Larry Miller's Blog: Educate All Students!

October 23, 2014

Most new enrollees in state voucher program were in private schools

Filed under: Vouchers — millerlf @ 4:27 pm

By Erin Richards of the Journal Sentinel Oct. 23, 2014

Just over 1,000 students are receiving publicly funded tuition subsidies to attend 31 private, mostly religious schools across Wisconsin, according to enrollment numbers released by the state Thursday for the new statewide voucher program.

The 2-year-old program was put into place by the Republican-controlled state Legislature and Gov. Scott Walker. It called for an enrollment cap of 500 students in the first year and 1,000 in the second year.

Just like the inaugural crop of students who kicked off the program last year, 73% of the additional voucher students this year were already attending a private school before they started receiving state-funded vouchers, according to state figures.

About 20% of the new voucher enrollment in 2014-’15 were previously attending a public school. The rest were home-schooled, too young to have yet attended school or from out of state.

Jim Bender, president of the voucher advocacy group School Choice Wisconsin, said Thursday that many of the students previously attending private schools weren’t “scratching checks for their tuition; they were on scholarship.”

Because those students are now receiving taxpayer-funded vouchers, private schools have extended scholarship money to other pupils who would not otherwise have been able to attend, he said.

Private schools will receive a state payment of $7,210 for each K-8 voucher student and $7,865 for high school students. The program is expected to cost the state about $7.4 million in 2014-’15.

Betsy Kippers, president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council, said Thursday it was unfair that the statewide program was funneling tax dollars away from neighborhood public schools.

The numbers released Thursday are for the new statewide program and do not reflect the number of students attending private schools on public vouchers in separate programs for Milwaukee and Racine.

October 20, 2014

Racine Journal Times Editorial on Voucher Accountability

Filed under: Vouchers — millerlf @ 10:46 pm

Racine Journal Times editorial: Voucher-school accountability must be a priority for governor
October 19, 2014 Journal Times Editorial Board

Wisconsin taxpayers have paid about $139 million to private schools that ended up being barred from the state’s voucher system for failing to meet requirements since 2004, the Wisconsin State Journal reported this month.
While this exorbitant number is new, the issue of voucher accountability is not. We reported on this problem extensively after St. John Fisher Academy closed in 2012 following only one year of operation.

The Northwestern Avenue school had counted on various grants and other funding coming in. But they didn’t come through and, after months of teachers working without pay, the school announced its closing because of lack of funding.
According to the Wisconsin State Journal report, 11 schools, paid a total of $4.1 million, were terminated from the voucher program after only one year.

In the past legislative session, some changes to law were passed that required schools to gain accreditation and have detailed plans for curriculum, budgeting and staffing before they can be admitted into the program, Jim Bender, president of School Choice Wisconsin, said in the State Journal article.

Part of the school experience is establishing relationships with fellow students and with teachers. If a school closes after one year, those relationships are torn apart as students are dispersed.

When parents send their children to a particular school, be it private or public, they should be able to trust that the school will remain open through the year and in subsequent years.

Just as important, we don’t like the idea of tax money being thrown down the drain.

The debate about vouchers has already started between gubernatorial candidates and, even after the election, likely it will not go away anytime soon.

We have supported the idea of giving parents the option to explore private schools as an alternative to public schools with the support of vouchers.

But the money shouldn’t be tossed willy-nilly at any school putting out a hand.

The schools being offered taxpayer money should be accountable to many of the same standards as public school.
While the debate over expanding or decreasing the voucher program certainly will continue among Republicans and Democrats, accountability for those schools accepting vouchers now and in the future needs to be a priority for both parties.

October 9, 2014

U.S. Supreme Court blocks implementation of Voter ID in Wisconsin

Filed under: Vouchers — millerlf @ 9:38 pm

U.S. Supreme Court blocks implementation of Voter ID in Wisconsin

1 hour ago • Associated Press

The Government Accountability Board announced Thursday it plans to spend more than $400,000 on a radio and TV public information campaign about the state’s new photo ID voting requirement.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday blocked Wisconsin from implementing a law requiring voters to present photo IDs, overturning a lower court decision that would have put the law in place for the November election.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declared the law constitutional on Monday. The American Civil Liberties Union followed that up the next day with an emergency request to the Supreme Court asking it to block the ruling.

On Thursday night the U.S. Supreme Court did so, issuing a one-page order that vacated the appeals court ruling pending further proceedings. Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented, saying the application should have been denied because there was no indication that the 7th Circuit had demonstrably erred.

The voter photo identification law has been a political flashpoint since Republican legislators passed it in 2011. The GOP argues the mandate is a common sense step toward reducing election fraud. Democrats maintain no widespread fraud exists and that the law is really an attempt to keep Democratic constituents who may lack ID, such as the poor, minorities and the elderly, from voting.

The law was in effect for the February 2012 primary but subsequent legal challenges put it on hold and it hasn’t been in place for any election since.

The ACLU and allied groups persuaded a federal judge in Milwaukee to declare the law unconstitutional in April.

Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen asked the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn the decision. A three-judge panel ruled last month that the state could implement the law while it considered the merits of the case, sparking outrage from the ACLU, its allies and Democrats who contended that state election officials couldn’t re-implement the law in time for the Nov. 4 elections and that chaos would reign at the polls.

A flurry of legal jousting ensued. The ACLU asked the Supreme Court last week to take emergency action to block the appeals panel’s decision. On Monday the 7th Circuit issued a full ruling declaring the law constitutional, a decision that was all but certain given the initial order allowing the state to move ahead, promoting the ACLU to follow Tuesday with another emergency request to the Supreme Court.

Read more: http://host.madison.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/u-s-supreme-court-blocks-implementation-of-voter-id-in/article_591cb917-71e8-52ad-a829-c434e14e7774.html#ixzz3FhowLpLs

October 7, 2014

Bobby Tanzilo of OnMilwaukee Gets it Right on Malcolm X

Filed under: Malcolm X,MPS Buildings — millerlf @ 8:31 pm

Published Sept. 24, 2014

Last Friday, Milwaukee Public Schools issued a statement saying that it had parted ways with the developer of a project to renovate and re-develop the former Malcolm X Academy/Center Street School, at Center and Palmer Streets, noting that the plan would nevertheless continue to move forward.

“The district will continue to work on the construction of the project and will issue a Request for Proposals for a construction manager,” the statement said. MPS spokesman Tony Tagliavia told me that the plan still includes opening an International Baccalaureate middle school in the complex.

Yesterday, in a news report, a district official was quoted as saying MPS ended the deal with the development team after a member of the latter made a “questionable request,” though apparently that same news outlet — which also ran a pro-voucher school editorial yesterday — didn’t ask about, or at least didn’t report on, what that request might have been.

On a related side note, the local media continues to ignore the fact that a number of school buildings that were recently vacant have been sold, among them Jackie Robinson, Dover and Centro Del Nino. An RFP was issued for the sale of the former Garfield Avenue School yesterday, after a previous prospective buyer failed to get financing.

Many more such buildings have recently been called back into service by the district — 27th Street School, Green Bay Avenue, Howard Avenue, Sarah Scott, Milwaukee Education Center, Fritsche Middle School, Happy Hill, Morse Middle School, Webster Middle School, Burroughs Middle School, Westside Academy II building, 38th Street School (in some cases to house charter schools) among them. There’s been talk, too, of re-opening Fletcher on the far northwest, and/or 88th Street on the far southwest sides.

Changing needs and changing demographics mean that the district is smart to hold on to buildings that could be of future use. What would taxpayers — and Milwaukee media — say if MPS sold a building and then five years later needed to build a school down the block from it?

How would those folks suggest the district grow and replicate high-performing schools like Golda Meir (which expanded into the previously empty MEC, for example) and the Montessoris (which expanded into the former, and briefly vacant, Tippecanoe), a number of which are already facing crises of space that prevent the district from growing enrollment?

Had it asked about the so-called “questionable request,” the paper would’ve learned that on May 23, MPS and Mayor Tom Barrett sent a letter to local businesses seeking sponsors for the annual Council of Great City Schools conference, to be hosted in Milwaukee by MPS in October. One of the recipients of that letter was Dennis Klein of KBS Construction, part of 2760 Holdings LLC, which was the Malcolm X developer.

A handwritten note in response, which appeared to have been penned by Klein, to MPS’ Ann Terrell said, “I will sponsor at Michigan level ($15,000) when I get LOI (letter of intent) and/or lease extended on Malcolm X. This is a contingent (emphasis in the original note) pledge.”

“It was not deemed to be illegal as far as we know,” MPS’ Chief of Staff Erbert Johnson told Fox 6 News. “We basically again turned it over to our attorney, which is the city attorney — and from there we decided to sever the relationship.”

Ending that relationship apparently didn’t sit well with two surburban politicians who previously tried to force MPS to hand over public buildings to voucher schools, because yesterday afternoon, Milwaukee Board of School Directors President Dr. Michael Bonds fired a missive at Republican State Sen. Alberta Darling and State Rep. Joe Sanfelippo.

“From the beginning of this process, Sen. Darling and Rep. Sanfelippo have clearly misunderstood this effort to bring a high-performing International Baccalaureate school to the Malcolm X neighborhood. Their statement today only further serves to illustrate that fact,” Bonds is quoted in an MPS news release.

“There is nothing inappropriate about the decision made by the Milwaukee Board of School Directors to move forward with this project without the developer we initially identified. What was most critical to this Board is that the project move forward.

“It is unfortunate that Sen. Darling and Rep. Sanfelippo have characterized this effort as phony, crooked and obscene. In fact, the Board took the appropriate steps to continue the project itself and keep our promise to the neighborhood to deliver what it asked for: a high-performing school.”

Bonds also said he has asked the city attorney’s office about “legal options with respect to the inflammatory and false allegations by Darling and Sanfelippo against the district, alleging corruption.”
Tags: Malcolm X, MPS, Alberta Darling, vacant buildings, SB318 Wisconsin

October 3, 2014

The Facts About Malcolm X

Filed under: Malcolm X — millerlf @ 4:15 pm

The facts: How the Malcolm X development is moving forward
District documents show taxpayers are receiving work products to complete project

MILWAUKEE (September 24, 2014) – The following is a statement by Milwaukee Board of School Directors President Michael Bonds regarding reporting on the Malcolm X project:

“Recent news coverage may be causing confusion about what Milwaukee taxpayers are receiving in an agreement between Milwaukee Public Schools and the former developer of the Malcolm X Academy building, which the district will convert to a high-performing International Baccalaureate school in the fall of 2016.

“Coverage in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has referred to the payment of ‘fees’ the paper estimates at up to $1 million dollars. That information is incorrect.

“As the district detailed on its website on Friday, it is receiving work product, including construction drawings and other materials, that are needed as the project moves forward. The compensation, which is approximately $500,000, is far less than the $1 million noted by the Journal Sentinel. It was vetted by the independent consultant used by the City of Milwaukee and found to be customary. Please see the attached document and note the totals under the suggested claim column.

“How school buildings are used is an important topic. In order to have a honest conversation about them, taxpayers deserve to have the facts.”

Fox 6 News Report Sept. 23 By Beverly Taylor— Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) is looking for a new developer for the empty Malcolm X Academy. This is the building a private school offered to buy — and MPS rejected for plans of its own.
State Senator Alberta Darling has been a vocal supporter of MPS selling the empty Malcolm X Academy to St. Marcus Academy. It wanted to expand its highly touted program. Instead, MPS partnered with private developer, 2760 Holdings.
“Well, it would have been a combination of retail and office and housing and I don’t know that there was a market demand for that kind of a project,” said Darling.

MPS Chief of Staff Erbert Johnson says the project is not dead — it’s just shedding the developer.“Now we’re gonna lead it and hire some other professionals to kind of assist us in the process,” said Johnson.

The decision to dissolve the partnership came after a mass letter for sponsorship was sent out for an upcoming conference in the city. Johnson showed FOX6 News what appeared to be a hand-written response from Dennis Klein, a partner of 2760 Holdings. It said quote, “I will sponsor at Michigan level when I get letter of intent and/or lease executed on Malcolm X. This is a contingent pledge. D.”

A “Michigan level” sponsorship was $15,000.

“It was not deemed to be illegal as far as we know,” said Johnson. “We basically again turned it over to our attorney, which is the city attorney — and from there we decided to sever the relationship.”

Johnson said the plan is to move forward with a middle school for 400 to 600 students.“The school as an anchor was the most important piece because a high-performing school would then be something that would attract housing; something that would attract retail,” said Johnson.

While Johnson says the plan was in the making years ago, Darling has her own opinion.

“It was put together to prevent St. Marcus from being about to buy the facility,” said Darling.
FOX6 News left a voicemail for Dennis Klein for comment. So far, he has not returned our calls.

At this point, MPS is in the process of purchasing the work product from 2760 Holdings — so the project can move forward. It’s an estimated cost of about $500,000 — although the developer has requested more.

Following is a previous statement by Dr. Michael Bonds, president of the Milwaukee Board of School Directors, regarding the erroneous statement issued today by State Senator Alberta Darling and State Representative Joe Sanfelippo regarding the district’s plans to continue the development of the former Malcolm X Academy building:
“From the beginning of this process, Senator Darling and Representative Sanfelippo have clearly misunderstood this effort to bring a high-performing International Baccalaureate school to the Malcolm X neighborhood. Their statement today only further serves to illustrate that fact.
There is nothing inappropriate about the decision made by the Milwaukee Board of School Directors to move forward with this project without the developer we initially identified. What was most critical to this Board is that the project move forward.
It is unfortunate that Senator Darling and Representative Sanfelippo have characterized this effort as phony, crooked and obscene. In fact, the Board took the appropriate steps to continue the project itself and keep our promise to the neighborhood to deliver what it asked for: a high-performing school.
I have asked the Office of the City Attorney to provide legal options with respect to the inflammatory and false allegations by Darling and Sanfelippo against the district, alleging corruption.”

September 24, 2014

Aldermen Target Incentives Offered by Charter Schools

Filed under: Charter Schools — millerlf @ 7:50 pm

Council members target enrollment incentives offered by charter schools

News release from Alds. Nik Kovac and Michael J. Murphy
By Nik Kovac – Sep 23rd, 2014

Charter schools in Milwaukee would be prohibited from using financial incentives as a recruitment tool, under legislation introduced today by Alderman Nik Kovac and co-sponsored by Common Council President Michael J. Murphy.

The charter ordinance is in response to reports that Central City Cyberschool—and others like it—offered cash incentives for student referrals. A flyer from Central City Cyberschool indicated that parents, staff and daycare centers could “earn $200” if they referred a student who met a number of conditions.

“Students and their families should be evaluating schools based on the quality of the education they will receive,” Alderman Kovac said. “Any schools that receive public money should not be trying to game the system like this, and it certainly should not be taking place at a school that is chartered by the city.”

The ordinance will be referred to the Steering and Rules Committee, and Alderman Kovac said he hoped it would quickly be adopted by the Common Council.

In conjunction with the proposed ordinance, Alderman Murphy said he will also be introducing a resolution that calls on the state legislature to prohibit choice and public schools from offering similar financial incentives as well.

“We don’t want any funds that could be used to educate children being diverted to spurious recruitment efforts,” Alderman Murphy said. “A race to the bottom isn’t in anyone’s best interest—least of all the children in our schools.”

School Choice Wisconsin Embarrasses Itself with False Reporting

Filed under: Charter Schools,Vouchers — millerlf @ 11:07 am

Supporters of taxpayer funded private schools (voucher schools) have no shame in attempting to berate public education.

In its latest attack on public education, School Choice Wisconsin (SCW) commissioned a report on 911 calls, comparing MPS and voucher and charter schools. The report lacks any validity in content, methodology and conclusions drawn .

The report uses data from school year 2012-2013. Since 2012-13, the Milwaukee Police Department has seen a significant reduction in calls for service to MPS schools. In a channel 6 interview yesterday, an MPD representative stated that MPS has been doing an excellent job of handling matters internally, avoiding the need for calls for service.

School Choice Wisconsin should be embarrassed to stand behind such flagrant political grand-standing. Note a few facts about the report:
• School Choice Wisconsin has issued at least 3 versions of the report because of errors in its data and reporting.
• The SCW study included calls after hours and on non-school days, so it doesn’t reflect what’s happening in school.
• Calls may include burglar alarms, medical calls, SRO activity and neighborhood incidents.
• SCW claims it is looking at the intersection of police calls and school locations, not just schools as educational settings. That’s a problem because all of the data comparison is on a per-student basis and doesn’t account for non-student users of facilities.
• There were simple math errors. The 2R charter count was over-reported, which deflated their per-student police calls.
• It was also that found MPS student count is underreported.
• SCW did not include all MPS students in all MPS schools, 151 buildings only.
• Conclusions did not match the data. For example, the data does not verify that MPS has 84 times as many juvenile arrests as MPCP.

School board President Michael Bonds Responds to Flagrant Comments by Alberta Darling and Joe Sanfelippo

Filed under: Darling,MPS Buildings,Tea Party — millerlf @ 10:33 am

Malcolm X to house high-performing school
Published: September 23, 2014

Legislative leaders misstate facts, ignore MPS efforts to place internationally recognized program in school

MILWAUKEE — Dr. Michael Bonds, president of the Milwaukee Board of School Directors, issued the following regarding the erroneous statement issued today by State Senator Alberta Darling and State Representative Joe Sanfelippo regarding the district’s plans to continue the development of the former Malcolm X Academy building:
“From the beginning of this process, Senator Darling and Representative Sanfelippo have clearly misunderstood this effort to bring a high-performing International Baccalaureate school to the Malcolm X neighborhood. Their statement today only further serves to illustrate that fact.

“There is nothing inappropriate about the decision made by the Milwaukee Board of School Directors to move forward with this project without the developer we initially identified. What was most critical to this Board is that the project move forward.

“It is unfortunate that Senator Darling and Representative Sanfelippo have characterized this effort as phony, crooked and obscene. In fact, the Board took the appropriate steps to continue the project itself and keep our promise to the neighborhood to deliver what it asked for: a high-performing school.

“I have asked the Office of the City Attorney to provide legal options with respect to the inflammatory and false allegations by Darling and Sanfelippo against the district, alleging corruption.”

September 15, 2014

Public Schools in Texas Outperform Charter Schools

Filed under: Charter Schools,Ravitch — millerlf @ 9:17 am

Tom Ratliff: Public Schools in Texas Outperform Charter Schools
by dianeravitch

Tom Ratliff, a member of the Texas state Board of Education, wrote this article for the Longview News-Journal. It is a warning to parents not to assume that charter schools are better than public schools. On average, he says, the opposite is true.

Public schools ranked higher for financial accountability:

During the 2012-13 school year (the most recent year of the rating), Texas’ traditional public schools far outperformed charter schools in both academic and financial measurements. Don’t take my word for it, look at the information straight from the Texas Education Agency:

To summarize these reports, I offer the following:
The FIRST rating is the Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas and, according to the education agency, is designed to “encourage public schools to better manage their financial resources in order to provide the maximum allocation possible for direct instructional purposes.” I think we all agree, that’s a good thing to measure.
According to the agency, the FIRST rating uses 20 “established financial indicators, such as operating expenditures for instruction, tax collection rates, student-teacher ratios, and long-term debt.” How did the schools do? Glad you asked.
Traditional ISDs: 89 percent ranked “superior” and 1.2 percent ranked “substandard.”
Charter schools: 37 percent ranked “superior” and 20 percent ranked “substandard.”
Yes, one out of five charter schools ranked “substandard” on how they spend the tax dollars supporting them, while almost 9 out of 10 ISDs ranked “superior”.

And public schools outperform charter schools academically too:

Let’s shift our attention to academic performance. If the academic performance is good, the taxpaying public might be more understanding of a low rating on a financial measure. Unfortunately, the charters do not compare well there, either, under the 2014 TEA Accountability System.
Traditional ISDs: 92.6 percent met standard, while 7.4 percent did not.
Charter schools 77.7 percent met standard, while 17.3 percent did not.
Again, almost one out of five charter schools failed to meet the state’s academic standards.

And then Tom Ratliff asks the best question of all:

“Where is the outrage from groups like the Texas Association of Business or the Austin Chamber of Commerce?” Those groups rarely miss an opportunity to criticize the shortcomings of traditional ISDs. Why not express concerns when numbers like these relate to charter schools? If these numbers were attributable to ISDs, you can bet those groups would be flying planes around the Capitol and holding press conferences like they have in the past. A little consistency would be nice when asking for taxpayer-funded schools to perform as expected.”

Ratliff points out that his father wrote the original charter law. It is refreshing to see a policymaker looking at the data and seeing that competition does not translate into better education or more accountability. By the way, Tom’s father Bill Ratliff –former Lieutenant Governor of Texas–is already a member of the blog’s honor roll for his willingness to speak up and think for himself. A good Texas family.
dianeravitch | September 14, 2014

August 30, 2014

Diane Ravitch Blog on Milwaukee Voucher Schools

Filed under: Vouchers,Women Committed to an Informed Community — millerlf @ 12:11 pm

Milwaukee: Ruth Conniff on the Disgrace of Voucher Schools
by dianeravitch

Last May, Ruth Conniff, editor of “The Progressive,” joined a group of other women on a tour of voucher schools in Milwaukee. The others included another journalist, a state legislator, and Milwaukee grandmothers Gail Hicks and Marva Herndon.

“Herndon and Hicks formed a group called Women Committed to an Informed Community, also known as the “mad grandmas,” to bring attention to the voucher schools popping up all over the largely African American north side of Milwaukee in strip malls, rundown office buildings, old car dealerships, and abandoned factories.”

What they saw should chill the ardor of the most doctrinaire followers of Milton Friedman. Vouchers began in Milwaukee nearly 25 years ago based on the claim that they would save poor black children from “failing” public schools. Today, Milwaukee should be a national symbol of the failure of vouchers. Yet state after state is endorsing vouchers, egged on by the Friedman Foundation and rightwing think tanks.

Let’s be clear. Vouchers, charters, and choice have failed the children of Milwaukee. The city ranks near the bottom of all cities tested by the federal NAEP, barely ahead of Detroit. Black children in Milwaukee score behind their peers in most other cities and states. Study after study shows they don’t get better test scores than their peers in public schools.

“”We are talking about the schools that fall under the category of LifeSkills Academy,” says Hicks, referring to a Milwaukee voucher school that made headlines last year when the couple that owned it fled to Florida, taking with them millions in state education funds and leaving sixty-six students suddenly stranded, with no school.

“Many of the schools Herndon and Hicks are concerned about are religious. But “we are not talking about schools associated with long-established churches,” Hicks says.

“In racially divided Milwaukee, most of the mainline parochial schools that take voucher students are run by Catholic and Protestant churches on the largely Hispanic south side, Herndon explains.

“On the north side, it’s just loaded with fly-by-night, hole-in-the-wall schools, gas station schools,” Herndon says.

…….

“The $6,442 per pupil in public funds attached to vouchers is more than the cost of tuition at many parochial schools. That, along with start-up funds for new voucher schools, creates a powerful incentive for cash-strapped parochial schools and unscrupulous, fly-by-night operators alike. As a result, parents in voucher districts have been inundated with marketing calls, flyers, and advertisements at taxpayer expense urging them to send their kids to private school for free.

“Nowhere is the problem with turning public schools over to private business more evident than in Milwaukee, the birthplace of school choice.

“Academy of Excellence” is spelled out in snap-on plastic letters above a phone number on a temporary-looking sign on West North Avenue.

“A teacher stands in the doorway of a rundown office building with peeling orange paint on cinderblock walls, watching children jump rope in the parking lot between rows of cars. A few little girls crouch on the sidewalk, drawing with chalk.

“Pastor George Claudio of the StraightWay Vineyard Christian Fellowship greets us inside.

“He has been serving as principal here since September, although he has no background in education, he explains.

“I’m not a trained principal, so my approach has been more of a business and leadership approach,” he says. “I don’t know much about academics, so I’m on a crash course, relying on the teachers in the building.

“Everybody here is way below the poverty level,” he adds, as we peer into a classroom where four-year-old kindergarteners are lying down for a nap on the dirty indoor/outdoor carpeting. A teacher snaps out the lights.

“Despite the dirty carpet and peeling walls, and a first-floor bathroom with no toilet paper, no paper towels, and heavy scribbling in the stalls and over the sink, Pastor Claudio is proud of how much better things look here since school started in September, after a major cleanup. Last fall, he tells us, the lights didn’t work.

“This building has flipped through several voucher schools. The last resident was BEAM Academy, an Edison charter school. “Edison” plastic tags still adorn some of the classroom doors. Another Academy of Excellence school, on the south side, is in even worse shape, the pastor tells us.

“There are three Academy of Excellence schools in Milwaukee, run by the Association of Vineyard Churches, a conservative, evangelical sect.

“Every morning, Pastor Claudio leads the school in a daily devotional.

“We use the Bob Jones University curriculum,” he says.

……………

The pastor says that two-thirds of the students probably would benefit from special education, but the school has no trained special education staff. Indeed, teachers in voucher schools don’t need teaching certification. Instead of special education, the children get tutors–college kids and volunteers from the church. In the middle school science class, a sign on the wall says, “In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth—Genesis 1:1″ a poster in the hallway says: “God can see your heart and he knows that it is wicked.”

The school will double in size this fall when it enrolls 200 students from Myanmar who don’t speak English.

………………

Conniff concludes:

“The latest battle of the mad grandmas is against new laws that would force the sale of public school buildings to private school operators.

“The public schools are just being raped,” says Hicks. “A lot of schools no longer have gym, no longer have art, language, higher math. Schools don’t have the money because they’re sticking money in charter schools and vouchers, which are businesses.”

“In Milwaukee, eighth graders are attending what purports to be a public school to study science and learn creationism.

“Third graders are absorbing a strange home brew of art, finance, and bible passages.

“Immigrant children straight from refugee camps in Myanmar are landing in a school that looks like a refugee center, to be immersed in English and a harsh religious ideology that teaches them that their hearts are wicked.

“All of this is supported by the public with tax dollars.

“It looks like the end of society.”

Ruth Conniff’s reporting is persuasive evidence that the once strong belief in separation of church and state was sensible protection for the common school system. Now that the wall of separation has been penetrated, all manner of Bible schools are getting public dollars. Does anyone believe that the children of Milwaukee are better served in these schools than in the public schools? And what remains of public education when children are withdrawn to attend voucher schools and charter schools?

Can anyone honestly say that the children in these publicly-supported voucher schools are getting a good education that prepares them for college and careers in the 21st century?

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