Educate All Students: Larry Miller's Blog

October 25, 2016

New Call for MPS Takeover: Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC) 2015-2017 Agenda States “Fundamentally reform MPS governance and empower the MPS Superintendent to make reforms within the district.”

Filed under: MMAC,MPS Takeover — millerlf @ 5:10 pm

The MMAC is calling for another attempt at governance takeover of the MPS school board. Their 2015-2017 legislative agenda (see right hand column on their web page at the following link) calls for “Fundamentally reform MPS governance and empower the MPS Superintendent to make reforms within the district.”

Wisconsin’s Special Needs Voucher Program Only Fills Half the Available Seats; Many Go to Existing Voucher Students

Filed under: Vouchers — millerlf @ 3:27 pm

Note the reporting on St. Marcus (highlighted in report).

Date: October 24, 2016 Stop Special Needs Vouchers <>

Greetings from Stop Special Needs Vouchers!  Please feel free to forward widely, and be sure to VOTE!

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction has released the 2016 enrollment figures for the “Special Needs Scholarship Program,” which was passed in the most recent Wisconsin state budget without a public-hearing opportunity for families or community members to express our concerns. Families who accept the special needs vouchers must give up their rights and protections under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), including the right to a free appropriate public education, the right to have disability considered when it comes to suspension and expulsion, and the right to recourse in case of a dispute.  Public schools, meanwhile, must follow the full IDEA and educate all students regardless of disability.

The DPI press release is online at

Even after changing the law to allow current private-school students at participating schools to receive the special needs vouchers, the program was only able to fill 206 of the 408 available seats at 26 participating schools.

To qualify for a special needs voucher, a student must have been denied open-enrollment between public school districts. Families with Stop Special Needs Vouchers warned that this would lead to a rush of open-enrollment applications merely to qualify for the voucher. It appears that this has come to pass.  The after-the-fact “fix” to the law allowed current private school students to pursue open-enrollment denials in 2016 even if they had never sought open enrollment before, and participating schools instructed current families to do just that.

As reported in the Journal Sentinel 10/23 (Special Needs Vouchers Cost Districts $2.4 Million in Aid), “St. Marcus Lutheran School, where almost all children attend with a Milwaukee Parental Choice Program voucher worth about $7,300 annually, shifted almost 70 students onto special-needs vouchers.
    St. Marcus leaders directed their parents of children with disabilities to apply for open enrollment at suburban districts that they knew had no seats available and that they knew their parents had no desire to attend. Once the districts denied the applications, the St. Marcus children were eligible for the higher-paying vouchers.”

Among the 26 participating special needs voucher schools, programming and staff qualification varies widely. Several of the schools have no certified special education staff, and only one specifies that it is wheelchair accessible. Participating schools are not required to provide their suspension/expulsion policies in their profiles.

The profiles of the special needs voucher schools are online at

Voucher-school families can find instructions for submitting disability-related complaints to DPI at  However, the instructions caution that DPI may not have the authority to address the complaint.

Meanwhile, voucher lobbyists are preparing for more special needs voucher legislation in 2017.  Again from the Journal Sentinel: “Jim Bender, the president of the pro-voucher group School Choice Wisconsin, said the enrollment process and subsequent funding for special-needs vouchers will be part of the upcoming legislative session.”

It remains to be seen how many special needs voucher students will be returning to the public schools now that the fall semester count is complete. Stop Special Needs Vouchers will continue to advocate for providing the resources that our kids need to succeed in the public schools, where the doors are open to all, and students with disabilities have their full IDEA rights and recourse.


Your Vote Matters for Students with Disabilities!

Early voting is underway across Wisconsin, through 5pm or close-of-business on Friday November 4 — Election Day is Tuesday November 8!  Every municipality sets its own early voting schedule; check with your local voting official to learn hours and locations in your area.

A reporter for the Washington Post recently asked presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton to respond to questions on education:

Mr. Trump did not respond in detail, but provided a short statement beginning:”As your president, I will be the nation’s biggest cheerleader for school choice.”  Further information can be found in the national Republican Party platform, which echoes the Choice Act proposal for allowing IDEA funding to flow to private schools that are not required to follow the IDEA: “We propose that the bulk of federal money through Title I for low-income children and through IDEA for children with special needs should follow the child to whatever school the family thinks will work best for them.”

Secretary Clinton did respond in detail, including the following statement: “Private schools can decline to accept students with disabilities, refuse to abide by the Individualized Education Plans of students they do accept, and segregate students with disabilities away from other kids. That’s why I believe we should keep public resources in our public schools.”

Where do your local candidates stand on public education for students with disabilities?  Be sure to find out, and take their positions into account when you vote!


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Voucher Enrollment Up. Now 28,000 Vouchers in Milwaukee.

Filed under: Vouchers — millerlf @ 3:27 pm
School voucher programs grow in 2015-’16

Wisconsin is expected to spend almost $245 million on private school vouchers for the 2016-’17 school year, up almost $15 million from a year ago, driven by double-digit enrollment increases in the Racine and statewide programs.

Overall, 33,781 students received vouchers to attend one of the 209 participating private schools in the Milwaukee, Racine and statewide Parental Choice programs, up about 5% over last year.

Milwaukee remains the state’s largest and costliest program with 28,188 students, up almost 2% over last year. But enrollments surged in the other two programs, rising 19% to 2,532 students in Racine and 21.4% to 3,061 elsewhere across the state.

“We’re seeing more and more demand for parental choice programs” outside of Milwaukee, said Jim Bender, president of the advocacy group School Choice Wisconsin. “The more parents learn about the program, the more they want it,” he said.

The Racine program held steady with 19 participating schools. But the statewide program, which started in 2013 with 511 students in 25 private schools, now has the same number of voucher schools as Milwaukee’s decades-old program: 121. Both seats and schools are likely to rise in the coming years as state-mandated enrollment caps rise and eventually roll off, further fueling an ongoing battle over school funding in the state.

While state funding for public schools rose about $122 million this year, revenue caps — the limits on how much a school district can raise in state and local taxes — did not increase, meaning most of the funding increase will go to property tax relief. Many districts saw a reduction in state aid because of changes in the way the state pays for the expanding voucher programs.

Payments to the Racine and statewide programs are deducted from the public school districts where those students live — $7,323 per full-time student in kindergarten through eighth grade, and $7,969 for each high schooler. And Milwaukee Public Schools will see a $52.1 million deduction to pay for its share (25.6%) of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program.

Mary Young of the public schools advocacy group SOS Wauwatosa called the increase in voucher funding “heartbreaking.”

“After 25 years of study there’s no proof that voucher schools outperform public schools. In many cases, they do worse,” she said. “Our state should support great schools that serve all of our kids.”

A 1% limit on the number of students private schools in the statewide program can take from the public schools mitigated the impact of the program on those districts. But that cap increases by 1% in each of the next nine years before rolling off entirely. Thirty districts across the state hit that 1% threshold this year, including the West Allis-West Milwaukee and Burlington Area schools.

Andrew Chromy, finance director for the West Allis-West Milwaukee schools, said it would cost his district almost $662,000.

“This cost is not something that we can continue to sustain,” he said.

Todd Gray, superintendent of the Waukesha Public Schools District, said it lost about 40 students this year, about 30 fewer than last year. It remains below the 1% threshold.

“I think parents recognize that we provide a much broader and higher quality set of educational opportunities for all students as opposed to what the private voucher schools can offer,” he said.

While enrollment in the Milwaukee program saw a slight uptick in enrollment, there were significant swings for some schools. Holy Redeemer Christian Academy lost 200 students, and Blessed Savior Catholic School lost 92, for example, according to the state. Milwaukee Lutheran High School grew by nearly 100 students because of growth at its feeder schools.

“We’ve intentionally opened up some seats because we want to serve those students,” Principal Adam Kirsch said

Bender, of School Choice Wisconsin, attributed the small growth in the Milwaukee program to a 2014 law that makes it harder for new school startups to win state approval, and the difficulty some schools have had acquiring vacant buildings from Milwaukee Public Schools to expand.

“It’s not because demand is down, but because fewer seats are available,” said Bender, who noted that several schools have waiting lists.

“We have not heard from any schools in Milwaukee that demand is down.”

October 24, 2016

BlackLivesMatter in Seattle!

Filed under: BlackLivesMatter — millerlf @ 7:24 pm

Thousands of Seattle teachers wore Black Lives Matter shirts to school. Here’s what it looked like.

The #BlackLivesMatterAtSchool event in Seattle  was breathtaking.

Never before in the country has an entire district of educators risen up to declare that Black lives matter. It’s hard to even put into words the power of this event. It has been reported that 2,000 teachers wore Black Lives Matter shirts to school across the district–in fact, the number was much larger than that.  That is the number of shirts that were ordered from the Social Equality Educators, however, many schools made their own shirts. Families made buttons and distributed them to schools.  Some parents set up informational booths in front of their school with resources for teaching about racism. There was a joyous atmosphere around the city.  Many educators around the city took the day to teach students developmentally appropriate lessons about institutional racism and hold dialogues about Black lives matter.

There is so much work left to be done to make Black Lives truly matter at school. But at the rally for Black lives at lunchtime at my high school, Garfield, something happened that let everyone know that change is already happening.

One of our teachers, Janett Du Bois, revealed to everyone in the middle of our rally that the police had murdered her son a few years ago. No one at our school knew about this. It was in that moment of seeing everyone wearing  Black Lives Matter shirts that she found the strength to tell her story. Her bravery to go public with this has changed Garfield forever.  I am so glad that she no longer has to suffer alone with the pain. Here is a short news story that doesn’t do her full speech justice, but will give you a glimpse:

ABC provided national news coverage of our day and the amazing evening rally:

Here is a link to some of the best photos taken of the day from a Seattle Public Schools parent, photographer, and author Sharon Chang:

Below are just some of the photos of schools from around Seattle who participated in #BlackLivesMatterAtSchool:

October 20, 2016

Misogyny in the Election: Op-Ed by Ellen Bravo

Filed under: Right Wing Agenda,Trump — millerlf @ 9:27 am

There’s always That Guy

Ellen Bravo October 19, 2016 MJS

The voters, men and women alike, need to say decisively, “Not in this nation. We will not stand for this.”


Athletes and sportswriters have been quick to pounce on Donald Trump’s “locker room talk” defense as inaccurate and insulting. Is there crude talk in locker rooms, boasting about sexual exploits? Yes, they say. Boasting about sexual assault? Never.

And yet, as a friend of my husband’s pointed out, there’s always That Guy. That Guy is the one who crosses the line. He goes beyond sexual banter or dirty jokes or anything resembling flirtation. Even in an all-male setting, his words cause people to flinch. Too often, he surrounds himself with guys who will laugh. Others shrug or walk away.

Most times, no one tells him to stop. And no one in authority says, “We won’t stand for this.”

That Guy (and sometimes they come in pairs or even packs) shows up in locker rooms, but also in board rooms, operating rooms, break rooms, classrooms, green rooms. His goal is not seduction but humiliation. He’s not just lewd, he’s a harasser. Typically, he engages in molestation, acts that are not just inappropriate but illegal and criminal. His taunts frequently roam beyond gender to race, sexual identity, physical ability, national origin.

If you ask people to identify That Guy in their workplace, virtually everyone will write down the same name.

The women he goes after tell him “no” in dozens of ways. Yet, most of the time, no one in authority says, “Not in this school / this locker room / this workplace / this town. We won’t stand for this.”

On the Access Hollywood tape, Trump claimed he could get away with the groping and unwanted advances because he was “a star.” Often That Guy is, indeed, someone prominent, a rainmaker for the company or a person with enough power for others to fear repercussions if they stand up to him.

I’ve called That Guy the “UGLI,” the Untouchable, Godlike Individual. If women complain about him to someone in Human Resources, they usually hear something like this: “Oh, That Guy. Sorry to hear that you’re having a problem with him. We’ll be glad to move you to another location.”

When women stand up to That Guy, he accuses them of making it up or claims whatever happened was consensual. That Guy has a lot of money to spend on lawyers and publicists and other staff to hound anyone who dares accuse him. He’s ruthless, aiming not just to make the accusation go away but to demonize the accuser and destroy her reputation.

Not surprisingly, That Guy often gets away with his crimes.

Now That Guy is running for president of the United States.

And the voters, men and women alike, are the ones with authority. We’re the ones who need to say decisively, “Not in this nation. We will not stand for this.”

Ellen Bravo is a long-time activist on working women’s issues. She’s written a non-fiction book on sexual harassment and a novel, “Again and Again,” involving date rape and politics.


Far-Right MacIver Institute Attacks Any Progress made by Milwaukee Public Schools

Filed under: MacIver Institute,OSPP,Right Wing Agenda — millerlf @ 9:16 am
Lisowski: Call it whatever you like, MPS is still failing its students
OLA LISOWSKI October 17, 2016 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
The facts overwhelmingly show us that high school graduates in Wisconsin, and especially in MPS, aren’t ready to take on the real world.

In a letter to Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele and Milwaukee Public Schools Superintendent Darienne Driver, State Superintendent Tony Evers has provided an update on the beleaguered Opportunity Schools Partnership Program. DPI’s official report cards come out in November, but Evers’ letter provides a teaser in writing that “based on the preliminary data … there are no districts eligible for the OSPP in 2016-’17.”

In other words, expect MPS to lose its “failing to meet expectations” label in the coming report cards, which more heavily weigh progress than outcomes.

Evers writes that in order to participate in OSPP, schools must be placed in the lowest performance category — failing to meet expectations — for two consecutive report cards, or the school building must be vacant or underutilized. Participating schools also must be located in a district categorized as failing to meet expectations.

I’m happy that the state is more diligently measuring progress. When students do better year over year, it’s cause for celebration. But before we all declare MPS a success and the problem solved, let’s wait for the report cards to to be published in November. Consider the latest data available, which paints a different picture, showing that many MPS schools are still serving their students at dismal levels.

According to the University of Wisconsin Remedial Course Report, 175 schools sent more than six graduates to the UW System who needed remedial education in the fall of 2015. Of those schools, 160 graduated classes in which more than 10% of students required remedial math education. In 76 schools, more than 25% of students required math remediation. In 12 schools, 50% or more of the graduating class that went to the UW System needed remedial education.

Bradley Tech, for example, sent 12 students to the UW System in fall 2015. Eight students required math remediation before starting regular courses. This is a school that attracts millions of dollars in philanthropy and is held up by MPS as “the premier technology and trade high school in Milwaukee.” And yet its graduates must take zero-level math courses to catch up with their peers.

Think about what that means for those students who have been told for years that they’re lucky to attend elite institutions within MPS. For the 58% of MPS students who graduate high school in four years, large numbers go on to the UW System where they must take remedial coursework for zero credits and full tuition. For the more than 30,000 students trapped in schools for no other reason than their ZIP code, it’s tragic. The status quo still reigns at MPS, and children are left in schools that fail them — official state label or not.

By declaring MPS to no longer be failing, it appears that DPI simply has moved the goal posts rather than addressing the real issues within the largest school district in the state. The facts overwhelmingly show us that high school graduates in Wisconsin, and especially in MPS, aren’t ready to take on the real world. Never mind what the bureaucrats tell you — that’s the definition of failing to meet expectations.

Ola Lisowski is a research associate at the MacIver Institute, a Madison-based right-wing free market think tank.


Right Wing blogger on OSPP

Filed under: OSPP,Right Wing Agenda — millerlf @ 8:47 am

Alt-right blogger and MacIver Institute contributor, James Widgerson, presents the perspective of the OSSP failings shared by those who hope for the destruction of public education and Milwaukee Public Schools.

Note that Steve Baas, senior vice president for the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce for Government Affairs, is interviewed for the article.

Read the blog at:

October 14, 2016

Sen. Larson and Rep. Sinicki Commend Defeat of Takeover and Applaud Milwaukee Schools on Continued Achievement

Filed under: MPS,MPS Takeover,OSPP — millerlf @ 1:39 pm

State Capitol, PO Box 8953, Madison, Wisconsin 53708
October 13, 2015 608.266.7505
Rep. Chris Sinicki
Sen. Larson and Rep. Sinicki Commend Defeat of Takeover and
Applaud Milwaukee Schools on Continued Achievement
Madison, WI – Senator Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) and Representative Chris Sinicki (D-Milwaukee) offered the following comments regarding the recent news about Milwaukee Public Schools:
“Yesterday, the Wisconsin Department of Instruction (DPI) indicated that the Milwaukee Public School District (MPS) will not face the threat of an undemocratic takeover of their schools this academic year.
“We are glad that the gains made by MPS have prevented this harmful law from taking effect in our community. This success became possible through the positive educational growth by our students, the dedication of our great teachers, and the tireless efforts of many leaders, in particular Dr. Darienne Driver, her staff, Director Sain, and the Milwaukee School Board. We applaud them for their victory and their continued leadership.
“Despite crushing reductions in funding, Milwaukee Public Schools have continually ranked nationally for their academic achievements. The progress made by MPS proves the true ability of local governance to make positive changes through democratic processes. As MPS is first to note, there is more work to be done to continue this positive momentum. As legislators representing the youth of the city of Milwaukee, we will continue working with MPS to achieve more for our students.
“The majority party in the Legislature needs to stop punishing students and attacking teachers if they expect our schools to improve. They hatched their takeover plan late in the budget session and added it to the state budget in the middle of the night with no public hearing or comment. Their plan was immediately called out for what it was: a clear attack on Milwaukee’s neighborhood schools. It sparked vehement, ongoing protests by numerous local leaders who spoke out against it and by local parents, teachers, and neighbors who decried its obvious ill intent. We later saw the abrupt resignation of the only commissioner appointed under the takeover plan.
“While the takeover scheme was designed to hurt our public schools, it achieved one thing: it brought our community together to work on and begin to solve our educational challenges at the local level. It is our hope that DPI’s optimistic news fosters a sincere and robust debate on how to assist our school districts in educating our children.
“What we need to do is what works: ensure equal, fair, and full funding for all our Wisconsin students; promote the proven community school model as a way to boost student performance; and support our neighborhood schools. These are the Wisconsin values that we are ready to champion this coming session.”

Wisconsin: General State Aid Certified to School Districts

Filed under: School Finance — millerlf @ 1:33 pm


General State Aid Certified to School Districts

by Chris Kulow

DPIlogoAs required by state law, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) has released the Oct. 15 certified amount each school district will receive from the $4.584 billion available under current law for general state aid. The certified aid shows that 60% of the state’s public school districts (255 of 424*) will receive more general state aid this school year than they did in 2015-16.

General state aid for school districts was up $108.1 million from last year. However, according to DPI’s press release, the actual amount of general aid that the state’s public school districts receive is reduced for a number of factors: Read more of this post

October 12, 2016

Rep. Goyke Congratulates Milwaukee Public Schools and Stands with Dedicated Staff and Students on MPS no longer being required to participate in OSPP

Filed under: MPS — millerlf @ 7:41 pm

MADISON – State Representative Evan Goyke (D-Milwaukee) released the following statement in response to today’s notification by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) to Milwaukee County and Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) that no districts are currently eligible for the Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program (OSPP) in 2016-17.

“I offer my sincere congratulations to Dr. Driver, the MPS School Board, Teachers, Parents, and Students for the positive gains made in our Milwaukee Public Schools.
During the final days of Wisconsin’s previous biennial budget debate, the OSPP provision was added. I was present and remember it well – it was nearly 1:30 in the morning. With no collaboration with those most impacted, this plan was put forward and passed.
Today’s notification by DPI shows the progress we’re making in Milwaukee. The notification is a testament to the hard work and successful collaboration between Dr. Driver and the School Board.
I believe in Dr. Driver. She has earned my support through her tireless work for Milwaukee students. I also believe in our MPS School Board. They have worked together for Milwaukee students while representing their constituents with passion.
Today’s announcement shows the hard work is paying off. We must continue to support and empower Dr. Driver and the School Board. Real change is happening and today’s notification is clear evidence that when we work together for a common purpose it is positive and meaningful to the students in Milwaukee.”

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