Educate All Students: Larry Miller's Blog

January 27, 2018

Exciting New Curriculum from Rethinking Schools

Filed under: BlackLivesMatter,Rethinking Schools — millerlf @ 1:03 pm

New Rethinking Schools book


Milwaukee History Note From 2011

Filed under: Black Brown Unity — millerlf @ 10:05 am

Black & Brown Unity march hits segregation

Published Nov 20, 2011

A youth-led Black & Brown Unity march and rally took to the streets of Milwaukee on Nov. 12. A Latino/a contingent marching north from M&I Bank and an African-American contingent marching south after a protest at U.S. Bank converged on the 27th Street Bridge. They then marched together with allies to Mitchell Park, where they convened for cultural presentations and a powerful speakout of oppressed peoples from throughout Metro Milwaukee and beyond.

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Milwaukee has become a city with a majority of people of color. Black and Brown people make up more than 60 percent of the population.

The sponsoring groups, Occupy the Hood and Decolonize the Hood, in their call for the action, pointed out that “Milwaukee has some of the highest racial disparities in unemployment, health care, education, prison rates and much more. It is also the number one segregated city in the nation. We believe identifying socioeconomic and social injustices shared by Black and Brown communities helps draw attention to the ills caused by disenfranchisement and exploitation. Therefore, November 12th, a National Day of Action in Milwaukee, will be a collaborative effort by both Black and Brown communities to join forces to fight against these social and institutional forces of oppression.”

A Revisit with Michelle Alexander on Schools: We have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.

Schools and the New Jim Crow: An Interview With Michelle Alexander

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Interview published in Rethinking Schools

We asked Alexander to share her thoughts about the implications of her work when applied to education and the lives of children and youth.

RS: What is the impact of mass incarceration on African American children and youth?

MA: There is an extraordinary impact. For African American children, in particular, the odds are extremely high that they will have a parent or loved one, a relative, who has either spent time behind bars or who has acquired a criminal record and thus is part of the under-caste—the group of people who can be legally discriminated against for the rest of their lives. For many African American children, their fathers, and increasingly their mothers, are behind bars. It is very difficult for them to visit. Many people are held hundreds or even thousands of miles away from home. There is a tremendous amount of shame with having a parent or other family member incarcerated. There can be fear of having it revealed to others at school.

But also, for these children, their life chances are greatly diminished. They are more likely to be raised in severe poverty; their parents are unlikely to be able to find work or housing and are often ineligible even for food stamps.

For children, the era of mass incarceration has meant a tremendous amount of family separation, broken homes, poverty, and a far, far greater level of hopelessness as they see so many of their loved ones cycling in and out of prison. Children who have incarcerated parents are far more likely themselves to be incarcerated.

When young black men reach a certain age—whether or not there is incarceration in their families—they themselves are the target of police stops, interrogations, frisks, often for no reason other than their race. And, of course, this level of harassment sends a message to them, often at an early age: No matter who you are or what you do, you’re going to find yourself behind bars one way or the other. This reinforces the sense that prison is part of their destiny, rather than a choice one makes.

A Birdcage as a Metaphor

RS: At one point in The New Jim Crow, you refer to the metaphor of a birdcage as a way to describe structural racism and apply that to mass incarceration. How does what is happening to African American youth in our schools fit into that picture?

MA: The idea of the metaphor is there can be many bars, wires that keep a person trapped. All of them don’t have to have been created for the purpose of harming or caging the bird, but they still serve that function. Certainly youth of color, particularly those in ghetto communities, find themselves born into the cage. They are born into a community in which the rules, laws, policies, structures of their lives virtually guarantee that they will remain trapped for life. It begins at a very early age when their parents themselves are either behind bars or locked in a permanent second-class status and cannot afford them the opportunities they otherwise could. For example, those with felony convictions are denied access to public housing, hundreds of professions that require certification, financial support for education, and often the right to vote. Thousands of people are unable even to get food stamps because they were once caught with drugs.

The cage itself is manifested by the ghetto, which is racially segregated, isolated, cut off from social and economic opportunities. The cage is the unequal educational opportunities these children are provided at a very early age coupled with the constant police surveillance they’re likely to encounter, making it very likely that they’re going to serve time and be caught for committing the various types of minor crimes—particularly drug crimes—that occur with roughly equal frequency in middle-class white communities but go largely ignored.

So, for many, whether they go to prison or not is far less about the choices they make and far more about what kind of cage they’re born into. Middle-class white children, children of privilege, are afforded the opportunity to make a lot of mistakes and still go on to college, still dream big dreams. But for kids who are born in the ghetto in the era of mass incarceration, the system is designed in such a way that it traps them, often for life.

RS: How do you define and analyze the school-to-prison pipeline?

MA: It’s really part of the large cage or caste that I was describing earlier. The school-to-prison pipeline is another metaphor—a good one for explaining how children are funneled directly from schools into prison. Instead of schools being a pipeline to opportunity, schools are feeding our prisons.

It’s important for us to understand how school discipline policies have been influenced by the war on drugs and the “get tough” movement. Many people imagine that zero tolerance rhetoric emerged within the school environment, but it’s not true. In fact, the Advancement Project published a report showing that one of the earliest examples of zero tolerance language in school discipline manuals was a cut-and-paste job from a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration manual. The wave of punitiveness that washed over the United States with the rise of the drug war and the get tough movement really flooded our schools. Schools, caught up in this maelstrom, began viewing children as criminals or suspects, rather than as young people with an enormous amount of potential struggling in their own ways and their own difficult context to make it and hopefully thrive. We began viewing the youth in schools as potential violators rather than as children needing our guidance.

The Mythology of Colorblindness

RS: In your book, you explain that the policies of mass incarceration are technically “colorblind” but lead to starkly racialized results. How do you see this specifically affecting children and young people of color?

MA: The mythology around colorblindness leads people to imagine that if poor kids of color are failing or getting locked up in large numbers, it must be something wrong with them. It leads young kids of color to look around and say: “There must be something wrong with me, there must be something wrong with us. Is there something inherent, something different about me, about us as a people, that leads us to fail so often, that leads us to live in these miserable conditions, that leads us to go in and out of prison?”

The mythology of colorblindness takes the race question off the table. It makes it difficult for people to even formulate the question: Could this be about something more than individual choices? Maybe there is something going on that’s linked to the history of race in our country and the way race is reproducing itself in modern times.

I think this mythology—that of course we’re all beyond race, of course our police officers aren’t racist, of course our politicians don’t mean any harm to people of color—this idea that we’re beyond all that (so it must be something else) makes it difficult for young people as well as the grown-ups to be able to see clearly and honestly the truth of what’s going on. It makes it difficult to see that the backlash against the Civil Rights Movement manifested itself in the form of mass incarceration, in the form of defunding and devaluing schools serving kids of color and all the rest. We have avoided in recent years talking openly and honestly about race out of fear that it will alienate and polarize. In my own view, it’s our refusal to deal openly and honestly with race that leads us to keep repeating these cycles of exclusion and division, and rebirthing a caste-like system that we claim we’ve left behind.

RS: We are in the midst of a huge attack on public education—privatization through charters and vouchers; increased standardization, regimentation, and testing; and the destruction of teachers’ unions. Much of it is justified by what appears to be anti-racist rhetoric: Schools aren’t meeting the needs of inner-city children, so their parents need choices. How do you see this?

MA: People who focus solely on what do we do given the current context are avoiding the big why. Why is it that these schools aren’t meeting these kids’ needs? Why is it that such a large percentage of the African American population today is trapped in these ghettos? What is the bigger picture?

The bigger picture is that over the last 30 years, we have spent $1 trillion waging a drug war that has failed in any meaningful way to reduce drug addiction or abuse, and yet has siphoned an enormous amount of resources away from other public services, especially education. We are in a social and political context in which the norm is to punish poor folks of color rather than to educate and empower them with economic opportunity. It is that political context that leads some people to ask: Don’t children need to be able to escape poorly performing schools? Of course, no one should be trapped in bad schools or bad neighborhoods. No one. But I think we need to be asking a larger question: How do we change the norm, the larger context that people seem to accept as a given? Are we so thoroughly resigned to what “is” that we cannot even begin a serious conversation about how to create what ought to be?

The education justice movement and the prison justice movement have been operating separately in many places as though they’re in silos. But the reality is we’re not going to provide meaningful education opportunities to poor kids, kids of color, until and unless we recognize that we’re wasting trillions of dollars on a failed criminal justice system. Kids are growing up in communities in which they see their loved ones cycling in and out of prison and in which they are sent the message in countless ways that they, too, are going to prison one way or another. We cannot build healthy, functioning schools within a context where there is no funding available because it’s going to building prisons and police forces.

RS: And fighting wars?

MA: Yes, and fighting wars. And where there is so much hopelessness because of the prevalence of mass incarceration.

At the same time, we’re foolish if we think we’re going to end mass incarceration unless we are willing to deal with the reality that huge percentages of poor people are going to remain jobless, locked out of the mainstream economy, unless and until they have a quality education that prepares them well for the new economy. There has got to be much more collaboration between the two movements and a greater appreciation for the work of the advocates in each community. It’s got to be a movement that’s about education, not incarceration—about jobs, not jails. A movement that integrates the work in these various camps from, in my view, a human rights perspective.

Fighting Back

RS: What is the role of teachers in responding to this crisis? What should we be doing in our classrooms? What should we be doing as education activists?

MA: That is a wonderful question and one I’m wrestling with myself now. I am in the process of working with others trying to develop curriculum and materials that will make it easier to talk to young people about these issues in ways that won’t lead to paralysis, fear, or resignation, but instead will enlighten and inspire action and critical thinking in the future. It’s very difficult but it must be done.

We have to be willing to take some risks. In my experience, there is a lot of hesitancy to approach these issues in the classroom out of fear that students will become emotional or angry, or that the information will reinforce their sense of futility about their own lives and experience. It’s important to teach them about the reality of the system, that it is in fact the case that they are being targeted unfairly, that the rules have been set up in a way that authorize unfair treatment of them, and how difficult it is to challenge these laws in the courts. We need to teach them how our politics have changed in recent years, how there has been, in fact, a backlash. But we need to couple that information with stories of how people in the past have challenged these kinds of injustices, and the role that youth have played historically in those struggles.

I think it’s important to encourage young people to tell their own stories and to speak openly about their own experiences with the criminal justice system and the experiences of their family. We need to ensure that the classroom environment is a supportive one so that the shame and stigma can be dispelled. Then teachers can use those stories of what students have witnessed and experienced as the opportunity to begin asking questions: How did we get here? Why is this happening? How are things different in other communities? How is this linked to what has gone on in prior periods of our nation’s history? And what, then, can we do about it?

Just providing information about how bad things are, or the statistics and data on incarceration by themselves, does lead to more depression and resignation and is not empowering. The information has to be presented in a way that’s linked to the piece about encouraging students to think critically and creatively about how they might respond to injustice, and how young people have responded to injustice in the past.

RS: What specifically?

MA: There’s a range of possibilities. I was inspired by what students have done in some schools organizing walkouts protesting the lack of funding and that sort of thing. There are opportunities for students to engage in those types of protests—taking to the streets—but there is also writing poetry, writing music, beginning to express themselves, holding forums, educating each other, the whole range. For example, for a period of time the Ella Baker Center in Oakland, Calif., was focused on youth engagement and advocacy to challenge mass incarceration. They launched a number of youth campaigns to close youth incarceration facilities in northern California. They demonstrated that it is really possible to blend hip-hop culture with very creative and specific advocacy and to develop young leaders. Young people today are very creative in using social media and there is a wide range of ways that they can get involved.

The most important thing at this stage is inspiring an awakening. There is a tremendous amount of confusion and denial that exists about mass incarceration today, and that is the biggest barrier to movement building. As long as we remain in denial about this system, movement building will be impossible. Exposing youth in classrooms to the truth about this system and developing their critical capacities will, I believe, open the door to meaningful engagement and collective, inspired action.


Why teach about structural oppression and other systems of control?

Young people are not likely to get this information from any other source. If we are ever going to overcome this, we first have to be able to talk about it, describe it, to know what it is. Unlike the old Jim Crow, there are no signs alerting you today to the existence of racial bias. The “whites only” signs are gone, and it’s easy today to be lulled into this belief that people are at the bottom because they simply don’t work hard or are lazy or prone to violence. If we don’t pull back the curtain for young people and help them to see how unconscious bias operates, how systems of discrimination operate, then they will continue to operate on a false belief that race discrimination is a part of our past and not our present. They will find themselves being part of the problem rather than part of the solution.


What would you want students to understand from reading and studying your book? 

They have the power to change the system. It’s easy to imagine that a system like mass incarceration can’t be dismantled. The same was said about slavery, the same was said about Jim Crow. And yet a powerful movement, led in large part by courageous, young people who were unwilling to accept the status quo, who were bold and brave and who were truth-tellers, helped to bring that Jim Crow system to its knees. I think it’s important that even as we learn about great injustice that we not become paralyzed by it but recognize that we are the change we’ve been waiting for and that young people—perhaps more than any other segment in our society—are the hope upon which future generations can rely.

Interview by Jody Sokolower, Rethinking Schools, published 2013

Who is shackling our children and who is supporting their liberation?


January 14, 2018

Behind Walker’s $200 Per Student Increase in Wisconsin State Budget

Filed under: Wisc Budget Bill — millerlf @ 1:41 pm

by Larry Miller

(The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel chose not to run this because it is not suggesting solutions. I beg to differ.)

When is a raise in the budget not a raise? When it restores a tiny fraction of needed funds that have been systematically reduced for years and does nothing to correct the factors that cause under-funding.

The controversial Wisconsin state budget passed last September included an increase of $200 per student in public schools. In reality, that funding level, adjusting for inflation, still falls below what was allocated for K-12 schooling in 2010.

The small bump is not surprising, given the overwhelming majority of Wisconsin voters who support their public schools. Polls by Marquette Law School [] showed significant support, including a willingness to pay more in tax dollars for adequate resources for public schools.

Public school funding in Wisconsin continues to be constrained by a formula that is fundamentally unjust and broken. Children attending Milwaukee Public Schools are worth approximately $10,000 each under the budget. Those attending Glendale/River Hills are valued at $12,752. If Milwaukee Public School (MPS) children were allocated the same funding as Glendale/River Hills, our district would see an increase of more than $200 million annually. Similar comparisons can be made between MPS and Whitefish Bay, Shorewood, Brown Deer and Fox Point.

The majority of Republican legislators have made it clear that their preference is to support the private voucher system. In this budget the per student allocation increase for voucher students was higher than that for public school students. The budget also included a provision raising statewide the income level at which a family becomes eligible to receive a voucher.

The expensive 25-year voucher “experiment” has done nothing to change the status quo of the growing economic inequality in Milwaukee and Wisconsin. Yet we have a President who has promised billions in federal monies toward voucher programs, a Secretary of Education in Betsy DeVos whose political life has been spent dismantling public education, and a state legislature that prefers private to public. The private system exists not parallel to, but at the expense of, the public system.

In addition to unequal funding and diversion of funds to private schools, the broken funding framework fails to support students with special needs, or “special education.” Previous to the 1994 revenue caps, school districts were promised that the state would provide 63% of funding for special education. Right now districts are receiving less than 26% of those expenses, while they are required to fulfill 100% of students’ Individual Education Plans(IEP). This funding has been frozen for a decade. Milwaukee Public Schools has more than 15,000  students with IEP’s. The majority of the money to fulfill these must come from MPS’s general funding, which means less money for libraries, technology, music, the arts, and physical education.

Over the next 15 years, the legislature is giving $3 billion to FoxConn, along with an estimated $18 billion spent for prisons. That money must come from somewhere. This path suggests that public education for our children will suffer even more.

Wisconsin, we are better than this. In Milwaukee Public Schools our time is spent focusing on serving our students, their families and communities. We are doing this with all hands on deck, but with restraints from limited resources.

If we are going to improve the lives of the 85% of MPS students living in poverty, greater resources are crucial. We’ll never achieve regional economic development without high-level statewide public education, equitably and adequately funded.

Milwaukee public schools are faced with large class sizes, ancient buildings, the need for more 21st-century technology, expansion of library resources, and increased student access to music, the arts, and physical education, for starters.

This is an important year for Wisconsin elections. Please put our children’s education at the center of the dialogue and debate. Reform of Wisconsin’s education funding formula, funding for special education services, turning back the expansion of private school vouchers and prioritizing education, not incarceration, should all be part of making Wisconsin great again.







September 11, 2017

Trump’s War on Science: NYT Editorial

Filed under: Environment,Trump — millerlf @ 9:16 am

New York Times Editorial Board Sept. 9, 2017

The news was hard to digest until one realized it was part of a much larger and increasingly disturbing pattern in the Trump administration. On Aug. 18, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine received an order from the Interior Department that it stop work on what seemed a useful and overdue study of the health risks of mountaintop-removal coal mining.

The $1 million study had been requested by two West Virginia health agencies following multiple studies suggesting increased rates of birth defects, cancer and other health problems among people living near big surface coal-mining operations in Appalachia. The order to shut it down came just hours before the scientists were scheduled to meet with affected residents of Kentucky.

The Interior Department said the project was put on hold as a result of an agencywide budgetary review of grants and projects costing more than $100,000.

This was not persuasive to anyone who had been paying attention. From Day 1, the White House and its lackeys in certain federal agencies have been waging what amounts to a war on science, appointing people with few scientific credentials to key positions, defunding programs that could lead to a cleaner and safer environment and a healthier population, and, most ominously, censoring scientific inquiry that could inform the public and government policy.

Even allowing for justifiable budgetary reasons, in nearly every case the principal motive seemed the same: to serve commercial interests whose profitability could be affected by health and safety rules.

The coal mining industry is a conspicuous example. The practice of blowing the tops off mountains to get at underlying coal seams has been attacked for years by public health and environmental interests and by many of the families whose livelihoods depend on coal. But Mr. Trump and his department heads have made a very big deal of saving jobs in a declining industry that is already under severe pressure from market forces, including competition from cheaper natural gas. An unfavorable health study would inject unwelcome reality into Mr. Trump’s rosy promises of a job boom fueled by “clean, beautiful coal.”

This is a president who has never shown much fidelity to facts, unless they are his own alternative ones. Yet if there is any unifying theme beyond that to the administration’s war on science, apart from its devotion to big industry and its reflexively antiregulatory mind-set, it is horror of the words “climate change.”

This starts with Mr. Trump, who has called global warming a hoax and pulled the United States from the Paris agreement on climate change. Among his first presidential acts, he instructed Scott Pruitt, the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, to deep-six President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants, and ordered Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to roll back Obama-era rules reducing the venting from natural gas wells of methane, another powerful greenhouse gas.

Mr. Trump has been properly sympathetic to the victims of hurricanes Harvey and Irma, but the fact that there is almost certainly a connection between a warming earth and increasingly destructive natural events seems not to have occurred to him or his fellow deniers. Mr. Pruitt and his colleagues have enthusiastically jumped to the task of rescinding regulations that might address the problem, meanwhile presiding over a no less ominous development: a governmentwide purge of people, particularly scientists, whose research and conclusions about the human contribution to climate change do not support the administration’s agenda.

Mr. Pruitt, for instance, is replacing dozens of members on the E.P.A.’s scientific advisory boards; in March, he dismissed at least five scientists from the agency’s 18-member Board of Scientific Counselors, to be replaced, according to a spokesman, with advisers “who understand the impact of regulations on the regulated community.” Last month the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration dissolved its 15-member climate science advisory committee, a panel set up to help translate the findings of the National Climate Assessment into concrete guidance for businesses, governments and the public.

In June, Mr. Pruitt told a coal industry lobbying group that he was preparing to convene a “red team” of researchers to challenge the notion, broadly accepted among climate scientists, that carbon dioxide and other emissions from fossil fuels are the primary drivers of climate change.

Andrew Dessler, a professor of atmospheric science at Texas A&M University, called the red team plan a “dumb idea” that’s like “a red team-blue team exercise about whether gravity exists.” Rick Perry, the energy secretary, former Texas governor and climate skeptic, endorsed the idea as — get this — a way to “get the politicians out of the room.” Given his and Mr. Pruitt’s ideological and historical financial ties to the fossil fuel industry, it is hard to think of a more cynical use of public money.

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Even the official vocabulary of global warming has changed, as if the problem can be made to evaporate by describing it in more benign terms. At the Department of Agriculture, staff members are encouraged to use words like “weather extremes” in lieu of “climate change,” and “build soil organic matter, increase nutrient use efficiency” instead of “reduce greenhouse gases.” The Department of Energy has scrubbed the words “clean energy” and “new energy” from its websites, and has cut links to clean or renewable energy initiatives and programs, according to the Environmental Data & Governance Initiative, which monitors federal websites.

At the E.P.A., a former Trump campaign assistant named John Konkus aims to eliminate the “double C-word,” meaning “climate change,” from the agency’s research grant solicitations, and he views every application for research money through a similar lens. The E.P.A. is even considering editing out climate change-related exhibits in a museum depicting the agency’s history.

The bias against science finds reinforcement in Mr. Trump’s budget and the people he has chosen for important scientific jobs. Mr. Trump’s 2018 federal budget proposal would cut nondefense research and development money across the government.

The president has proposed cutting nearly $6 billion from the National Institutes of Health, the nation’s single largest funder of biomedical research. The National Science Foundation, a government agency that funds a variety of scientific and engineering research projects, would be trimmed by about 11 percent. Plant and animal-related science at the Agriculture Department, data analysis at the Census Bureau and earth science at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration would all suffer.

It is amazing but true, given the present circumstances, that the Trump budget would eliminate $250 million for NOAA’s coastal research programs that prepare communities for rising seas and worsening storms. The E.P.A.’s Global Change program would be likewise eliminated. This makes the budget director, Mick Mulvaney, delirious with joy. He complains of “crazy things” the Obama administration did to study climate, and boasts: “Do a lot of the E.P.A. reductions aim at reducing the focus on climate science? Yes.”

As to key appointments, denial and mediocrity abound. Last week, Mr. Trump nominated David Zatezalo, a former coal company chief executive who has repeatedly clashed with federal mine safety regulators, as assistant secretary of labor for the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration. He nominated Jim Bridenstine, a Republican congressman from Oklahoma with no science or space background, as NASA administrator. Sam Clovis, Mr. Trump’s nomination to be the Agriculture Department’s chief scientist, is not a scientist: He’s a former talk-radio host and incendiary blogger who has labeled climate research “junk science.”

From the beginning, Mr. Trump, Mr. Pruitt, Mr. Zinke and Mr. Perry — to name the Big Four on environmental and energy issues — have been promising a new day to just about anyone discomfited by a half-century of bipartisan environmental law, whether it be the developers and farmers who feel threatened by efforts to enforce the Clean Water Act, oil and gas drillers seeking leases they do not need on federal land, chemical companies seeking relaxation from rules governing dangerous pesticides, automakers asked to improve fuel efficiency or utilities required to make further investments in technology to reduce ground-level pollutants.

“The future ain’t what it used to be at the E.P.A.,” Mr. Pruitt is fond of saying of his agency. These words could also apply to just about every other cabinet department and regulatory body in this administration. What his words really mean is that the future isn’t going to be nearly as promising for ordinary Americans as it should be.

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August 24, 2017

Join Rev. William Barber August 28 in Milwaukee

Filed under: Civil Rights Movement Today — millerlf @ 12:11 pm

Milwaukee, WI Mass Meeting

When: Monday, August 28, 7:00pm – 9:00pm (CDT)

Where: St Gabriels Church of God, 5363 N 37th St, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53209, USA

Join co-chairs Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis for a Mass Meeting for the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival on Monday, August 28 at 7:00 pm at St. Gabriels Church of God in Christ in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to learn about the inspiration, vision and strategy of the PPC. The Campaign will build a broad and deep national moral fusion movement — rooted in the leadership of the poor and dispossessed as moral agents and reflecting the great moral teachings — to unite our country from the bottom up.

August 14, 2017

OSPP Pushing At Racine School District

Filed under: OSPP,Privatization — millerlf @ 12:42 pm

Commissioner could take over Unified schools if District fails again, unless amendment passes



RACINE — State legislators are discussing an amendment to the state budget that would give the Racine Unified School District, in the event the state gives the district a failing grade this fall, an extra year to improve its standing to prevent some failing schools from being part of the Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program.

Because of the failing report card last year, State Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, said the district is “looking at that potential this year” which could result in the state and the county determining the future of some failing schools.

“That means they would take five schools out of the Unified school district, eliminate all positions and then rehire all of those positions and then redo all of those schools and they would be out of the district,” Wanggaard said. “That would trigger a potential referendum for Sturtevant, Caledonia and Mount Pleasant, that they could form their own school districts.”

The legislature would likely approve the 2017-19 budget before the state test results are released in November so the amendment, if it goes through, would allow Unified an extra year of leeway before any schools become part of the Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program, if the district receives another failing grade.

In November 2016, the district received a grade of “fails to meet expectations” from the state with 11 schools failing to meet expectations including Case, Horlick and Park high schools. However, several schools were docked points based on test participation, absenteeism rate and dropout rate, which moved them into the “fails to meet expectations” category.

Wanggaard, who has been championing the amendment, said the district has made important changes, specifically highlighting the launching of the Academies of Racine and changing Knapp Elementary School to a community school.

“To allow some of those things to come to fruition, I think that will get them up and going and moving in the right direction,” Wanggaard said.

Report to county executive

According to the state statute, the Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program would automatically go into action after the second straight year of receiving a failing grade from the state and schools in the program would be run by a commissioner.

The commissioner is selected by the county executive from a pool of applicants appointed by the governor, city mayor and county executive. The commissioner also reports to the county executive.

Wanggaard said the amendment would give the district another year “to prove themselves.”

“If they fail then it goes to an Opportunity School (and Partnership Program) and it also triggers the referendum for those municipalities that want to have their own district,” Wanggaard said, adding it would be up to the municipalities to decide if they want to be involved with the Opportunity School and Partnership Program or try to form their own district.

In the past, some in Caledonia have advocated the community starting its own district.

‘Huge and stressful issue’

The district is aware of the seriousness of a another failing grade from the state and is concerned that if the amendment does not go through, the Opportunity Schools Partnership Program will go into effect.

Stacy Tapp, chief of communications and community engagement for Unified, said a task force was formed to focus on areas to improve the state test results after last year’s failing grade.

“The district has been focused on improving our report card results,” Tapp said. “We’ve also been focused on engaging students through the academy model and other efforts. However, we won’t get the report card until fall.”

School Board President Robert Wittke said he’s been in contact with local legislators about the initiatives the district has taken in the wake of last year’s results, which he views as an anomaly, but he said the community should know the seriousness of the situation.

“This is a huge and stressful issue,” Wittke said. “This would not be something that’s good for the community … Its one of the most important issues that we’re facing.”

Wittke said he’s confident the district has taken the right steps with forming the Academies of Racine and now the middle school transformation.

Delaying handbook, ‘boneheaded decision’

The changes the district has been making have not been lost on local legislators.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said the delay would “allow the Academies (of Racine) to take hold.”

Although no amendment has been officially drafted, Vos said this will be part of the discussion but recent issues such as the employee handbook make it difficult.

“I still continue to be frustrated that as we are looking to try to give (Unified) more wiggle room to be able to turn the district around at a local level, then they make a boneheaded decision like delaying the handbook,” Vos said.

If the amendment does pass, it’s likely legislators will insist on certain conditions which could include approving a handbook that is compliant with Act 10.

Recently, the current handbook has come under scrutiny. Specifically, the legality of the Board of Adjustments was questioned by School Board Vice President and Mayor Dennis Wiser.

The Board of Adjustments is defined by the current handbook as being “comprised of equal representation of the District and the authorized representative of the teaching staff… to consider the appropriate level of benefits, plan design, structure, premium contributions and all other issues related to health, dental and disability benefits.”

Act 10 bars public employees from negotiating for benefits and only allows negotiation for salaries.

If the amendment does not go through, Wanggaard said the Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program would automatically go into effect, “unless we do a statutory change with a separate bill to change (the program).”

“Every time this (Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program) is done it’s the students that are at risk,” Wanggaard said. “They’re not being prepared for what these changes are. I know it’s difficult for the staff and stuff like that but it’s the students that need the preparation to go on for their potential future.”


July 11, 2017

Trump Isolated and Sitting Alone at G20 (G19?)

Filed under: Trump — millerlf @ 11:39 am


July 3, 2017

Is Mayor Barrett Caving–in to Trump and Clark? Join Voces De La Frontera on Wednesday at City Hall

Filed under: Immigration — millerlf @ 7:31 am

Following is a press statement from Voces:





DATE & TIME: WED. JUNE 5, 2017 AT 11 AM

Don’t change the policy of the Milwaukee Police Department that limits collaboration with immigration. Don’t betray the community. Stand up to Trump’s politics of hate & discrimination.

June 12, 2017

Will Chicago Become the Epicenter of Charter School Unionization?

Filed under: Charter Schools,Unions — millerlf @ 9:22 am
Jeff Schuhrke June 8, 2017 In These Times

In the words of Illinois Network of Charter Schools president Andrew Broy, “Chicago has become the epicenter of charter union organizing in the country.”

In a move sure to worry neoliberal education reformers, unionized charter school teachers in Chicago are voting this week on whether to formally join forces with the most militant teachers’ union in the country.


The proposed merger—which would be a potential first in the country—would see the more than 1,000 member Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff (ChiACTS), Local 4343 of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), amalgamate into a single union local with the nearly 30,000-member Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), AFT Local 1.


ChiACTS president Chris Baehrend said the potential merger “helps all Chicago teachers fight together on the same issues.”


Formed in 2009, ChiACTS is at the national forefront of organizing charter schools. Its members are not only winning union recognition across the city, but also showing a willingness to withhold their labor to win fair contracts, much like their counterparts in the CTU.


Since October, ChiACTS teachers have come close to going on strike at UNO, ASPIRA and Passages charter schools. But all three walkouts—which would have been the first charter school teacher strikes in history—were avoided by last-minute contract agreements.


In the words of Illinois Network of Charter Schools president Andrew Broy, “Chicago has become the epicenter of charter union organizing in the country.”


Though the CTU is undoubtedly opposed to the expansion of charter schools, as evidenced by the union’s successful effort to win a cap on new charters last fall, its leaders say they are dedicated to building teacher-to-teacher solidarity.


“Charter schools are here; they’re not going anywhere,” CTU president Karen Lewis recently said, continuing: “It’s the management companies we have the issues with, not the charter teachers, not the students, not the parents. The key is, organize people to fight for fairer conditions of work, and then that’s good for everybody.”


Since September 2015, the CTU has provided support to contract negotiations and enforcement for ChiACTS through a service agreement. Further, CTU members have frequently joined ChiACTS teachers at their rallies, and activists from both locals have met to discuss shared concerns through a joint committee.


“We believe that unification is a key step to allow educators to speak with one voice in Chicago, halt privatization and bring additional resources to our collective work,” says a letter from CTU leaders to delegates, obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times.


Union leaders acknowledge that the merger would be “a delicate process and will inevitably bring challenges and tensions.” This seems particularly true as the comparably small ChiACTS local would likely seek to retain some measure of autonomy within the much larger CTU.


Speaking for the charter companies, Broy described the unification move as a “hostile takeover” of ChiACTS by the CTU—a bizarre allegation considering ChiACTS members are voting on whether to approve the merger themselves.


“There will be trials,” said CTU vice president Jesse Sharkey. “I well imagine there are things that could potentially be tricky, but frankly you could say they’re the same things that divide our teachers now.”


Teachers at individual charter schools would still have their own contracts, and ChiACTS members would be able to run for seats on the CTU’s executive board and House of Delegates.


This week’s merger vote by ChiACTS members—the outcome of which will not be announced for several days—precedes a similar vote by CTU members, which will likely happen this fall. Further details have yet to be made public.


“When people hear the term ‘CTU,’ they’re going to have to understand that the CTU doesn’t just represent CPS,” Sharkey said. “It will more broadly be an organization for public educators in the city of Chicago.”


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Jeff Schuhrke is a Working In These Times contributor based in Chicago. He has a Master’s in Labor Studies from UMass Amherst and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in labor history at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He was a summer 2013 editorial intern at In These Times. Follow him on Twitter: @JeffSchuhrke.


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