing every one of these schools didn’t serve the best interests of students and taxpayers. These failed voucher schools have hurt countless students and families as well as have cost Wisconsin taxpayers $139 million dollars in that time. Isn’t it time we pull the plug on this failed experiment called voucher schools?

Private schools that received state vouchers but were subsequently barred from participation in the program.

Year closed;School name;Estimated payments;years in program

2003-04;Alex’s Academics of Excellence;$3,505,595;5

2003-04;Mandella School of Science and Math;$2,231,340;2

2004-05;Academic Solutions Learning Center;$10,494,281;6

2004-05;Learning Enterprise;$7,517,572;13

2004-05;Louis Tucker Academy;$2,795,779;8

2005-06;Howard’s Learning Center;$175,539;3

2005-06;Ida B. Wells;$136,689;1

2005-06;LEADER Institute;$1,958,241;2

2005-06;Medgar Evers Christian Academy;$2,319,357;9

2005-06;Northside High School;$1,708,419;1

2005-06;Sa’Rai and Zigler Upper Excellerated Academy;$910,572;2

2005-06;Tahir Ahmadiyya Elementary School;$77,259;1

2005-06;Tucker’s Institute of Learning;$930,210;2

2006-07;Christ Kids Academy of Excellence;$476,874;2

2006-07;Faith Temple Pentecostal;$82,563;1

2006-07;Nubian Preparatory Learning Academy;$63,510;1

2006-07;DJ Perkins Academy of Excellence;$472,476;2

2006-07;STS Christian Academy;N/A

2006-07;Elijah’s Brook God’s Nation Children School;N/A

2007-08;Nzingha Institute;$559,437;2

2007-08;Veritas Academy;$327,682;4

2008-09;Jesus Academy of Learning;$253,539;1

2008-09;Grace Preparatory School of Excellence;$1,035,790;8

2008-09;Institute for Career Empowerment Inc.;$2,821,704;4

2008-09;Agape Center of Academic Excellence, Inc.;$7,188,581;12

2008-09;Blyden Delany;$4,443,631;10

2008-09;R & B Academy;N/A

2008-09;The Young Women’s Institute for Global Studies;$125,533;1

2008-09;Family Academy;$2,042,332;11

2008-09;Collins Christian Academy;$277,494;1

2009-10;Excel Learning Academy;$2,535,753;5

2009-10;Johnson Christian Academy;$2,124,379;3


2009-10/2010-11;Resurrection Christian Academy;$2,433,867;5

2009-10;Victory Preparatory Academy;$2,660,428;10

2009-10;The Way and the Truth Christian Academy;$1,004,264;1

2009-10;Trinity Christian Academy;$2,284,431;3

2010-11;Harambee Community School;$31,104,399;20

2010-11;Garden Homes Community Montessori School, Inc.;$397,748;3

2010-11;Excel Academy;$8,596,409;6

2010-11;Tuskegee Aviation Academy;$711,253;2

2010-11;More Than Conquerors Preparatory School;$32,540;2

2010-11;Mustard Seed International School;$466,582;4

2010-11;Mills Christian Academy;$2,214,535;3

2011-12;Milwaukee Institute for Academic Achievement;$294,722;1

2012-13;The Margaret Howard Christian Leadership Institute;$1,997,178;4

2012-13;The Applecrest Preparatory Leadership Academy;$718,097;8

2012-13;Kindergarten Plus;$3,498,889;12

2012-13;St. John Fisher Academy;$109,514;1

2013-14;Dr. Brenda Noach Choice School;$7,299,749;12


2013-14;Washington Du Bois;$8,804,415;8

2014-15;Learning Bridges Kingdom Academy;$1,260,852;4

Total estimated payments: $139,617,701

Source: Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction

Milwaukee’s “Claim to Shame”

Students march in Milwaukee for May Day '15 (photo credit: Joe Brusky).

Students march in Milwaukee for May Day ’15 (photo credit: Joe Brusky).

Originally posted in the report: Fulfill the Promise: The schools and communities our children deserve, published by Schools and Communities United.

Traditionally known for our beer and bratwurst, Milwaukee has a new status: The country’s most segregated region.
When it comes to this country’s New Jim Crow, “We’re Number One.”

Jim Crow—legally mandated segregation, bolstered by beatings, lynchings and restrictions on the right to vote—helped overturn many advances after the end of slavery. Today, the New Jim Crow is taking aim at the gains of the Civil Rights Movement, using tools such as mass incarceration, voting restrictions, gerrymandering, zoning requirements, deportations, and “stand-your-ground” laws.

To cite one chilling statistic in the New Jim Crow: The incarceration rate for African- American men in Wisconsin is the highest in the United States—in a nation that imprisons more people than any other country in the world.

It is impossible to underestimate the impact of Milwaukee’s New Jim Crow on our children, our communities, and our public schools.

In the Milwaukee region, as is true nationally, housing patterns determine school demographics. Due to racial and economic segregation, our schools are increasingly segregated. Due to funding disparities, they are both separate and unequal.

The abandonment of our communities and public schools also has spread to our democracy. In 2011, Wisconsin’s Republican- dominated state legislature passed one of the strictest Voter ID bills in the country, with the issue still before the courts. This spring, the legislature drastically curtailed early voting. The measures are in line with a national campaign to suppress the vote.

If the Milwaukee region is serious about equal opportunity—from jobs to schools to healthcare to voting rights—we must dismantle the region’s racial and economic segregation. It will require a broad-based effort involving transportation, housing, economic development, criminal justice, voting rights, and school enrollment policies.

But it can be done.

Photo credit: Jill Engel-Miller

Photo credit: Jill Engel-Miller

Schools and Communities United: Auer Avenue Defense Rally Statement

Schools and Communities United co-chairs Jenni Hofschutle and Ingrid Walker-Henry release the following public statement after a powerful Wednesday Auer Avenue Defense Rally in response to an offensive press release from Senators Alberta Darling and Representative Dale Kooyenga.

“As hundreds linked arms to protect Auer Avenue School from takeover yesterday, Sen. Darling and Rep. Kooyenga issued a press release attacking Auer children, families, and educators for low test scores, and criticizing the the Auer community for standing up for their public school.
Schools like Auer Avenue — where families are struggling with poverty, segregation, joblessness, and lack of health care — need support from state legislators, not attacks and takeovers.
Darling and Kooyenga’s claim that students and parents are “forced to attend Auer Avenue Elementary School” is an insult to parents who choose Auer Avenue for their children, and shows a total lack of understanding about Milwaukee’s educational landscape.
We call upon Sen. Darling and Rep. Kooyenga to listen to residents of Milwaukee about what our schools need to be successful. Come and visit Auer and other MPS schools and talk to parents, staff and students.
We also call upon those who care about the children in Milwaukee to stand up and protect Auer Avenue School and all public schools that are the foundation of a democratic society.”

The press release shows not only a complete lack of respect for the students, parents, and educators of Auer Avenue and Milwaukee, but it also shows ignorance of the real facts about MPS schools like Auer Avenue, detailed below and this blog written earlier this week.

Test scores canary in the coalmine at Auer Avenue and dozens of schools like Auer. Fifteen years ago, Auer Avenue was a “90-90-90 school” – shorthand for 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 – a critical piece of the puzzle for student success in neighborhoods with high poverty and unemployment. At that time, Auer and other high-performing, high-poverty 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.

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Many other schools at that time were also achieving at high levels despite high poverty and segregation:

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What changed? Fifteen years ago, the voucher program was just hitting its stride in Milwaukee. A 15-year streak of defunding public schools – exacerbated by an inequitable state funding system – was just getting started. Since then, over a billion dollars has been siphoned away from the children at Auer Avenue and other MPS schools, and funneled into unaccountable, under-performing voucher schools. Governor Walker put the nail in the coffin in 2011 when he made the largest cut to public schools in Wisconsin history – over a billion in total, with a tens of millions in cuts to MPS.

There is clear evidence that when students living in poverty are prioritized and invested in, with the rich resources necessary to provide students true educational opportunity, their academic achievement thrives. When these supports are withdrawn, student achievement declines.

We know what must be done to increase academic achievement for students in poverty. The people of Wisconsin have the political will to do so, and we expect state legislators to listen. It’s time to acknowledge that vouchers and funding cuts have failed our students, and return to fully funded and vibrant community public schools.