By: Terrence Falk | Monday 11/8/2010
Republicans now control state government. How will they treat Wisconsin’s largest school district?
Don’t expect Mayor Barrett to get control of MPS no matter how many editorials the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel runs supporting the idea. In the last legislative session. Republicans stonewalled the idea. They are not about to change their minds now.
Instead some Republicans have been pushing the idea of breaking MPS into a half dozen or more districts. Their reasoning is that smaller school districts work well in Wisconsin; therefore, a major problem for MPS must be its sheer size. They forget that right behind Milwaukee in struggling school systems is Racine, Kenosha, and little Beloit, much smaller school districts. All have the common denominator: a high percentage of minority schools living in poverty, not district size.
Would creating six superintendents, six school administrations, and six school boards save any money? And saving money is what the GOP really cares about.
Breaking MPS into smaller districts is akin to smashing a hornets’ nest with a baseball bat. The school system’s problems are going to fly off in all different directions, and a lot of people are going to get stung. No, breaking MPS into smaller districts is not likely to happens.
Might Republicans give more power to the state superintendent? If Milwaukeean rejected mayoral control, how do you think they would react to state control? Former GOP Governor Thompson actually tried to get rid of the state superintendent office. Republicans will be cautious in giving more power to the state superintendent whose election is often dependent upon support from teacher unions.
Walker and the GOP are likely to do three things:
Are you against unfunded mandates? So are the Republicans. But they are not likely to give school districts more money for those mandates. Instead they will cut state regulations saying schools can do “more with less.” But schools will just do less.
Limiting the number of choice schools in Milwaukee? That is gone. The real question is whether Republicans will keep in place higher standards in place. Some choice providers were caught falsifying enrollment numbers, buying BMWs, and offering substandard educations. The theory that simply relying on free market competition would weed out substandard schools did not work out very well. Will GOP have the courage to close failing choice schools?
How do you feel about teacher unions? They are likely to be the biggest losers. the GOP may say they care about improving education, but they also care about raw political power. Teacher unions have been a reliable Democratic power base. Cut them off at the knees.
The GOP is likely to make it easier for individual teachers to opt out of joining local teacher unions. Right-to-Work, here we come. If unions have fewer members and less revenue, unions will have less power.
Getting rid of teacher residency in Milwaukee will be portrayed ss a civil rights issue and a method for opening up MPS to a larger pool of potential teachers. But fewer MTEA teachers living in Milwaukee will also dilute their power in city elections.
Placing teachers into the state health insurance system, making it easier to fire poor teachers, and pushing merit pay are all likely to come in second to raw political power.
Could the GOP actually improve Wisconsin education? Their wins free up the left to support reforms they may have not supported otherwise, but it is the GOP who are in the driver’s seat, and they have to make the first moves.
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