Educate All Students, Support Public Education

May 29, 2015

Nation Watching Wisconsin’s Education Debacle

Filed under: ALEC,Education Policy,Republicans — millerlf @ 10:57 am

Valerie Strauss Washington Post Education Blog May 28,2015

What is the Wisconsin Legislature trying to do to public education in Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s state?

State Superintendent Tony Evers has gone on record accusing lawmakers of moving toward new legislation “that erodes the basic foundation of Wisconsin’s public school system.” How? By legislature efforts that include refusing to spend more money on public education for the first time in more than 20 years while while giving millions of dollars more to expand a private voucher program, slashing higher education funding, and weakening licensing rules for teachers.

Evers said in a statement:
“Wisconsin is nationally renowned for its quality public schools. We are a leader among the states in graduation rates, Advanced Placement participation, and ACT scores because of our highly trained educators and the support of families and local communities. The citizens of Wisconsin — measured by budget hearings, local advocacy, and recent polls — voiced their overwhelming support for our public schools and increasing funding in this budget.

“I am troubled that the Joint Finance Committee spent its time and effort designing a plan that erodes the basic foundation of Wisconsin’s public school system. If we want all students to achieve, we cannot continue to ask our public schools to do more with less. The eventual outcome of that exercise will be two systems of public schools: those in local communities that can afford to provide a quality education through referendum and those that cannot.”

Education proposals by the Joint Committee on Finance largely reflect the broad agenda set by Walker, who is considered a leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. Lawmakers have expanded on some of the more general language in his budget proposal (such as by spelling out how teacher licensure should be changed) and added a few things of their own.

Walker, in fact, had proposed a $127 million cut in K-12 funding and lawmakers restored the cut in their proposal — though they are not giving more money to public school districts for the first time in more than 20 years next year while at the same time spending millions more to expand to expand a school voucher program that uses public money to fund private education. The plan includes a voucher program for special-needs students, which critics say would reduce resources that public schools have for special-needs students.

It is worth noting that for the current school year, 75 percent of the applications to the voucher program were already in private school, according to the education department, and for the 2015-16 school year, 79.9 percent. Doesn’t that sound like a subsidy for the private school population?

There’s more: Lawmakers are pushing for budget cuts in the University of Wisconsin higher education system — possibly $150 million for each of the next two years. That makes Wisconsin one of only six states that have approved or are considering reducing higher education funding for the next fiscal year, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The paper notes that Wisconsin now spends less on higher education than all of its neighbors: Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Indiana, Ohio and Michigan.

[Wisconsin Gov. Walker sued for withholding public documents on secret bid to change university’s mission]

What is on the education agenda of the Joint Committee on Finance of the state legislature?
From the Department of Public Instruction:
•For the first time ever, there is no increase in state imposed revenue limits over the next two school years, while voucher and independent charter school payments are increased in each year.
•State general equalization aid to public schools is cut in the first year to pay for voucher expansion and increased independent charter school payments. This leaves public schools with less state general aid than in 2010.
•Continues the freeze on state special education aid for what will be the eighth consecutive year, covering roughly a quarter of district special education costs while creating a new voucher program that drains funds from public schools.
•Essentially eliminates teacher licensing standards by allowing public and private schools to hire anyone to teach, even those without a bachelor’s degree, planting Wisconsin at the bottom nationally, below states with the lowest student achievement levels.
•Imposes a new state test on today’s 10th-graders in all public schools and private school students receiving vouchers that they must pass to graduate in two years.

Here’s part of a May 27 news release from the department on proposed changes to he way teachers are licensed:

Major changes to teacher licensing voted into the 2015-17 state budget, without a hearing, puts Wisconsin on a path toward the bottom, compared to the nation, for standards required of those who teach at the middle and high school level.

Adopted as a K-12 omnibus motion by the Joint Committee on Finance (JFC), the education package deregulates licensing standards for middle and high school teachers across the state. The legislation being rolled into the biennial budget would require the Department of Public Instruction to license anyone with a bachelor’s degree in any subject to teach English, social studies, mathematics, and science. The only requirement is that a public school or school district or a private choice school determines that the individual is proficient and has relevant experience in each subject they teach. Traditional licensure requires educators in middle and high school to have a bachelor’s degree and a major or minor in the subject they teach, plus completion of intensive training on skills required to be a teacher, and successful passage of skills and subject content assessments.

That’s not all. The proposal would require the education department to issue a teaching permit to people who have not — repeat have not — earned a bachelor’s degree, or potentially a high school diploma, to teach in any subject area, excluding the core subjects of mathematics, English, science, and social studies. “The only requirement would be that the public school or district or private voucher school determines that the individual is proficient and has relevant experience in the subject they intend to teach. And, the department would not be permitted to add requirements.

Evers is quoted as saying:
“We are sliding toward the bottom in standards for those who teach our students. It doesn’t make sense. We have spent years developing licensing standards to improve the quality of the teacher in the classroom, which is the most important school-based factor in improving student achievement. Now we’re throwing out those standards.”

Meanwhile, Walker hasn’t said anything publicly that would make anyone think he doesn’t agree with the education path on which the legislature has embarked.

Walker was recently sued by a nonprofit watchdog group alleging that he is refusing to make public documents relating to an effort by his office to change the mission of the University of Wisconsin that is embedded in state law. Earlier this year, Walker submitted a budget proposal that included language that would have changed the century-old mission of the University of Wisconsin system — known as the “Wisconsin Idea” and embedded in the state code — by removing words that commanded the university to “search for truth” and “improve the human condition” and replacing them with “meet the state’s workforce needs.”

If the language had become law, it would have created a fundamental change in the University of Wisconsin. The traditional mission is to broadly educate students to be active, productive citizens in the U.S. democracy, while Walker’s language would have turned the school into more of a training ground for workers to populate the American work force. Walker failed to mention the suggested change in a speech he gave about the budget, but after it was discovered by the nonprofit Madison- -based Center for Media and Democracy, the governor withdrew the language and said it was a “drafting error.” The center tried to get documents related to the episode under the Freedom of Information Act and sued when Walker’s administration refused to release some of them, claiming they are protected by “deliberative process privilege.”
(Correction: The Center for Media and Democracy is based in Madison, not Washington, as an earlier version said.)

A Voucher in Every Backpack Goal Could Lead to a Loss of $600-$800 Million From Public Schools in the Next Decade

Filed under: Republicans,Vouchers — millerlf @ 10:36 am

Vouchers could shift at least $600-$800 million from districts through 2025
By Erin Richards and Andrew Hahn of the Journal Sentinel May 28, 2015

Sending thousands more students to private, religious schools under an expansion of Wisconsin’s statewide voucher program could shift $600 million to $800 million out of public schools over the next decade, according to an analysis from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) and Rep. Sondy Pope (D-Cross Plains) unveiled the memo Thursday to underscore their concerns about how the expansion could deplete funds available for public schools.
“It is so clear that Republicans in the state Legislature are selling out Wisconsin kids, families and neighborhoods to support Gov. Walker’s presidential ambitions and reward the out-of-state special interests that give millions to Republican campaigns,” Pope said.

But a voucher-school advocate countered that it’s impossible to forecast the cost of the school choice program expansion over the next decade, because schools cannot predict how many students will participate, and how many seats private schools could offer them.

“I’m a little bit surprised the fiscal bureau put this memo out,” said Jim Bender, president of School Choice Wisconsin. “Normally, they don’t say, ‘We’re going to take a purely speculative run and just guess at the numbers.'”
The back-and-forth comes after the GOP-controlled Joint Finance Committee last week approved an expansion of the statewide voucher program, and a mechanism for funding it, as an amendment in the state budget. Gov. Scott Walker had proposed expanding the 2-year-old statewide voucher program in his initial budget request.

The budget still has to pass both houses of the Legislature and be signed into law by Walker.

The fiscal bureau memo predicts that approximately 2,000 incoming pupils would participate in the statewide voucher program in 2015-’16, and about 3,000 would participate in 2016-’17.

Payments for those pupils over the next two years would be paid for with about $37 million from the state’s general purpose fund, with payments fully offset by aid reductions to the pupils’ districts of residence, according to the memo.

The expansion plan calls for allowing more students to obtain vouchers beyond the next biennial budget — with the cap increasing each year until it’s removed entirely after about a decade.

That’s why Democrats asked the fiscal bureau for a projection of what the expansion would cost through 2025.
The statewide voucher program currently caps enrollment at 1,000 students.

Vouchers contentious
Expanding the program has been hotly debated.

Democrats, teachers unions and others say expanding vouchers threatens the quality of public schools by depleting the finite pool of funds available for them.

They also point out that private schools are not required to be transparent with records and data in the same way as public schools, nor meet the same federal requirements to serve children with disabilities.

Many Republicans and voucher-school advocacy groups believe public money should be allowed to follow children to the school of their parents’ choice, even if it’s a private institution.

They say that is especially important for low-income students who may not have the means to attend a high-performing, private and religious school.

But since the inception of the statewide voucher program two years ago, the majority of children who applied for vouchers were already attending private schools without public assistance. New restrictions in the expansion plan would lower the number of children switching to use a voucher to continue attending the same private school.
Bender, from School Choice Wisconsin, said the total cost outlined in the memo was misleading because the funding for a public school student would follow that individual if they open-enrolled in a voucher school.

“These students are part of the funding base already,” Bender said. “There’s no new cost to the taxpayers. … There’s a small percentage of students that will be entering the system that weren’t there before, but that’s nothing that comes even close to $800 million.”

Specifics of plan
According to the voucher expansion plan approved by the finance committee, pupils who begin participating in the Racine or statewide voucher programs in the 2015-’16 school year would be counted by their home school district for the purposes of general aid and revenue limits. A district would then see a reduction in its state aid payment for any participating pupils, in the amount of $7,210 for a K-8 student and $7,856 for a high school student.
Districts could not raise taxes to compensate for the aid reduction.

Enrollment in the statewide program is capped at 1% of a district’s total enrollment in the first two years of the budget, then would rise by 1 percentage point each year until enrollment reaches 10% of the district’s prior year enrollment. After that, there will be no enrollment cap on the number of kids using publicly funded vouchers to attend private schools.

To qualify for a voucher, students entering the statewide program have to come from families earning no more than 185% of the federal poverty limit, or $44,828 for a family of four.

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

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:

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


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

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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

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

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:

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


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:–education/article_9e75a9a3-7cf7-541b-8c3d-95a4847c2ae9.html#ixzz3acjCbDiN
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