Larry Miller's Blog: Educate All Students!

May 16, 2014

Sheldon Lubar says MPS Board is Next for Governance Changes

Filed under: MPS Governance Debate,Privatization — millerlf @ 11:31 am

On Thursday May 15, at the annual meeting of the Friends of UWM Libraries, County Executive Chris Abele, Rep. Joe Sanfelippo and Sheldon Lubar presented.

It was a love-fest among the three speakers as they criticized the County Board – until they started reading questions submitted anonymously from the audience.

One question asked: “Are you involved, or will you soon be involved in plans to take away the authority of the Board of the Milwaukee Public Schools?”

Lubar answered: “That’s a provocative question. Yes. MPS is next on my agenda.”

Another asked: “Do you trust managers of hedge funds and private equity to create schools that are better for kids than a board that’s elected by the community?”

Lubar answered that there should be options for parents of children who have been failed by the public schools. He said the rules of the administration are largely driven by the teachers union. He said he believes in private, parochial education. He hadn’t mentioned schools in his presentation, but he apparently decided at this moment that as long as he was speaking candidly, he’d do so about the schools.

Abele added that it’s less important how decisions are made. Whatever is working is what should be done. (???)

 
Sheldon Lubar is the founder and Chairman of Lubar & Co.
He is a director of several public companies, including Crosstex Energy, Star Gas, Approach Resources, and Hallador Energy as well as other private companies. Previously, he served as Chairman of Christiana Companies, Inc., chairman of C2 Inc. and a director of MassMutual Life Insurance Co., U.S. Bancorp, MGIC Investment Corp., Ameritech Corporation, Weatherford International, Grant Prideco and other public companies.

 

April 28, 2014

Report on School Privatization in Milwaukee

Filed under: Charter Schools,Privatization,Vouchers — millerlf @ 8:53 am

Do Poor Kids Deserve Lower-Quality Education Than Rich Kids? Evaluating School Privatization Proposals in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
By Gordon Lafer | April 24, 2014
During the past year, Wisconsin state legislators debated a series of bills aimed at closing low-performing public schools and replacing them with privately run charter schools. These proposals were particularly targeted at Milwaukee, the state’s largest and poorest school district.

Ultimately, the only legislation enacted was a bill that modestly increases school reporting requirements, without stipulating consequences for low performance. Nevertheless, the more ambitious proposals will likely remain at the core of Wisconsin’s debates over education policy, and legislative leaders have made clear their desire to revisit them in next year’s session. To help inform these deliberations, this report addresses the most comprehensive set of reforms put forward in the 2013–2014 legislative session.

Backers of these reforms are particularly enamored of a new type of charter school represented by the Rocketship chain of schools—a low-budget operation that relies on young and inexperienced teachers rather than more veteran and expensive faculty, that reduces the curriculum to a near-exclusive focus on reading and math, and that replaces teachers with online learning and digital applications for a significant portion of the day. Rocketship proposes that its model—dubbed “blended learning” for its combination of in-person and computerized instruction—can cut costs while raising low-income students’ test scores (Rocketship Education 2011).

The call for public schools to be replaced by such tech-heavy, teacher-light operations comes from some of the most powerful actors in local and national politics: the major corporate lobbies, including Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, Americans for Prosperity, and the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC). It is these groups, rather than parents or community organizations, that provided the impetus for legislators to consider proposals for mass school closure and privatization in Milwaukee.

In advocating school privatization, MMAC, allied corporate lobbies, and corporate-funded think tanks claim to be acting out of social altruism, motivated by the tragedy of poor children whose needs are unmet in the public school system. Yet—as is detailed later in this report—these same organizations have traditionally opposed what are typically considered two of the fundamental building blocks for improving education, particularly for poor children: adequate school funding and effective anti-poverty policies.

This report evaluates the “blended learning” model of education exemplified by Rocketship and seeks to understand how the “school accountability” legislation debated during the most recent legislative session would likely affect Milwaukee schools. This briefing paper also explains how such proposals might fit within the broader economic agenda of both local and national corporate lobbies. Above all, the report questions why an educational model deemed substandard for more privileged suburban children is being so vigorously promoted—perhaps even forced—on poor children in Milwaukee.

Upon examination, it appears that charter privatization proposals are driven more by financial and ideological grounds than by sound pedagogy:
• National research shows that charter schools, on average, perform no better than public schools. There is thus no basis for believing that replacing traditional public schools in Milwaukee with privately run charters will result in improved education.

• The “blended learning” model of education exemplified by the Rocketship chain of charter schools—often promoted by charter boosters—is predicated on paying minimal attention to anything but math and literacy, and even those subjects are taught by inexperienced teachers carrying out data-driven lesson plans relentlessly focused on test preparation. But evidence from Wisconsin, the country, and the world shows that students receive a better education from experienced teachers offering a broad curriculum that emphasizes curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking, as well as getting the right answers on standardized tests.

• Blended-learning schools such as Rocketship are supported by investment banks, hedge funds, and venture capital firms that, in turn, aim to profit from both the construction and, especially, the digital software assigned to students. To fund the growth of such operations, money earmarked for Milwaukee students is diverted to national headquarters and other cities where the company seeks to expand. Furthermore, the very curricular model that Rocketship employs is shaped not simply by what is good for kids but also, in part, by what will generate profits for investors and fuel the company’s ambitious growth plans.

• The proposed “school accountability” bill that Wisconsin State Senate Education Committee Chair Luther Olsen drafted in January 2014—which embodies the most ambitious version of corporate-backed school reform—measures school achievement in ways that are skewed against poor cities and that exempt charter schools from equal accountability. Such a bill would likely result in shutting a growing number of public schools and concentrating the city’s neediest students in a shrinking public system that is denied the resources to serve them. Eventually, this would bankrupt the public school district.

• Some of the best options for school improvement are outlawed in Sen. Olsen’s draft bill. For instance, Milwaukee’s award-winning ALBA (Academia de Lenguajes y Bellas Artes) school is a publicly run charter school that outperformed every privately run charter in the city. Yet under the proposed legislation, this school would be banned from opening more campuses, while privately run schools with much worse performance would be encouraged to expand.

• To truly improve education in Milwaukee, we must start with the assumption that poor children are no less deserving of a quality education than rich children. As such, the schools that privileged suburban parents demand for their children should be the yardstick we use to measure the adequacy of education in the city. This means subjecting all schools—whether public, charter, or voucher—to the same standards of accountability, including measurements that account for the economic and disability challenges their students face, and that recognize the value of a broad curriculum and experienced teachers who are qualified to develop the full range of each child’s capacities.
Are charter schools better than public schools?
To see the full report go to:

http://www.epi.org/publication/school-privatization-milwaukee/

 

February 9, 2014

Study concludes WI charter schools are doing better because of students they select

Filed under: Charter Schools,Privatization,Vouchers — millerlf @ 9:04 am

 WKOW-TV Madison

Video:  http://www.wkow.com/story/24658036/2014/02/06/study-concludes-wi-charter-schools-are-doing-better-because-of-students-they-select

SPRING GREEN (WKOW) — The Forward Institute released a study on Thursday which hypothesizes that private charter schools in Milwaukee have higher report card scores than public schools because they are selecting students who have lower rates of truancy

Author Scott Wittkopf held a news conference on the study in Spring Green to emphasize the fact that the same trend would follow a statewide expansion of charter schools, something currently being considered in the state legislature.

“If you take that same model out-state, you have extensive interview processes with parents, with students.  You have access to academic records from the students.  It’s very easy in the process to select students,” said Wittkopf.

Sen. Dale Schultz says the study shows that charter schools are clearly “skimming” students that have the ability to perform better, leaving public schools with fewer high performing students.

“This wild desire to move these charter schools that aren’t locally chartered all across this state is not warranted,” said Sen. Schultz.

Wittkopf and Schultz say before that expansion is approved, more studies like these have to be conducted to know exactly what the ramifications of such a move would be.

The bill has yet to be voted on in the Assembly or Senate.

Republican Senator Calls for Ending Privatization of Milwaukee Schools

Filed under: Charter Schools,Privatization,Vouchers — millerlf @ 9:01 am

Sen. Schultz says it’s a mistake to take this “flawed model statewide”

The Forward Institute held a press conference, Feb. 6, to release its latest study. The importance of the study — “Habitual Truancy and School Report Cards in Milwaukee Schools” — to every community in the state was underscored by the appearance of State Senator Dale Schultz (R–Richland Center), who said it provides more facts that it is time to end experiments in privatizing our public schools until there is some evidence that it really works.
Scott Wittkopf
According to Institute chair Scott Wittkopf, scores on the Wisconsin School Report Card aren’t affected by whether or not the schools in Milwauke are traditional public schools, independent charter institutions, or MPS charters. Instead, Wittkopf said, the important factors are dealing with student poverty, erasing truancy, and making sure the best teachers are in the schools most in need.

“Show me a community in distress, and I’ll show you a school district in distress,” said Wittkopf. “That fact is true whether the ‘community’ is considered rural, urban, a state, or the entire nation. As a community we invest in public education because every child requires, and deserves, an equal opportunity to learn the skills and knowledge to pursue what is meaningful in life. It is our responsibility as a community to provide for that equal opportunity through public education. The very future of our communities, large and small, depends on it.”

According to Wittkopf, there are five public policy alternatives that could actually deal with the challenges facing our children:

  • Communities need to deal with truancy.
  • State government should put a time limit on the public school privatization effort. It  isn’t working and it needs to end.
  • Schools and state government need to use data appropriately, not as a means to punish schools and children.
  • Wisconsin needs to fix its school-funding system.
  • Wisconsin needs to address the real issues that face real communities, such as poverty.

This important study is available to you, your organization, and your friends and neighbors to learn more about public schools that are the heart and soul of your community. The media community should have received this press release. Please check with them to make sure they have that they are considering using it. While you are there, offer some comment of your own on behalf of your public schools.

December 6, 2013

Rally Against the MMAC on Monday!

Filed under: MMAC,Privatization — millerlf @ 6:45 pm

PLEASE SPREAD FAR & WIDE!

Stop the Education Grinches!

Monday, December 9th, 2013

4:00 pm – Action at the MMAC – 756 N Milwaukee Street
4:45 pm Dinner and Strategy Session 260 E. Highland, Suite 300

Dear Friend,

Join parents, students and teachers as we descend upon the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce (MMAC) to sing holiday education carols and deliver a giant holiday card signed by hundreds of community members to MMAC President Tim Sheehy to remind him that it’s not too late to get off the naughty list!

RSVP to take action. Don’t let the MMAC privatize, dismantle, and profit off of our children

Our schools face budget cuts, under-resourcing, oversized classes, and further charter expansion, so we will present our holiday “wish list” which includes fully funded schools that put students first, an end to the privatization of public education, and democracy & economic security for our communities.

President Sheehy and his privatization profiteers have a plan to steal our schools and sell them off to the highest bidder. But we can stop them!

RSVP Today
http://micahempowers.us7.list-manage.com/track/click?u=794db320b186672e39f505858&id=09f73d3264&e=933fbca013


Immediately following the action we will gather for dinner and a strategy session on how we can work together to reclaim the promise of public education for every Milwaukee student.

See you there!

Jennifer Epps-Addison
Executive Director
Wisconsin Jobs Now

This event is sponsored by the Coalition to Stop the MPS Takeover – a coalition of community, labor, parent and student groups. On December 9th, similar actions will take place in 30 cities across the country as part of the national effort to reclaim the promise of public education.

October 14, 2013

MPS Facilities Hostile Takeover: Plan to Attend Assembly Hearing Wednesday in Madison

Filed under: MPS Buildings,Privatization — millerlf @ 9:32 am

Assembly

PUBLIC HEARING

Committee on Government Operations and State Licensing

The committee will hold a public hearing on the following items at the time specified

below:

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

12:00 PM

328 Northwest

 

Assembly Bill 417. See full bill at:

http://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/2013/related/proposals/ab417

 

Relating to:

authorizing the city of Milwaukee to sell eligible school facilities to

eligible purchasers.

By Representatives Sanfelippo, Stone, Hutton, Kooyenga, Craig, Kapenga,

Kuglitsch, LeMahieu, Jagler, Ballweg, Bernier, Knodl, Pridemore and Kleefisch;

cosponsored

by Senators Darling, Farrow, Vukmir, Lazich and Grothman.

________________________

Representative Chad Weininger

Chair

http://usage.search.conduit.com/Services/LogUsage/?app=3&source=Searchimagesapp-Piclick&Action=Pageviews-Conduit&ctid=CT3209604&args=%7B%22Search_type%22:%22SearchWeb%22%7D&d=1381760690580

October 4, 2013

Hearing On Hostile Takeover of MPS Buildings To Be Held Wednesday October 9 in Madison

Filed under: MPS Buildings,Privatization — millerlf @ 11:57 am

A hearing will be held Wednesday October 9 on legislation that authorizes seizure of MPS buildings. This is a hostile takeover of MPS facilities so that buildings can be leased or sold by private entities for a profit.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

9:30 AM

Capital Building 411 South

To See Bill Text Go To:

Bill Text

Please attend and express your opposition!

Senate Bill 318 proposes:

That any property that is designated as surplus, underutilized, or vacant on any resolution adopted by the MPS board within the previous five year can be taken from MPS and purchased by an “education operator.”

The bill defines “underutilized” as:  

a)      less than 40 percent of the square footage of the school is used for the instruction of pupils on a daily, school day basis;

b)      the school is not staffed on a full-time basis by a principal and instructional staff assigned exclusively to the school; or

c)       the number of hours of pupil instruction offered in the school building in the previous school year was less than 80 percent of the number of hours of pupil instruction required to be offered by MPS.

 

Under the bill an education operator is:

a)      an entity/company engage in real estate operation, sales, lease or development of schools;

b)      private companies investing in charter schools;

c)       the operator of a charter school established by the common council of the city, the chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, or the Milwaukee Area Technical College district board;

d)      the operator of a private school;

e)      the operator of a charter school that is not an instrumentality of MPS;

f)       a person that is pursuing a contract with MPS to operate a school as a charter school that is not an instrumentality of the school district;

g)      an entity or organization that has entered into a written agreement with any of the education operators identified in the above items to purchase or lease a building within which that education operator will operate a school.

 

Senate
PUBLIC HEARING

Committee on Government Operations, Public Works, and
Telecommunications

The committee will hold a public hearing on the following items at the time specified below:

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

9:30 AM

411 South

Senate Bill 318

Relating to: authorizing the city of Milwaukee to sell eligible school facilities to eligible purchasers.

By Senators Darling, Farrow, Vukmir, Lazich and Grothman; cosponsored by Representatives Sanfelippo, Stone, Hutton, Kooyenga, Craig, Kapenga, Kuglitsch, LeMahieu, Jagler, Ballweg, Bernier, Knodl, Pridemore and Kleefisch.

October 2, 2013

Milton Friedman: Godfather of Privatization and Vouchers

Filed under: Privatization,Vouchers — millerlf @ 6:32 pm

Public Schools: Make Them Private

by Milton Friedman Feb. 19, 1995

Milton Friedman, a senior research fellow at the Hoover Institution, won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1976.


Executive Summary

Our elementary and secondary educational system needs to be radically restructured. Such a reconstruction can be achieved only by privatizing a major segment of the educational system–i.e., by enabling a private, for-profit industry to develop that will provide a wide variety of learning opportunities and offer effective competition to public schools. The most feasible way to bring about such a transfer from government to private enterprise is to enact in each state a voucher system that enables parents to choose freely the schools their children attend. The voucher must be universal, available to all parents, and large enough to cover the costs of a high-quality education. No conditions should be attached to vouchers that interfere with the freedom of private enterprises to experiment, to explore, and to innovate.

This article appeared in the Washington Post on February 19, 1995. Reprinted by permission of the author and the Washington Post.

Introduction

Our elementary and secondary educational system needs to be radically reconstructed. That need arises in the first instance from the defects of our current system. But it has been greatly reinforced by some of the consequences of the technological and political revolutions of the past few decades. Those revolutions promise a major increase in world output, but they also threaten advanced countries with serious social conflict arising from a widening gap between the incomes of the highly skilled (cognitive elite) and the unskilled.

A radical reconstruction of the educational system has the potential of staving off social conflict while at the same time strengthening the growth in living standards made possible by the new technology and the increasingly global market. In my view, such a radical reconstruction can be achieved only by privatizing a major segment of the educational system–i.e., by enabling a private, for-profit industry to develop that will provide a wide variety of learning opportunities and offer effective competition to public schools. Such a reconstruction cannot come about overnight. It inevitably must be gradual.

The most feasible way to bring about a gradual yet substantial transfer from government to private enterprise is to enact in each state a voucher system that enables parents to choose freely the schools their children attend. I first proposed such a voucher system 40 years ago.

Many attempts have been made in the years since to adopt educational vouchers. With minor exceptions, no one has succeeded in getting a voucher system adopted, thanks primarily to the political power of the school establishment, more recently reinforced by the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, together the strongest political lobbying body in the United States.

1. The Deterioration of Schooling

The quality of schooling is far worse today than it was in 1955. There is no respect in which inhabitants of a low-income neighborhood are so disadvantaged as in the kind of schooling they can get for their children. The reason is partly the deterioration of our central cities, partly the increased centralization of public schools–as evidenced by the decline in the number of school districts from 55,000 in 1955 to 15,000 in 1992. Along with centralization has come–as both cause and effect–the growing strength of teachers’ unions. Whatever the reason, the fact of deterioration of elementary and secondary schools is not disputable.

The system over time has become more defective as it has become more centralized. Power has moved from the local community to the school district to the state, and to the federal government. About 90 percent of our kids now go to so-called public schools, which are really not public at all but simply private fiefs primarily of the administrators and the union officials.

We all know the dismal results: some relatively good government schools in high-income suburbs and communities; very poor government schools in our inner cities with high dropout rates, increasing violence, lower performance and demoralized students and teachers.

These changes in our educational system have clearly strengthened the need for basic reform. But they have also strengthened the obstacles to the kind of sweeping reform that could be produced by an effective voucher system. The teachers’ unions are bitterly opposed to any reform that lessens their own power, and they have acquired enormous political and financial strength that they are prepared to devote to defeating any attempt to adopt a voucher system. The latest example is the defeat of Proposition 174 in California in 1993.

(more…)

September 23, 2013

New Attack on MPS

Filed under: MPS Buildings,Privatization — millerlf @ 9:10 pm

Following is a summary of the proposed legislation by Senator Alberta Darling. This new attempt to colonize, privatize and destroy public schools in Wisconsin is aligned with the attempt by St. Marcus Lutheran School to take control of the Malcolm X building. This is another attack designed and orchestrated by the right-wing privatization/voucher proponents.

The summary of the Bill starts with-

Under current law, the city of Milwaukee (city) owns the school buildings and school grounds of the Milwaukee Public School (MPS) District. Generally, city-owned property used for school purposes may be sold only upon the written request of the MPS board and if the Milwaukee Common Council adopts a resolution approving the sale. However, if the common council finds that city-owned property used for school purposes has been unused or underutilized for at least 12 consecutive months, or if the MPS board has determined by resolution prior to January 1, 2011, that any city-owned property used for school purposes is surplus to the needs of the district, the common council may sell or lease that property if it adopts a resolution to do so. If the city sells or leases property identified as underutilized or surplus, the net proceeds must be deposited into the school operations fund, which is used to pay the principal, fees, and premiums due on bonds issued for school facilities.

This bill creates an additional mechanism for the sale of certain eligible, city-owned school buildings. The bill defines an eligible school building as an MPS school building that has been either 1) designated as surplus, underutilized, or vacant on any resolution adopted by the MPS board within the previous five years, provided the board is unable to demonstrate that the school building is no longer surplus, underutilized, or vacant; or 2) unused or satisfies any condition qualifying the building as underutilized for 12 consecutive months. The bill defines an underutilized school building as a school building that satisfies any of the following: a) less than 40 percent of the square footage of the school is used for the instruction of pupils on a daily, school day basis; b) with limited exceptions, the school is not staffed on a full-time basis by a principal and instructional staff assigned exclusively to the school; or c) the number of hours of pupil instruction offered in the school building in the previous school year was less than 80 percent of the number of hours of pupil instruction required to be offered by MPS. The bill requires the MPS board to annually prepare a detailed inventory of all school buildings in MPS and submit that inventory to the city clerk, the Department of Public Instruction, and the Joint Committee on Finance. The inventory must include the size and capacity of each school building and whether the building has ever been designated as surplus. The city clerk must publish information about eligible school buildings on the city’s Web page. Under the bill, once a school building has qualified as an eligible school building, only an education operator, with certain exceptions, may submit a letter of interest to the common council to purchase the building. The bill defines an education operator as any of the following: 1) the operator of a charter school established by the common council of the city, the chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, or the Milwaukee Area Technical College district board; 2) the operator of a private school; 3) the operator of a charter school that is not an instrumentality of MPS; 4) an individual or group that is pursuing a contract with an entity under item 1 to operate a school as a charter school; 5) a person that is pursuing a contract with MPS to operate a school as a charter school that is not an instrumentality of the school district; or 6) an entity or organization that has entered into a written agreement with any of the education operators identified in items 1 to 5 to purchase or lease a building within which that education operator will operate a school.

To see the Full Bill Go To:  Proposed Bill for Malcolm X

August 17, 2013

St. Marcus Marches to Demand Acquisition of Malcolm X Building From MPS

Filed under: MPS Buildings,Privatization,Vouchers — millerlf @ 2:33 pm

August 17:  35 staff, students and supporters from St. Marcus Lutheran School marched from their campus at 2251 North Palmer to the Malcolm X school site at 2760 N 1st Street. There they held a prayer vigil.

blog 1blog 2Their demand? MPS should sell the building to St. Marcus even though the MPS board has been engaged in a planning process for the site for over a year.

Is the urgency by St. Marcus due to the fact that the board is getting close to finalizing its proposal?

Following is a resolution that will be considered by the board this month.

                                                                      ACTION ON A REQUEST TO ADOPT RESOLUTION 1314R-­004 BY

DIRECTORS BONDS AND MILLER REGARDING A COMMUNITY RESOURCE CENTER

Resolution 1314R-­004

By Directors Bond and Miller

WHEREAS, MPS incurs costs for the maintenance and upkeep of its buildings, even when they are unused and vacant; and

WHEREAS, A vacant building, no matter how well maintained, is not only a wasted resource, but also a detriment to the neighborhood in which it is situated; and

WHEREAS, Administrative Policy 5.01(8)(e) states that vacated school buildings owned by the Board shall be used for other purposes, if economically feasible; and

WHEREAS, At its regular meeting on August 30, 2012, the Board, in response to Resolution 1213R-­‐002 by Director Bonds, directed the Administration to develop the Community Partnership Shared Facilities Program, through which space in our vacant buildings is to be rented — for nominal fees, such as the cost of the utilities — to community-­‐based organizations which would provide free services to MPS students and which are non-­‐profit 501(c)3 organizations that have been in existence for five years or longer, or are government agencies, or are universities, colleges, or other accredited post-­‐secondary educational institutions; and

WHEREAS, The MPS-­‐owned building located at 2760 N. First Street, which housed the former Malcolm X Academy, has been vacant since 2007; and

WHEREAS, The community surrounding that site is in great need of a resource center that could provide educational, cultural, neighborhood, and recreational programming and services; and

RESOLVED, That the Board designate the former Malcolm X Academy’s facility at 2760 N. First Street as a Community Resource Center which will provide educational, cultural, neighborhood, and recreational programming and services to the surrounding community; and be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, That the Board direct the Administration to develop an educational plan identifying the educational program or programs that are to be offered by the Center; and be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, That the Board direct the Administration to work with the community to identify the shared resources desired for its new Resource Center; and be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, That the Board direct the Administration to develop a contract for the coordination of services and for the management and oversight of the Center; and be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, That the Board direct the Administration to report to the Board by November 2013 with a plan to implement the creation and operation of this community resource center; and be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, The community resource center is to open in the Fall of 2014.

July 30, 2013

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