Educate All Students: Larry Miller's Blog

May 23, 2015

Alberta Darling’s False Claims About New Orleans Exposed Once Again, But Truth Does Not Matter To Those Intent On Destroying The Public Good

Filed under: Darling,MPS Takeover,New Orleans — millerlf @ 8:17 am

Louisianna Educator Blog: by Michael Deshotels May 21, 2015

http://louisianaeducator.blogspot.com/2015/05/new-orleans-rsd-compared-to-traditional.html


New Orleans RSD Compared to Traditional Schools

The national news media has been reporting for several years now that the “portfolio” of charter schools created to run the state takeover schools in New Orleans have produced an amazing turnaround of those schools in the ten years since hurricane Katrina demolished the public schools in New Orleans. We see claims that most of the takeover schools are no longer failing and that the graduation rate has improved dramatically, and that the improved performance of the RSD students has greatly exceeded that of more traditional schools across Louisiana and across the nation. The charter school proponents seem to be claiming that poverty can no longer be used as an excuse for poor academic performance. They believe, or would have us believe, that the New Orleans RSD has found the secret to closing the achievement gap between impoverished, at-risk minority students and more advantaged middle class students.

This report is an attempt to simply examine the relevant data that can be used to measure academic success of the New Orleans Recovery District. It will attempt to measure how the RSD compares to traditional public schools. What does the data tell us? Is it Reform Success or Reform Hype?

Is the Comparison Really Complicated?
Some education researchers on this topic have agonized over the fact that the Louisiana school rating system has changed so much in recent years that it is difficult to compare apples to apples. Also, the RSD has closed and renamed so many schools in New Orleans that it is almost impossible to trace the progress of any particular school. The test scores of RSD students on the Louisiana LEAP and iLEAP tests seem to have significantly improved, but so have the scores for the students in traditional schools throughout Louisiana. So, is there a still a method that will really compare the RSD schools to the traditional schools in Louisiana and possibly to other schools across the nation?

Unfortunately for comparison of student performance, the state test results in Louisiana have been manipulated so that they no longer measure the same level of proficiency as they did ten years ago. There appears to have been significant grade inflation of test results over the past ten years that have nothing to do with improvement in student achievement. Some of the grade inflation has come from familiarity of educators and students with the state test, so that students can score higher without significantly improving their math and reading skills. The rest of the grade inflation comes from a general lowering of the raw cut scores documented in this blog for the rating of “Basic” which in Louisiana is considered to be grade level performance. Not only have the state test results been manipulated by lowering many of the raw cut scores, the ratio of difficult to easy questions on the test can be changed from year to year also changing apparent performance.

So how much inflation has occurred in the state testing? The testing inflation can be estimated by comparing the average test results of Louisiana students as measured by the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) with the results of the state designed LEAP and iLEAP tests. In the last ten years, analysis shows that according to state tests, approximately 11 percent more students statewide were deemed to be on grade level (scored basic or above) than ten years ago. But at the same time, the NAEP test shows that only 3 percent more students advanced to basic. That difference and the simultaneous softening in the Louisiana formula for assigning grades to schools (bonus points for subgroups) have resulted in more and more schools appearing to have made dramatic progress in the last ten years. That dramatic “faux progress” includes the New Orleans RSD charter schools.

Graduation rates have improved statewide, and ACT scores are up slightly across the state. So how can we use these statistics to compare the RSD to the rest of the state and to schools nationwide?

There are three simple criteria that may be used to compare student performance between the RSD, state traditional schools, and schools in other states.
The answer to comparison of student performance in Louisiana is really quite simple and does not require complex calculations. First a little history:

The narrative by the charter school proponents is that prior to Hurricane Katrina, the school system in New Orleans was failing miserably. There was graft and corruption by school managers, and most students were getting such a substandard education that the schools deserved to be taken over and drastically overhauled. Some of that narrative is correct, but in the few years leading up to Katrina, the school system in New Orleans, just like all other systems in the state, was in the process of improving its student test scores. Even so, the destruction of Katrina was used as an opportunity for the State to take over schools and put them under new management. Independent charter management organizations were invited to come in and set up new schools chartered by the RSD and operated independently of the Orleans Parish School Board.

As some schools were taken over and some were closed, it became more difficult to trace the progress of individual schools. There is however, one very important statistic on student performance that we will use as a basis for our most critical comparison: Just prior to 2005, there was a special law (Act 35) passed by the Louisiana Legislature that allowed all public schools in New Orleans that had received a state calculated school performance score below the state average to be taken over by the state. This means that every school in Orleans rated below the 50th percentile in the ranking of schools across the state was taken over. So that’s the starting point for our comparison with student performance today.

It would require complex formulas and analysis to trace and compare individual school performance scores of the schools in New Orleans with the rest of the state because the formula for rating schools has changed and the tests and the grading system have changed. Also, the Orleans Parish school board has retained the management of a significant number of schools, which are operated as a separate school system from the RSD. But there is one simple statistic that can compare the takeover schools to the original schools that were taken over in 2005. That is the percentile ranking of the composite RSD student performance on the state tests compared to all the other students in the state. With the reopening of schools in New Orleans following Katrina, the special law applying only to New Orleans required that all schools ranked below the 50th percentile in New Orleans compared to all schools in the state, would be taken over by the RSD. Therefore it can be roughly concluded that the new district started with school performance on average ranking near the 25th percentile. Since school performance scores are based primarily on student test performance, the schools taken over and managed by the New Orleans Recovery District were producing student-testing results in the bottom quartile of all school systems in Louisiana at the time of takeover.

The Latest Academic Ranking Based on State Testing Places the New Orleans RSD at the 17th percentile
The fairest and most accurate academic comparison of the New Orleans Recovery District with all other districts in the state is the percentile ranking of student performance. The Louisiana Department of Education calculated this ranking at the end of the 2013-14 school year and listed all school system rankings in a table on the LDOE website. The latest calculated percentile ranking of the New Orleans RSD district is at the 17th percentile (see item #3 under State + District reports) compared to all other districts in the state based upon the percentage of students in the district achieving the rating of “Basic” on state testing. This means that at the present time, 83 percent of the school districts in the state outperform the New Orleans RSD in educating students to the level of “Basic”.

Therefore if schools in the RSD are compared using student test performance, there is no indication of improvement compared to all the public schools in the state. The ranking of takeover schools started in the bottom quartile compared to all schools in the state, and remains in the bottom quartile.

So if at the time of takeover, the New Orleans RSD ranked near the 25th percentile in student performance, then the present ranking of 17th percentile shows no improvement in relation to other school systems.

Also based on the NAEP tests, the Louisiana ranking compared to the 50 states and the District of Columbia stands at approximately 48th. That’s approximately the same ranking Louisiana had right before Katrina. So the New Orleans RSD ranks near the bottom of a state that still ranks near the bottom nationwide in student performance. Since schools in Louisiana today are rated primarily on their student performance on state tests, the RSD is far from achieving parity with the more traditionally operated school systems. The new all charter school system is unique both in its structure and also in its extremely low performance.

What About the Graduation Rate?
Another way to measure school success is the use the high school graduation rate. The latest official graduation rate for the New Orleans RSD now stands at 61.1%, which is dead last compared to all other Louisiana school districts. In addition, enrollment figures indicate that there are a huge number of students in the RSD that drop out before they ever get to high school. Students who drop out before they reach 9th grade are never figured into the graduation rate. There is a huge difference in 6th grade student enrollment (2495) compared to 9th grade (1685) in the New Orleans RSD. If we were to calculate the RSD graduation rate starting with 7th grade, it would be significantly less than 50%. That’s an awful lot of students walking the streets in New Orleans without a diploma. This early loss of students does not exist in two other school systems (St Bernard and Plaquemines) that were also similarly affected by hurricane Katrina.

What About Preparing Students for College?
Most of the schools in the New Orleans RSD are designed and advertised as college prep schools. There is a major emphasis on preparing and motivating students to enroll in four-year universities. Again there is one simple extremely relevant statistic that can be used to measure potential success in this area. All students in Louisiana are now required by the state to take the ACT test. The average ACT scores for RSD New Orleans students is now at 16.2 which is at the 7th percentile ranking in comparison to all other school districts in the state. Most graduates from the RSD score too low on the ACT to be accepted to most state colleges without remediation. The average ACT score would be even lower if all students in the RSD were taking the ACT as is mandated by the State Department of education. The enrollment of students in the 12th grade for the RSD in the 2013-2014 school year was 1380, according to the February student count. But the number of students with an ACT score for that year was only 1178. That’s only 85% of the 12th grade students enrolled. The two other school systems closest to the New Orleans RSD are the Orleans Parish School Board and the Jefferson Parish systems. They had a testing rate of 98% and 99% respectively. Removing 15% of the seniors from the testing can significantly raise the average score. But even with that advantage, the RSD still scores near the bottom compared to all other public school systems.

Expansion of the RSD System
Since the formation of the New Orleans RSD, there has been an attempt to extend the takeover concept to low performing schools in other parts of the state also using the charter “portfolio” method. There is now an RSD Baton Rouge and an RSD Louisiana. These schools have been in operation for 8 years. Using the same method of ranking based on percentage of students achieving “Basic” on state tests, these districts are now at the 2nd and 0 percentiles respectively. That is third to last and dead last. The graduation rates and the ACT scores for these takeover schools are also at the bottom of the state rankings. These simple statistics demonstrate that there has been absolutely no progress in Louisiana in improving student performance by taking over and converting schools to charters.

As several other independent investigators (Mercedes Schneider and Research on Reforms) have demonstrated, the so-called New Orleans Miracle is simply a hoax perpetrated upon a gullible and trusting public and news media by the charter promoters. Just like the rainmakers and con men of long ago, charter promoters have preyed upon a new group of willing rubes.

And now unfortunately, the false propaganda of the faux success of the Louisiana Recovery District is being used to justify the creation of similar takeover districts in many other states. All the data available so far for those new recovery districts shows a similarly disastrous result.

May 21, 2015

Madison Legislature: Thieves in the Night

Filed under: Wisc Budget Bill — millerlf @ 1:33 pm

School Administrator’s Alliance May 20, 2015 Statement

Joint Finance Committee Votes to Underfund Public Schools

Committee action puts Wisconsin on a clear path to fall below the national average in per-pupil spending for the first time ever

MADISON — In the middle of the night, long after most parents went to bed, GOP members of the Joint Finance Committee passed, on a 12-4 party line vote, an education spending motion that undermines our tradition of strong public education and puts Wisconsin on a clear path to fall below the national average in per-pupil spending for the first time ever. The 30-page motion, which includes 51 separate school-related provisions, was put together behind closed doors with no public scrutiny, and Republican committee members presented it just one hour before the committee took it up.

Even after its passing, many items included in the motion are not well understood. Despite this, it is clear that the motion puts ideology ahead of evidence by siphoning millions of dollars away from public school students to spend on private voucher schools, which research suggests do not improve student achievement and lack meaningful accountability to the public. Although vouchers produce large political contributions from out-of-state interest groups, they do not produce better educational opportunities for children. We cannot afford to make political hay with educational policies that are both ineffective and expensive.

“This must have felt like Christmas morning for Wisconsin advocates for taxpayer-funded private school vouchers,” said John Forester, director of government relations for the School Administrators Alliance (SAA). “They got to unwrap a wide-open statewide voucher expansion and a brand new special needs voucher program. Clearly, this is the best education budget that millions of dollars in largely out-of-state political contributions can buy. And it didn’t seem to bother majority Republicans one bit that this voucher expansion will drive up local property taxes.”

The committee voted to restore Governor Walker’s proposed $150 per-pupil cut in the first year of the biennium, resulting in a first-year revenue freeze for public schools. The committee then added a very modest $100 in per-pupil revenues for the second year of the budget. At the same time, the committee’s vote to dramatically expand taxpayer-subsidized school vouchers and deduct aid from public schools to pay for it, will leave public schools with a first year cut and significantly reduce the effect of the second-year increase. Wisconsin school districts needed an inflationary increase in revenues to meet the needs of students. What they got will diminish educational opportunities for the students they serve.

“The actions by some members of the Joint Finance Committee in advancing budget provisions that dramatically undermine the future educational opportunities of Wisconsin school children are unconscionable,” said Forester. “The success of our state over the generations has been linked to the
quality of our public education system. Last week, we learned that our state was expected, for the first time, to fall below the national average in terms of per-pupil spending. The action late last night from members of the Joint Finance Committee exacerbates that trend. It’s an embarrassment for the state of Wisconsin and a monumental disservice to our public school students and parents.”

The Joint Finance Committee vote comes after months of advocacy from parents across the state in support of their public schools, efforts these groups have said will continue.

“The success we have in public education in this state is a reflection of the generations of work by Democrats and Republicans in support of our public schools,” said Forester. “Wisconsin parents are joining educators and community leaders in saying loud and clear: ‘We will not stand by while elected leaders dismantle public education in our state.’”

It is unfortunate that the education policies in this budget plan are clearly based on ideology and political expediency rather than evidence. If our objective is to improve student achievement for all Wisconsin children and close achievement gaps, research indicates that we should address the impact of poverty on student learning, invest in early learning opportunities for impoverished children and focus on the recruitment, retention and preparation of high-quality teachers and school leaders.

Unfortunately, the majority’s policy prescriptions — continued under-funding of public schools, dramatic expansion in school privatization, dismantling Wisconsin’s nationally recognized school accountability system, weakening standards for teacher preparation and adding a high-stakes civics test — simply will not move the needle for kids.

“In the days and weeks to come, we will work with pro-education legislators of both parties, parents and community leaders in the fight to restore Wisconsin’s tradition of sound investment in and support for its public schools and public school students,” said Forester. “Budgets are about choices. They are about priorities. It’s clear that the 860,000 public school students in Wisconsin are not a priority in this budget.”
###

NPR Report: Alberta Darling Says She’s Watching The MPS School Board Response Tonight To Her Takeover Legislation

Filed under: Darling,MPS Takeover — millerlf @ 9:48 am

Ms. Darling wants us to say, “you know what, this is really a good idea.”

Milwaukee Public Schools Brace for Possible Impact of State Budget Proposals

By LaToya Dennis NPR Milwaukee 5/21/15

Listen at: http://tinyurl.com/knkj9e5

The Milwaukee School Board will hold its first meeting Thursday since the Legislature’s budget committee approved several items that could greatly impact MPS. Perhaps the biggest would be the creation of a Recovery School District.
It would give an independent commissioner oversight over failing MPS schools. At Thursday night’s school board meeting members are expected to discuss giving the MPS superintendent similar powers.

Larry Miller says the state budget language stunned him. He serves on the Milwaukee School Board.
“I just received it about an hour ago. And as I read each paragraph, each paragraph is more alarming than the previous,” Miller says.

Miller is referring to what he calls the MPS takeover proposal.

The real name of the legislation is the Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program. It would require the Milwaukee County Executive to appoint a commissioner. In the first two years of the program, the commissioner would take control of up to three of the lowest performing schools within MPS. Miller says the number would rise to five in subsequent years.

“If you look at the wording that I looked at, they’re taking the buildings, they’ll fire all the teachers, all those resources will be taken from the funding that would go to MPS and that is being given to another entity. So for every five schools, we lose $47 million to $50 million in funding,” Miller says.

The state would pay the schools the commissioner takes over just over $8,000 per student. Miller says MPS gets more than $10,000 per student. He says the state would save money, but the district would lose.

“Not only is this a move that will cause serious damage to public education, it looks to me like this is an attempt by Republicans to bankrupt Milwaukee Public Schools,” Miller says.

MPS Superintendent Darienne Driver says the district already has a plan to deal with low performing schools.
“And so this really takes us back a step and it’s just a distraction,” Driver says.

Driver says the legislation seems more like a land grab than anything else.

“The idea that you would take our lowest performing schools and possibly turn them into independent charter schools or voucher schools is very disappointing given that the lowest performing set of schools in our city are the voucher schools as a collective. And so seeing that to me signals that this isn’t as much of a school improvement bill as it is a facilities bill,” Driver says.

The Milwaukee Public School Board is scheduled to vote tonight on a measure that would give the superintendent more control over charter schools and vacant buildings.

Republican Sen. Alberta Darling says the item shows the state is heading in the right direction. She’s co-chair of the Legislature’s budget committee.

“I think that it’s significant that on Thursday, and we’ll be watching, that the school board is now saying you know what, this is really a good idea. We’re going to take the same concept of the Superintendent can take up to three schools, have the authority to do what she thinks is important and necessary to turn the schools around and we’re not gonna get in her way. I think that is so significant and has happen because we have put this initiative on the ground and said you know what, we’re not going to wait,” Darling says.

The local NAACP met Wednesday night to talk about Milwaukee education issues. President Fred Royal says it appears to him state leaders are creating a fourth school system in Milwaukee, after MPS, charter schools and voucher schools.

MPS Takeover: Statement From MPS President Michael Bonds and MPS Superintendent Dr. Darienne Driver

Filed under: MPS Takeover — millerlf @ 8:42 am
Published May 20, 2015 at 5:30 p.m.

Milwaukee Board of School Directors President Dr. Michael Bonds and Milwaukee Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Darienne Driver issued the following statement regarding Joint Finance Committee action on the state budget:

“Over the past week, many Milwaukee community members have expressed concern about the plan to create a ‘turnaround district’ by carving out some of the lowest performing schools in MPS. They were right to be uneasy.

“The plan passed by the Joint Finance Committee undermines the promise of public education across Wisconsin. It increases the number of schools with no accountability to taxpayers, making true transparency more difficult.

“The so-called ‘turnaround plan’ forced on Milwaukee Public Schools is not a plan to improve academic outcomes for students; its focus is on finding ways to put public school buildings into the hands of charter and voucher schools. It will not improve achievement – these plans have not in other communities – and will further fracture and disrupt Milwaukee’s educational ecosystem. This plan targets struggling schools rather than seeking ways to support them.

“MPS repeatedly met with legislators in a sincere effort to reach agreement that would have avoided the chaos this plan would cause. We shared on numerous occasions the success we are seeing and our plans to further improve student achievement. It is unfortunate the legislature did not apparently consider these factors.

“We will remain focused on what matters most – continuing our efforts and reforms that are improving achievement for students in Milwaukee Public Schools. We are appreciative of our students, families and staff who have remained dedicated to making sure our young people continue their hard work through the end of the school year. We also want to thank the many partners who support our efforts to improve the lives and education of young people and who have pledged their continued support.

“To all of those who care about public education, please continue to voice your concern. We look forward to our continued efforts to raise expectations and outcomes for our students.”

May 20, 2015

Takeover Language Adopted by Joint Finance

Filed under: MPS Takeover — millerlf @ 9:50 am

To read the full language adopted by Joint Finance on K12 education policy go to the following link. Go to # 39 to read the language for the MPS takeover:

Takeover Language

 

Fight the Takeover: Northside and Southside Meetings Tonight

Filed under: MPS Takeover — millerlf @ 9:24 am

NO TAKEOVER OF MILWAUKEE PUBLIC SCHOOLS!

Calling all Parents, Community Members, Students, and Educators. 

You’re invited to attend the Wednesday, May 20 meeting to organize against attempts to hand over public schools to private operators.

North Side Meeting: NAACP office, 2745 N. ML King Drive 5:30 – 7 PM

South Side Meeting: Centro Hispano Hillview Bldg, 1615 S. 22nd St 5:45 – 7 PM

Tell County Executive Abele “NO” 414-278-4211

Download Event Flyer in English
Download Event Flyer in Spanish

Save the date: May 28 for an important action!

May 19, 2015

UpFront: MPS superintendent says charter option for struggling schools would be ‘devastating’ for district

Filed under: Darling,Recovery District — millerlf @ 3:19 pm
UpFront: MPS superintendent says charter option for struggling schools would be ‘devastating’ for district
5/18/2015 WisPolitics.com

Milwaukee Public Schools superintendent Darienne Driver said a proposal to pull the worst schools from the district and put them into a charter program would be devastating.

She told “UpFront with Mike Gousha” the district wouldn’t be able to survive the loss of revenue from schools, which would be given to a “turnaround” or “recovery” district.

The superintendent said current MPS initiatives have shown early signs of success, and if they are allowed to pan out, they will change the performance in the classrooms.

“We’re already seeing early signs of growth in reading and math,” Driver said on the show, which is produced in conjunction with WisPolitics.com.

Driver said that she has talked with both Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, and Rep. Dale Kooyenga, R-Brookfield, the two lawmakers spearheading the plan, and they are open to feedback.

“Both of them are very concerned about the educational system in Milwaukee,” Driver said. “They are open to feedback, suggestions and any insights that we have around this plan, but they, like many other members of this community, want to see change.”

She said that the state needs to realize high rates in poverty and crime are large factors in poor academic performance. She said that both public and private schools are struggling, and this proposal won’t fix issues in the classroom.

“I think that having choice schools becoming the method of choice, when they’re performing lower than MPS is currently, is a mistake,” Driver said.

She also said that the plan, which would allow the county executive to appoint a public school commissioner, doesn’t address finances or infrastructure, but instead simply the governance of running the Milwaukee Public School system.

“The idea of one person, the county executive, appointing another person, the commissioner, without any other types of details around how it would be funded, is very flawed,” Driver said.

Also appearing on the show, new Chief Justice Pat Roggensack said the idea that the state Supreme Court is in turmoil “doesn’t represent the facts of what is going on.”

Roggensack said that looking back, the approach conservative justices took of voting for a new chief justice via email was their only option. She said it would not have been practical to have a meeting on the change with Shirley Abrahamson suing to prevent implementation of the amendment changing how the chief justice is picked until after her term expires in 2019.

“You really can’t have a meeting of seven people to decide how you’re going to implement a new chief justice when one of the seven is suing you all,” Roggensack said.

The new chief justice insisted that the moment the Government Accountability Board certified the referendum results, Abrahamson no longer had her seat constitutionally, and the court was obligated to follow what the constitution now says.

She said that once issues among the members of the Supreme Court are resolved, she plans to involve all members “in a way they’ve never had the opportunity to participate before.”

She said that she also wants to get out more information on the good work the court is doing, and that the recent “bumps in the road” have been overshadowing their successes.

“We do a lot of wonderful things, and so what I want to do is to get out so that the public knows what we’re doing,” she said.

See more from the show:
http://www.wisn.com/politics/upfront

May 19, 2015: Public Education Massacre in Wisconsin State Capital

Filed under: Corporate Domination,Darling — millerlf @ 2:10 pm

As this day proceeds it is becoming clear that the Republicans are making their move to do serious long-term damage to public education. It appears the Republican-dominated Joint Finance Committee is using the budget process to advance numerous policies that will destroy public schools across the state and advance private tax-funded policies to limit free and equitable education for all of Wisconsin’s children.

The following policies would have trouble passing as individual bills. As part of the budget there will not be public hearings. They are being advanced by “thieves in the night.”

They include:

  • Special education vouchers
  • Expansion of state-wide vouchers
  • Creation of a state chartering board
  • An end to the 220 program
  • Takeover of MPS schools

Update:

The co-chairs of the Wisconsin Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee said on Tuesday its Republican members have reached an agreement to provide an additional $200 million for K-12 education than what Gov. Scott Walker proposed in his two-year budget.

The funds will restore a $127 million cut next year that was proposed in Walker’s budget, and will provide an additional $100 per pupil in state aid the following year.

That is a cut, over 2 years, of $50 per pupil.

Read more: http://host.madison.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/wisconsin-republicans-announce-million-voucher-expansion-for-k–education/article_9e75a9a3-7cf7-541b-8c3d-95a4847c2ae9.html#ixzz3acjCbDiN

Thursday Discussion of Black Lives Matter at MPS Board Committee Meeting

Filed under: BlackLivesMatter,Darling,MPS Takeover — millerlf @ 7:15 am

This Thursday, May 21st, 6:30 PM in the MPS Central Office Auditorium there will be a discussion of the Black Lives Matter movement and its meaning for education. To view the resolution for discussion and the Administration’s response go to:
Action on Resolution 1516R-001 by Director Miller on Black Lives Matter
The meeting will start at 6:30 sharp and the BLM resolution is the 1st item.

 
Following the that meeting, the Board will hold a special meeting to consider a resolution in response to the Darling/Kooyenga budget legislation intended to takeover MPS schools. To see the proposed resolution go to:
Action on an Update on Legislative Matters affecting the Milwaukee Public Schools, Including Action on the Waiver of Board Rule 1.10, Regarding Referral of Resolutions, and Immediate Action on Resolution 1516R-002 by Director Bonds, Joseph, and Zautke

 

Public testimony will be taken for both resolutions.

May 18, 2015

Chair of the Education Committee of the Milwaukee Branch of the NAACP Statement on the Attack Public Education in Milwaukee

Filed under: Darling,Recovery District — millerlf @ 7:12 pm

Attack on public education
May 18, 2015 by Jamaal Smith

Jamaal E. Smith, a community activist and chair of the education committee at the Milwaukee branch of the NAACP, questions the motives of Gov. Scott Walker and others seeking to undermine Milwaukee Public Schools.

“Education is not a way to escape poverty – It is a way of fighting it!” said Julius Nyerere, former president of the United Republic of Tanzania.

Given the current economic position of the City of Milwaukee (being the second poorest city in the United States), you would think Nyerere’s statement would carry a hefty amount of weight in the city’s revitalization. However, surveying the educational landscape statewide, this just doesn’t seem to be the case. There is an intentional attack on public education taking place in the state legislature that is completely sickening.

It’s bad enough that Gov. Scott Walker, in his state budget, decided it would be a great idea to cut $127 million in funding for K-12 public schools along with $300 million for the University of Wisconsin system. Now we see two Republican legislators — Sen. Alberta Darling and Rep. Dale Kooyenga — presenting a new piece of legislation entitled the “Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program,” which would, in essence, place the MPS schools labeled as “failing” in the hands of public charter or private voucher schools with “better records of success.”

Additionally, Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele will name a “commissioner” who will have parallel authority to the democratically elected MPS School Board but would be free from rules, save for laws regarding health, non-discrimination and special education services, according to the proposal. Tell me again what experience Chris Abele has in education? I must have missed that part during his campaign. What about Darling?? Kooyenga?? But they do know business very well, and that is where the problem lies.

The more legislation of this type that is created and presented, the more I can see why the state of Wisconsin was voted “the worst state to raise African-American children.” This type of action simply glorifies privatization and capitalism. Keeping a specific group uneducated in order to establish a system that amasses wealth for others at that group’s expense sounds eerily familiar to me. Privatizing education spells doom for democracy and further pushes the initiatives of plutocracy, thus contributing to the problem of the “haves vs. have nots”.

Coincidentally, Walker stated that education is his top legislative priority. I would assume so, since education in Wisconsin has been turned into a “get rich quick” scheme. The Republican agenda has drained MPS of its funding and resources for years, but then Republican politicians expect the parents and supporters of MPS to believe they have MPS’s best interest at heart? If that were the case, Republican legislators would consider the poor socioeconomic conditions over 80 percent of the students live in and begin creating programs that fit the needs of both the students and the parents. But that would represent a level of socialistic proclivity that we all know they would never be able to support.

This same type of proposal has been a proven failure across the nation, most notably in New Orleans, where the “Recovery District” created to help restore failing public schools resulted in permanent school closures and students being forced to attend the overcrowded schools that remain. Why would that be the path to follow here in Wisconsin??
In addition, there is an expectation that teachers — who have been attacked and vilified under this same agenda, yet are only required to have a bachelor’s degree and work experience to receive a teacher’s license — will properly educate nearly 40 students per class with limited resources and little to no support. And let us not forget the perils and misconceptions of culturally biased standardized testing that takes away more time for teachers to educate our children.

You would have to be a master of the art of naiveté to not understand the difficulties these proposals present to educators, students and parents.

Bob Petersen, president of the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association, in learning about the new proposal from Darling and Kooyenga, stated that “for two white suburban legislators to propose that the white county executive appoint a ‘commissioner’ who will have parallel authority to the school board is a racist attack on the democratic rights of the citizens of Milwaukee, the majority of whom are black and brown,” and he was spot on! Frederick Douglass said, “Once you learn how to read, you will forever be free,” yet this deplorable attack on public education seems to be consistent with oppression and subjugation.

To add insult to injury, Walker’s budget eliminates public oversight and makes Wisconsin the only state without student protections at for-profit colleges. Ironically, what demographic is most represented in these predatory colleges? Low-income African-American students. This is nothing but an expedited infusion of black and brown youth into the school-to-prison pipeline.

Test scores used as a “key indicator” of whether more prison cells should be created, overcrowding of classrooms, an influx of inexperienced teachers in high-risk schools, cuts of programs such as home economics, art and music that contribute to the creativity of our children — I find none of this to be merely circumstantial. The reports of the failing schools and subsequent legislation have been used as the red herring to mask the chicaneries within the true purpose: Our children are the cash crop of the plutocratic corporation we call the state of Wisconsin!

You can view this statement at Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service at:
http://milwaukeenns.org/2015/05/18/attack-on-public-education/

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