Educate All Students, Support Public Education

May 29, 2011

Invitation to March on June 4th for our Kids, for Public Education and for MPS

Filed under: MPS — millerlf @ 10:54 am

Dear Friends:

On Saturday June 4th the MPS community and friends will be assembling at MacDowell Montessori (17th and Highland) at 11 AM for a march in defense of the civil rights of our children. The Grand Marshall of the march is Vel Phillips who will be accompanied by Peggy Rozga and other members of the historic NAACP Youth Commandos. We will then march across the 16th Street Bridge to Forrest Home Elementary (15th and Mitchell). At 1:15, in the Forrest Home playground, we will hold a rally for public education. The rally will end at 2:30.

We are inviting each MPS school to participate. This is an event that the district supports, although not an official sponsor. The sponsors are Voces de la Frontera, Micah, I Love My Public Schools, Council for Spanish Speaking, Wisconsin Citizen Action and Milwaukee City Council PTA/PTSA’s Inc.

The theme of the march is to show some of the great things that are at stake of being lost with the proposed budget. Students, families and schools are saying “don’t take this away from us.” We are asking for school contingents to include drum lines, marching bands, sports teams, a walking art show and anything else that illustrates the holistic approach MPS takes to educating our children.

To download a PDF of the poster for the June 4th Civil Rights march for kids go to:

Poster marchmilwaukee June 4

To download a PDF of the poster in Spanish go to:

Poster marchmilwaukee June 4 Spanish


To download a copy of the PTA leaflet go to:

PTA June 4

To download a copy of the PTA leaflet in Spanish go to:

PTA June 4 Spanish

Larry Miller MPS School Board Member

Cuts-only budget is the wrong choice

Filed under: Scott Walker — millerlf @ 10:48 am

By Robert Kraig and Ken Taylor May 28, 2011 MJS Op-ed

The central premise of Gov. Scott Walker’s devastating budget cuts is that the state’s fiscal crisis is making him do it.

The governor claims he has no choice but to raise taxes on low-income workers while slashing education, health care, community supports for seniors and people with disabilities, mass transit and other core investments that promote economic opportunity and freedom for all Wisconsinites to live independent and fulfilling lives.

To test the governor’s assertion that these are necessary choices, we convened some of the top budget experts in the state to examine whether it is possible to balance the state budget without making crippling cuts.

Participants in the process included the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, the Institute for Wisconsin’s Future and the Center on Wisconsin Strategy. Our best and brightest experts found that Wisconsin’s budget could be balanced without draconian cuts to the state’s public infrastructure if the wealthiest Wisconsinites and large corporations pay their fair share.

The result is a new proposal we call the Wisconsin Values Budget, which is endorsed by 34 nonprofit organizations from across the state. This budget starts with the difficult health care and pension concessions already made by Wisconsin’s public employees, which we estimate to be worth about $1 billion.

The fundamental difference between Walker’s budget and the Wisconsin Values Budget is that we also ask the wealthy and large corporations to make a similar shared sacrifice. By raising the income tax rate for the wealthiest Wisconsinites, reinstating the estate tax for the wealthy and bringing the share of the state budget paid by large corporations up to the national average, we raise an additional $1 billion. We raise additional revenue with improved collection from delinquent taxpayers.

The balanced approach of the Wisconsin Values Budget only cuts $640 million out of Wisconsin’s public infrastructure, much less than the profoundly damaging $2.4 billion in cuts proposed by Walker.

This demonstrates conclusively that the governor’s budget only requires devastating cuts because he refuses to ask the wealthy and large corporations to pay their fair share. In fact, the governor’s budget and his special session legislation make the deficit worse with an additional $200 million in tax giveaways to large corporations and the wealthy.

Walker’s approach is a sharp departure from Wisconsin’s traditions and values, and it undermines the conditions needed to promote the freedom to prosper and to live independent and fulfilling lives.

The Wisconsin Values Budget, unlike the governor’s cuts-only approach, begins again to share the burden of creating a dynamic and prosperous economy that promotes opportunity, security for seniors and people with disabilities, and freedom for all Wisconsinites.

Robert Kraig is executive director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin; Ken Taylor is executive director of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families. The Wisconsin Values Budget and the full list or organizational sponsors are available at

Joint Finance Continues The Assault On Wisconsin’s Kids

Filed under: MPS,Scott Walker,Wisconsin Class Warfare — millerlf @ 10:44 am

On Friday the Joint Finance Committee agreed to reduce funding cuts to public education by approximately 12 %. Alberta Darling (and company) is trying to give a new face to the massive slashing of public education funds. This will prove meaningless as Darling faces recall for her misconduct as a legislator.

Following is a letter from “I Love My Public Schools” in response to the Joint Finance Committee’s decision.

Dear Public School Supporter:

Do you have 20 minutes, and a computer? Please write a letter to the editor this weekend to address the Joint Finance Committee’s vote on Friday to defund public education statewide.

The JFC agreed, along party lines, to reduce funding to Wisconsin public schools by $1.6 billion over the biennium, instead of the $1.7 billion Scott Walker had proposed. They returned about $100 million to the state education budget, to be used over two years. When Robin Vos called the vote, he even claimed that the JFC had just “restored” public-education funding. But that $100 million is a mere fraction of the total cut and will make little if any difference in our children’s classrooms next year. Over the last few weeks, we’d hoped that math teacher leaders, school nurses and special funding for high-needs schools and at risk children might be spared the budget ax. Not so.

Furthermore, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ( only tells half the story as it focuses solely on the state aid portion of the cut and not the law change that restricts the amount that districts can raise locally. Those two pieces taken together are referred to as the “revenue authority” and reductions to revenue authority equal about $1.6 billion. Expanding voucher and 2r charter schools also is not free and the JFC will be doing that next week.

The JFC had the money to temper the cuts to public education. They had the money to take on comprehensive funding reform and implement the DPI’s Fair Funding for Our Future plan. They’d like us to think that they didn’t but they did, it was sitting in their hands. They’re spending $200 million on a hedge fund plan that even Senator Grothman is questioning. On Friday they shifted an additional $160 million more to highways. That’s $360 million right there that could have gone to education, and you don’t have to search too hard to find the rest. Again, this is not a matter of can’t, it is a conscious choice to force Wisconsin’s 871,000 public school children to bear the brunt of our state’s financial burden.

Here’s how Republican legislator Alberta Darling described the cuts: “A win-win.” Here’s how Democratic legislator Tamara Grigsby described the cuts: “The GOP is throwing concrete over kids.”

To recap–The JFC says “Yes” to fund:

$200 million hedge fund

$160 million more to road-building projects (for a total of $360 million on highways)

$1.8 million for Racine charter schools

A $7 million voter ID bill

And “yes” to take an unprecedented $1.6 billion away from K-12 public education over the biennium, despite the fact that the Legislative Fiscal Bureau projects $636 million in newly found revenue for next year.

Please write a letter to the editor this weekend. In 150-200 words, tell the people of Wisconsin what you think our kids deserve. Tell them what will happen to your child’s school when these cuts are realized. The JFC waited until the last possible moment of the holiday weekend to finalize these school-killing cuts. Don’t let the media forget about this by the time Tuesday rolls around. Let’s flood the editor’s box at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the Wisconsin State Journal, or any newspaper of your choosing. We must stand up at every opportunity and resist the de-funding, privatization and segregation of public education.

Here’s a link to MJS “Letter to the Editor” details:

And one for the State Journal:

And one for the Green Bay Press Gazette:

Racine Journal Times,

And a link to other Wisconsin newspapers all across the state:

Write away, friends.



May 27, 2011

Poster for June 4th March for Public Education and MPS

Filed under: MPS — millerlf @ 3:22 pm

To download a PDF of the poster for the June 4th Civil Rights march for kids go to:

Poster marchmilwaukee June 4

To download a copy of the PTA leaflet go to:

PTA June 4

To download a copy of the PTA leaflet in Spanish go to:

PTA June 4 Spanish

Teachers in Indiana, Paid By Gates Money to Lobby, Describe Themselves Simply as Local Teachers Who Favor School Reform

Filed under: School Reform — millerlf @ 12:32 pm

Behind Grass-Roots School Advocacy, Bill Gates

By SAM DILLON-NYTimes May 21, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS — A handful of outspoken teachers helped persuade state lawmakers this spring to eliminate seniority-based layoff policies. They testified before the legislature, wrote briefing papers and published an op-ed article in The Indianapolis Star.

They described themselves simply as local teachers who favored school reform — one sympathetic state representative, Mary Ann Sullivan, said, “They seemed like genuine, real people versus the teachers’ union lobbyists.” They were, but they were also recruits in a national organization, Teach Plus, financed significantly by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

For years, Bill Gates focused his education philanthropy on overhauling large schools and opening small ones. His new strategy is more ambitious: overhauling the nation’s education policies. To that end, the foundation is financing educators to pose alternatives to union orthodoxies on issues like the seniority system and the use of student test scores to evaluate teachers.

In some cases, Mr. Gates is creating entirely new advocacy groups. The foundation is also paying Harvard-trained data specialists to work inside school districts, not only to crunch numbers but also to change practices. It is bankrolling many of the Washington analysts who interpret education issues for journalists and giving grants to some media organizations.


May 26, 2011

Meet the Billionaires Attempting to Takeover Public Educations

Filed under: Corporate Domination,Right Wing Agenda — millerlf @ 4:38 pm

By Zaid Jilani on May 21st, 2011 at 4:30 pm

Two weeks ago, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) marked “a new era for education in Indiana” when he signed into law one of the most expansive school voucher laws in the country, opening up a huge fund of tax dollars for private schools. A few days later, the Wisconsin state Assembly vastly expanded school vouchers, freeing up tax dollars even for private religious schools. GOP legislators in the Pennsylvania Senate say they have the votes to pass a sweeping voucher bill of their own. And on Capitol Hill, House Republicans successfully revived Washington, D.C.’s voucher system after it was killed off two years ago.

This rapid expansion of voucher programs — which undermine and undercut public education by funnelling taxpayer money to private schools — is remarkable. After all, vouchers have been unpopular with the American public. Between 1966 and 2000, vouchers were put up for a vote in states 25 times, and voters rejected the program 24 of those times.

Yet if one looks behind the curtain — at the foundations, non-profits, Political Action Committees (PAC) — into the workings of the voucher movement, it’s apparent why it has gained strength in recent years. A tight-knit group of right-wing millionaires and billionaires, bankers, industrialists, lobby shops, and hardcore ideologues has been plotting this war on public education, quietly setting up front group after front group to promote the idea that the only way to save public education is to destroy it — disguising their movement with the innocent-sounding moniker of “school choice.”

ThinkProgress has prepared this report to expose this network and give Americans the knowledge they need to fight back against this assault on the nation’s public schools. Here are some of the top millionaires and their organizations waging war on our education system:

– Dick DeVos: The DeVos family has been active on education issues since the 1990′s. The son of billionaire Amway co-founder Richard DeVos, Sr., DeVos unsuccessfully ran for governor of the state of Michigan, spending $40 million, the most ever spent in a gubernatorial race in the state. In 2002, Dick DeVos sketched out a plan to undermine public education before the Heritage Foundation, explaining that education advocates should stop using the term “public schools” and instead call them “government schools.” He has poured millions of dollars into right-wing causes, including providing hundreds of thousands of dollars into seed money for numerous “school choice” groups, including Utah’s Parents for Choice in Education, which used its PAC money to elect pro-voucher politicians.

– Betsy DeVos: The wife of Dick DeVos, she also coincidentally happens to be the sister of Erik Prince, the leader of Xe, the mercenary outfit formerly known as Blackwater and is a former chair of the Republican Party of Michigan. Mrs. DeVos has been much more aggressive than her husband, pouring her millions into numerous voucher front groups across the country. She launched the pro-voucher group All Children Matter in 2003, which spent $7.6 million in its first year alone to impact state races related vouchers, winning 121 out of 181 races in which it intervened. All Children Matter was found breaking campaign finance laws in 2008, yet has still not paid its $5.2 million fine. She has founded and/or funded a vast network of voucher front groups, including Children First America, the Alliance for School Choice, Kids Hope USA, and the American Federation for Children.

– American Federation for Children (AFC): AFC made headlines recently when it brought together Govs. Scott Walker (R-WI) and Tom Corbett (R-PA) and former D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee at a major school choice event in Washington, D.C. AFC is perhaps the most prominent of all the current voucher groups, having been founded in January 2010 by Betsy DeVos. Working together with its PAC of the same name and the 501c(3) organization also lead by DeVos, the Alliance for School Choice, it has served as a launching pad for school choice legislation across the country. AFC made its mark in Wisconsin by pouring thousands of dollars into the state legislative races, donating $40,000 in the service of successfully electing voucher advocate Rep. Kathy Bernier (R) and donating similar amounts to elect Reps. Andre Jacque (R), John Klenke (R), Tom Larson (R), Howard Marklein (R), Erik Severson (R), and Travis Tranel (R). DeVos front group All Children Matter also donated thousands to many of these same voucher advocates. Altogether, AFC spent $820,000 in Wisconsin during the last election, making it the 7th-largest single PAC spender during the election (behind several other mostly right-wing groups with similar agendas).

– Alliance for School Choice (ASC): The Alliance for School Choice is another DeVos front group founded to promote vouchers and serves as the education arm of AFC. In 2008, the last date available for its financial disclosures, its total assets amounted to $5,467,064. DeVos used the organization not only for direct spending into propaganda campaigns, but to give grants to organizations with benign-sounding names so that they could push the radical school choice agenda. For example, in 2008 the organization gave $530,000 grant to the “Black Alliance for Educational Options” in Washington, D.C. and a $433,736 grant to the “Florida School Choice Fund.” This allowed DeVos to promote her causes without necessarily revealing her role. But it isn’t just the DeVos family that’s siphoning money into the Alliance for School Choice and its many front group patrons. Among its other wealthy funders include the Jaquelin Hume Foundation (which gave $75,000 in 2008 and $100,000 in 2006), the brainchild of one of an ultra-wealthy California businessman who brought Ronald Reagan to power, the powerful Wal Mart Foundation (which gave $100,000 in 2005, the Chase Foundation of Virginia (which gave $9,000 in 2007, 2008, and the same amount in 2009), which funds over “supports fifty nonprofit libertarian/conservative public policy research organizations,” and hosts investment banker Derwood Chase, Jr. as a trustee, the infamous oil billionaire-driven Charles Koch Foundation ($10,000 in 2005), and the powerful Wal Mart family’s Walton Family Foundation (more than $3 million over 20042005).

– Bill and Susan Oberndorf: This Oberndorfs use their fortune, gained from Bill’s position as the managing director of the investment firm SPO Partners, to funnel money to a wide variety of school choice and corporate education reform groups. In 2009, their Bill and Susan Oberndorf Foundation gave $376,793 to AFC, $5,000 to the Center for Education Reform, and $50,000 to the Brighter Choice Foundation. Additionally, Bill Oberndorf gave half a million dollars to the school choice front group All Children Matter between 2005 and 2007. At a recent education panel, Bill Oberndorf was credited with giving “tens of millions” of dollars of his personal wealth to the school choice movement, and said that the passage of the Indiana voucher law was the “gold standard” for what should be done across America.

– The Walton Family Foundation (WFF):The Wal Mart-backed WFF is one of the most powerful foundations in the country, having made investments in 2009 totaling over $378 million. In addition to financing a number of privately-managed charter schools itself, the foundation showered ASC with millions of dollars in 2009. It also gave over a million dollars to the New York-based Brighter Choice Foundation, half a million dollars to the Florida School Choice Fund, $105,000 to the Foundation for Educational Choice, $774,512 to the Friends of Educational Choice, $400,000 to School Choice Ohio, and gave $50,000 to the Piton Foundation to promote a media campaign around the Colorado School Choice website — all in 2009 alone. WFF’s push for expanding private school education and undermining traditional public schools was best summed up by John Walton’s words in an interview in 2000. An interviewer asked him, “Do you think there’s money to be made in education?” Walton replied, “Absolutely. I think it will offer a reasonable return for investors.” (He also did vigorously argue in the same interview that he does not want to abolish public education).

The wealthy families and powerful corporate-backed foundations presented here are just a sampling of some of the forces currently taking aim at public education. By demonizing traditional public schools and the teachers that staff them, this corporate education movement is undermining a very basic aspect of our democracy: a public commons that provides true opportunity for all, no matter what their background or socioeconomic status.

While the goals of the figures in this movement are varied, their assault on our public education system is one and the same. Joseph Bast, the president and CEO of the Heartland Institute, explained his own thinking about vouchers once, saying, “The complete privatization of schooling might be desirable, but this objective is politically impossible for the time being. Vouchers are a type of reform that is possible now, and would put us on the path to further privatization.” It’s up to Americans to protect their schools, teachers, kids, and communities from that fate.

New Jersey Supreme Court Decision: Right Wing Governor Must Pay $500 Million More to Urban/Poor Schools

Filed under: Right Wing Agenda,School Finance — millerlf @ 4:27 pm

Court Orders New Jersey to Increase Aid to Schools

By RICHARD PÉREZ-PEÑA and WINNIE HU Published: May 24, 2011

The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that a major piece of Gov. Chris Christie’s cost-cutting was unconstitutional and ordered lawmakers to raise spending for poor, urban schools by $500 million next year, despite a state budget shortfall estimated at $10 billion.

The decision is a new milestone in the intertwined disputes over school financing, taxation and the role of the courts that have roiled the state’s politics since the 1970s. And those disputes remain; the ruling intensifies Mr. Christie’s running battles with the Supreme Court and the Legislature, and it will resonate in the coming negotiations to balance the budget, negotiate new contracts with state workers and rescue the government employee pension plans.

The majority in the 3-to-2 decision accused the state of willfully violating previous Supreme Court orders in the long-running school-aid case under review.

“Like anyone else, the state is not free to walk away from judicial orders enforcing constitutional obligations,” Justice Jaynee LaVecchia wrote in the ruling. She added that “the state made a conscious and calculated decision” to renege on the commitment it made two years ago, the last time the case, Abbott v. Burke, went before the court.

In response, Mr. Christie again cited school financing as the chief example of a liberal court run amok, which he vowed to remedy by choosing more conservative justices. Answering questions at a public forum in Cherry Hill, N.J., he said, “I’m going to appoint people who I believe understand their job, which is to interpret the law and not make law from the bench.”


June 4th: Milwaukee Civil Rights March for Public Education

Filed under: MPS — millerlf @ 3:39 pm


11:00 am gather at MacDowell Montessori (17th & Highland)
March across the 16th Street Bridge (James E. Groppi Unity Bridge)
Rally outside Forest Home Elementary School (15th & Forest Home)

Parents, teachers, students & community members:
Let’s defend our children’s right to public education!
The State’s proposed budget robs our children of their basic civil
rights and jeopardizes the future of our communities, our city and our
All children have the right to schools that offer art, physical education,
music, library, school nurses, a kindergarten program, school busses,
and reasonable class sizes.
All children raised in Wisconsin deserve in-state tuition at public
universities and technical colleges.
Sponsored by I Love My Public Schools, Voces de la Frontera, MICAH, Council for Spanish
Speaking, Milwaukee City Council PTA/PTSA’s Inc.,Wisconsin Citizen Action, NAACP
Call 414-469-9319 or email

May 20, 2011

Racine Superintendent Blasts Vouchers: Not Good for Racine and Not Good for Milwaukee

Filed under: Scott Walker,Vouchers — millerlf @ 11:53 am

“Vouchers are a double whammy,” Racine Unified Superintendent Jim Shaw said at a new conference. “They decrease resources for public education and raise taxes for the local taxpayer.”

DPI chief, Racine superintendent decry voucher plan

By Amy Hetzner of the Journal Sentinel  May 19, 2011

Racine – In a pre-emptive attack on the possible expansion of private school vouchers into Racine, the local and state schools superintendents warned Thursday that such a move would hurt Racine Unified School District, increase local taxes and not raise student achievement.

“Vouchers are a double whammy,” Racine Unified Superintendent Jim Shaw said at a new conference held at Walden III Middle and High School, a magnet school within the district. “They decrease resources for public education and raise taxes for the local taxpayer.”

Tony Evers, Wisconsin’s superintendent of public instruction, accused Gov. Scott Walker of “another fit of fuzzy thinking” in recently announcing to a Washington D.C. advocacy group his intention to bring private school vouchers to urban areas like Racine, Beloit and Green Bay.

He called such a move “morally wrong” and pointed to recent results that showed voucher students in Milwaukee’s private schools do no better on standardized tests than students in Milwaukee Public Schools. “It’s clear that some people don’t want to hear news that may be inconsistent with their ideology,” Evers said.

Evers also warned that vouchers would cause property taxes to increase “probably somewhere in the range of 15%.” A Department of Public Instruction spokesman said that estimate was based on Milwaukee’s experience, where local taxpayers pay a higher amount in property taxes to send a child to a private voucher school than they do per student in MPS.

When asked to respond to Evers’ remarks, Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie said the governor was still exploring ways to expand school choice across the state.

“While the long-term goal would be to increase competition thus improving education for all students across the state, in a practical sense we need to ensure the transition to this type of educational atmosphere can be feasibly implemented,” Werwie wrote in an email.

Racine voucher backers disputed Evers’ calculations and Shaw’s warning about the effect on Racine Unified.

Laura Sumner Coon, who heads a Racine group that provides private school scholarships to low-income children, accused the public school officials of using scare tactics in their Thursday presentation.

She said few students are likely to participate in the early years of the program and that the school district can minimize enrollment losses because of the state’s use of a three-year rolling average for calculating revenue. She predicted that, at most, about $1 million would be diverted to private schools by the third year of a voucher program, which she said was a small amount for the state’s fourth largest school district.

“I don’t think that’s raising taxpayer dollars,” she said.

Despite Walker’s announcement of a possible expansion to Racine and other communities, no such proposal has been introduced in the Legislature and the governor has not released details of what such a system could look like. Some Republican leaders also have expressed skepticism about expanding the voucher program beyond Milwaukee.

But Evers predicted that such an expansion would be included in the 2011-’13 biennial budget, which is due to be passed before the end of June. “It’s a significant debate that we have coming,” he said Thursday. “We have to make sure we win it.”

May 19, 2011

Citgo Station Owner Agrees to Pull Hateful Sticker: Voces to Give Civic Business Award

Filed under: Immigration — millerlf @ 1:32 pm

MAY 19, 2011

Voces de la Frontera Congratulates Citgo Station for Removing Hateful Propaganda

Thanks to an immediate outcry by the community, the sale of a dehumanizing sticker directly advocacting violence against immigrants is no longer being sold at a Citgo truck stop in Sturtevant, WI.  

Due to the responsiveness and understanding of Bob Basil, owner of the Citgo station, Voces will cancel the picket and instead host a press conference at the station to present Basil with a Civic Business Award. 

The press conference will be held this Saturday, May 21st at 2:15 pm. at the Citgo Auto Truck Plaza (611 S. Sylvania Ave, in Sturtevant, across the street from the Iron Skillet off of Hwy. 20 and I-94)

According to Maria Morales, Racine Coordinator for Voces de la Frontera, “Voces de la Frontera would like to thank the many people of conscience who took the time to raise their voice against propaganda that incites hate crimes.  This overwhelming community response should be a warning to any business to be conscious of materials they sell to the public.”

Note: For people that need transportation to the event, meet at 1:00pm at the Martin Luther King Center (1134 Martin Luther King Drive, in Racine)

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