On June 2nd I attended the first hearing held on the proposed sale of Lee Elementary School. With only a 3 day notice, it was clearly the St Marcus show. The majority of people attending were St. Marcus parents. The format of the meeting was a presentation by St. Marcus Superintendent Henry Tyson, followed by St Marcus parent presentations. The audience was then able to make comments and ask questions.
It was clear that many parents support the education their children are receiving at St Marcus. For the majority of parents who spoke, being a “Christian centered” education is critical.
The meeting was said to be intended to focus on hearing the voices of the community living near the Lee Elementary School site. I too would like to hear those voices but it seemed they weren’t present in abundance. At the same time, whenever public education and MPS is on the line, I want to hear all voices.
There is obviously more at stake in the discussion than just the sale of the Lee building. St Marcus has been willingly complicit in diverting resources from MPS and dismantling public education in Milwaukee. They are full supporters of the voucher movement. They have allied with the MMAC and the Tea Party Republicans on voucher expansion and acquisition of MPS buildings. They propagate sectarian teachings and practice discriminatory policies while taking the public’s tax dollars.
The desire of St Marcus to purchase public property raises again the debate about vouchers and public education. Voucher schools are private schools. They are able to circumvent any number of democratic safeguards. To name a few, voucher schools are not required to:
• Educate all students
• Provide special education services
• Provide English as a Second Language or bilingual instruction
• Adhere to Wisconsin’s non-discrimination laws the prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, pregnancy, marital, or parental status
• Adhere to open meetings and records requirements
• Respect constitutional rights of due process and freedom of speech of students and staff
Students in voucher schools can be removed without an explanation or reason. Parents of special needs children have been told “we can’t provide your child the services they need.” And it is well established that students identified with behavior problems have been “counseled out”.
St Marcus uses what Henry Tyson calls “no-nonsense” disciplinary policies. For example, their tardy policy document to parents states, “Ultimately, students will be removed from the school if tardiness issues are not resolved.” Of course MPS does not expel students for tardiness.
To view the tardy policy letter that was sent to the parents of a 1st grader, go to: