Educate All Students: Larry Miller's Blog

October 25, 2016

Call for MPS Takeover: Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC) 2015-2017 Agenda States “Fundamentally reform MPS governance and empower the MPS Superintendent to make reforms within the district.”

Filed under: MMAC,MPS Takeover — millerlf @ 5:10 pm

The MMAC is calling for another attempt at governance takeover of the MPS school board. Their 2015-2017 legislative agenda (see right hand column on their web page at the following link) calls for “Fundamentally reform MPS governance and empower the MPS Superintendent to make reforms within the district.”


April 18, 2012

Questions Concerning Howard Fuller Charter Proposal to Milwaukee Common Council

Filed under: Charter Schools,MMAC — millerlf @ 7:49 pm


The Milwaukee Common Council is reviewing a proposal by Dr. Howard Fuller and the Institute for the Transformation of Learning to create three new charter schools. The Institute is proposing to become a charter management organization, following in the footsteps of other national charter management organizations such as Rocketship and KIPP. The new schools, intended to be contracted by the City of Milwaukee, will be called Quest.

Acceptance of charter plans cannot be based on political ties, favors to political allies or just a well-written document, even if the proposal draws on the most current education terminology or suggests that it will use the most current practices in education. Whenever possible, the awarding of contracts should take into account past school and student performance of schools run by the applicant.

MPS is constantly scrutinized under a magnifying glass, correctly so. But the same should be true for the City of Milwaukee charter school district, UW charter school district and voucher schools.

In the case of this proposal, it would be valuable to look at Dr. Fuller’s results with specific schools. He is the board chair of CEO Leadership Academy, previously a voucher school and presently a city charter school. Dr. Fuller has worked  closely with that school for a number of years.

What is the data on CEO Leadership Academy? The WKCE results from the Fall of 2010 show the following:

Grade # Students Tested Subject % Proficient and Advanced MPS % Proficient and Advanced
10 42 Reading 21% 40.2%
10 42 Math 12% 31.6%
10 42 Language Arts 4% 35.7%
10 42 Science 12% 33.1%
10 42 Social Studies 23% 46.8%

The WKCE results from the Fall of 2011 show the following:

Grade # Students Tested Subject % Proficient and Advanced MPS % Proficient and Advanced
10 8 Reading 25% 47.9%
10 8 Math 0% 33.1%
10 8 Language Arts 12.5% 37.7%
10 8 Science 25% 32.2%
10 8 Social Studies 25% 41.7%

Among the questions that need to be raised :

Why were only eight students tested this year, when there were 42 students tested last year? Are students intentionally being withheld from taking the test?

Is there a public explanation for the low test results?

What accountability measures are in place to demand improvement for the performance of students at CEO?

How is the Common Council ensuring improvement?

How can the Common Council accept a whole new proposal from ITL and Dr. Fuller when the results at CEO are so unsuccessful?

Is there not a conflict of interest with Dr. Fuller being the director of ITL, which oversees the City’s chartering process, and also the board chair for CEO high school?

January 15, 2012

Milwaukee Metropolitan Association of Commerce (MMAC) Proposes to Create a Caste System of Schools

Filed under: MMAC — millerlf @ 8:57 am

By Larry Miller

This is reminder to those of you who follow K-12 education in Milwaukee: there’s a new plan waiting in the wings that includes another attempt at the takeover of Milwaukee public schools.

The plan, designed by the Milwaukee Metropolitan Association of Commerce (MMAC), was reported on by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel this past November. It’s loosely designed in the image of the New Orleans “Recovery School District,” and has been a model for reform both in Tennessee and in Michigan.

While all of the specifics of the plan have not been made public, its features have been presented in an MMAC slideshow and in interviews with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. These include:

  • Create 50 high-performing schools serving 20,000 students, a mere 16% of Milwaukee’s K-12 student population. The MMAC estimates it will take a total of $48 million in capital costs and $21 million in annual operating costs to get 20,000 students in high-performing schools by 2020.
  • Establish a special turnaround district in MPS for low-performing schools that would be headed by a different superintendent.
  • Expand vocational-technical education for large numbers of Milwaukee’s children.

Basically this proposal creates a caste system for public education. 50 high-performing schools will serve a fraction of Milwaukee’s K-12 students, while the remaining 84% take their chances in other schools, including those in a designated low-performing district.

This old tune under a new name is an affront to the majority of Milwaukee’s poor and working class kids. Instead of teaching every child to be college ready, whether or not they choose to attend college, the MMAC has a very different vision. Students not attending one of the 50 high-performing schools may be tracked into a vocational program.

Whenever the captains of industry start talking about vocational training, red flags should go up about the danger of forcing low-income students of color to fill the role of a cheap labor force. Many remember the historical debate over calls for “industrial training” for African American students in the South by Booker T. Washington, so-called “enlightened” southern segregationists and the northern industrialists.

Vocational and career training can meet student’s needs. But these programs cannot be set up at the cost of dumbing down curriculum or tracking some students into high skills areas like engineering and the trades, while the rest are destined for life to tuck bed sheets or greet customers at WalMart or stock shelves at dollar stores.

Beware, plans are in waiting. Some of our city’s business and political leaders are just waiting to see the outcome of the Governor’s recall to try to set them in motion.

November 16, 2011

Lawsuit Against New Orleans Charters: Do New Orleans Schools Welcome Disabled Students?

Filed under: Charter Schools,MMAC,New Orleans — millerlf @ 6:36 am

National Public Radio by Larry Abramson  November 15, 2011

(To listen to the  to the Story go to:  All Things Considered /go to search in top right corner and type in special education in New Orleans)

New Orleans has become the center of an education revolution, where more than 70 percent of students attend a charter school.

The number of students taught in traditional district-run schools is shrinking fast. That’s because parents in post-Hurricane Katrina can pick and choose from a smorgasbord of schools with different approaches and cultures.

By many measures, this educational marketplace has improved student achievement. But as this experiment moves ahead, it’s led to questions about whether the district is truly open to the most challenging students.

One Family’s Story

When Kelly Fisher and her family moved to New Orleans in 2009, they expected her son Noah would need the same kind intensive help that he got at his old school in Indiana. Noah, who’s 10, is blind, autistic and has a variety of developmental delays.

For help in finding the right school, they turned to the Recovery School District (RSD), the state-run agency that is the closest thing New Orleans has to a traditional district.

“Because I came from a traditional program, I thought, ‘Oh, that’s my local special ed coordinator. That’s the person who knows what’s in the city and can direct me toward the schools that would be best for Noah,” Fisher says.

New Orleans Schools: Some Background

In 2003, Louisiana created the Recovery School District (RSD) to take over failing schools in New Orleans and elsewhere in the state. After Katrina, the RSD took over nearly all of the badly damaged schools in Orleans Parish.

The RSD runs a number of schools directly, like a traditional school district. But it is also charged with overseeing a growing number of independently run charter schools. This school year, more than 70 percent of New Orleans schoolchildren attend a charter, and some officials say they can see a day when all New Orleans schools might be charters.

New Orleans is also a district of choice: Families are free to apply to schools anywhere in town, and schools must provide transportation to any student. That also means that families might have to apply to a number of charter schools, in the hopes of finding a space. The RSD is working on developing a unified application to simplify the process and ensure fairness.

But Kelly and her husband, Bob, say that New Orleans’ open choice system left them totally on their own when it came to finding a school for Noah. In theory, New Orleans parents can choose from any school, whether it’s a charter or one run directly by the RSD. But most schools are charters, and the best charters are full.

So the Fishers ended up on waiting lists. Bob Fisher says that the central district seemed powerless. “The director was just scrambling around, making phone calls. Actually, he says, at one point he remembers she ran out in the hallway, grabbed someone and said, ‘Hey, do you have an opening at your school?'”

The Fishers say they kept looking for a school that could help Noah. Finally, they ended up at Lafayette Academy, a charter school. Lafayette is housed in a former district school building not far from where the family lives, in the Mid-City neighborhood.

At Lafayette, the Fishers say, Noah has the help he needs: He has a full-time aide named Daniel Thomas.

The Fishers suspect that other schools simply did not want to spend the money needed to hire an aide and were not interested in accommodating Noah. Lafayette Principal Mickey Landry admits that it is challenging for any school to cover the costs of special ed resources.

“The state tops out its financing for special needs students at about $18,000 a year. But some students cost us significantly more than that — sometimes as much as $40,000,” Landry says.

A Class-Action Suit

Landry says that through clever budgeting, he simply found a way to give Noah the support he needs. According to many parents, other schools do not work as hard to follow the law, which says all schools must be open to all students. The Fishers have joined a class-action lawsuit, charging that the New Orleans school system excludes special-needs students.

Eden Heilman, a staff attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center, is suing the Louisiana Department of Education, which set up the post-Hurricane Katrina school system. “The state kind of abandoned their responsibilities to students with disabilities in New Orleans,” Heilman says.

Superintendent John White admits that there have been problems. But he insists that things are improving. White, who just took over as superintendent for the RSD a few months ago, points out that test scores for special education have improved dramatically since Katrina, and that these children were terribly neglected before the storm. But, he admits, those scores are still much lower than they should be. White says it can be tough for his agency to oversee a system of independent schools.

He is putting a series of reforms in place that are supposed to show whether some schools are experiencing high turnover because they are turning students away. He’s also implementing a systemwide application process so parents don’t have to search for an open spot among the city’s schools.

‘Be A Part Of This With Us’

Many educators in New Orleans say that the parents’ complaints ignore the other side of this unique education system: the creativity that charters have brought.

At the KIPP New Orleans Leadership Primary School in the city’s French Quarter, the special ed enrollment is about 9 percent, similar to the city average. KIPP has posted some of the most impressive gains in the city. The school says its mission includes kids like Benjamin Camp, who’s 8.

Benjamin is sweet, but he has had behavior problems for years and was recently diagnosed with autism. His grandmother, Carmella Camp, says some nursery schools turned Benjamin away as too challenging. But this charter school never suggested he go elsewhere.

“Never, never, never, ever! Still haven’t heard it,” Camp says.

But KIPP has also faced charges that it pushes some students out. The school has a firm discipline policy that can be tough for some students to follow. Families must agree to a “commitment to excellence,” which includes getting their kids to school on time and becoming part of the education process.

Rhonda Aluise, executive director of KIPP New Orleans, insists this approach doesn’t exclude anyone. “So there is not this requirement, or, ‘If you come to KIPP you must do this.’ This is, ‘Here’s our vision for what a school can do. Come be a part of this with us,” Aluise says.

Still, this is a promise that traditional public schools seldom require.

Beyond New Orleans

The stories of the 10 families in this suit raise questions that go well beyond New Orleans.

Detroit is using New Orleans as a model for reform. That system has moved to citywide school choice and hopes to open dozens of charters. Many Detroit teachers have reacted like Ivy Bailey, who spoke to NPR this summer.

“As a public institution, we take any and every child. We know children learn at different levels. But charter schools, they can pick who they can take,” Bailey says.

Whatever happens with the New Orleans lawsuit, charter groups will have to wrestle with a continuing perception they are not open to all.

November 12, 2011

Is This Thursday’s Marquette Law School Forum Intended to Help Pave the Way for the MMAC Takeover Plan of MPS?

Filed under: Borsuk,MMAC — millerlf @ 10:04 am

The Marquette Law School is sponsoring a conference this Thursday, November 17, seemingly to introduce the MMAC’s new plan to create 2 school districts in the City of Milwaukee (see blog: MMAC Proposes New MPS Takeover Plan.)

The opening session of the conference, with a speaker followed by a panel, is basically a pep rally for the New Orleans “reforms”.  The panel includes Howard Fuller, a key architect of the MMAC plan. There is no speaker with a critical perspective on education in New Orleans.

According to the MMAC, the post-Katrina  New Orleans school “reforms” show the path for improving Milwaukee’s schools. The MMAC’s interpretation is:
·         Flood Milwaukee with “miracle” national charter schools.
·         Create a “low-performing” school district within MPS with an appointed school board.
·         Track students in the “low performing” district into vocational education.

I will be posting information about the New Orleans model and the MMAC plans over the next few days.

To view the day’s activities and to register for the conference go to:

November 9, 2011

WUWM Radio Report and Interviews on MMAC Takeover Plan

Filed under: MMAC — millerlf @ 5:45 pm

There was a report on WUWM radio today, by Ann-Elise Henzl, on the MMAC takeover proposal. She interviewed:

 Tim Sullivan, MMAC Chairman

Adam Gameron, UW professor

Larry Miller, MPS board member

To hear the report on WUWM radio, go to:

June 20, 2011

How did Howard Fuller’s Voucher School Get a City of Milwaukee Charter?

Filed under: Charter Schools,MMAC,Vouchers — millerlf @ 8:59 am

Alan Borsuk has continually lambasted MPS schools when they show poor performance. Yet in a June 19 article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, he takes an entirely different stand toward Howard Fuller.

Borsuk interviewed Fuller about the CEO Leadership Academy, a voucher school in which Fuller is personally involved and whose outcomes have for the most part been dismal. Fuller is quoted as saying  “…how hard it is to achieve educational success in a high-poverty, urban setting…” – something he says he has realized in the last two years as a result of his day-to-day involvement. “It’s a very, very sobering experience,” he says.

When MPS educators who have been in the trenches for a long time make this very point, Borsuk dismisses their perspective as excuses and vague promises of reform. Yet he praises Fuller for having gotten a City charter for the failing CEO Leadership Academy.

I suggest that Alan Borsuk conduct another interview and start by asking Dr. Fuller the following questions:

  • The City of Milwaukee has refused to renew charters from schools that performed better than CEO. How did you convince the City to give you a charter?
  • MPS has closed schools that performed better than CEO. How do you justify keeping CEO open?
  • CEO has been a school since 2004. Why has it taken 7 years to realize major changes have to take place there?
  • The article states that 12% to 15% of the students at CEO had special-education needs. How were those numbers determined? What services were given those students?
  • What are the specific features of your charter with the City of Milwaukee that will lead to improved teaching and learning at CEO?

To view the June 19th Borsuk article go to:

March 29, 2011

MPS Outperforming Voucher Schools on Statewide Exams

Filed under: MMAC,Vouchers — millerlf @ 4:01 pm

The results are in on the 21 year voucher “experiment .” Overall MPS students score higher on standardized state tests than voucher students.

2010-11 Wisconsin Student Assessment System results-All Grades Percent Proficient or Advanced

State Math 




State Economically Disadvantaged 63.2 71.7
MPS 47.8 59
MPS Economically Disadvantaged 43.9 55.3
MPCP (vouchers) 34.4 55.2

After $1.1 billion spent on vouchers and relentless attacks on MPS and public education, the truth comes out. Now watch the dance of the privatizers – it’s already begun. Just look at the headline of today’s Journal sentinel. It states, “Choice schools not outperforming MPS.” Compare that to the news release headline from DPI State Superintendent Tony Evers: “Overall MPS results higher than choice schools on statewide exams.” This is the type of word game that the Journal Sentinel, the MMAC and voucher supporters have played for years as part of their smoke and mirror politics. Maneuvers like this have prevented real accountability that will lead to doing what is best for all kids.

If the voucher initiative is truly about poor kids and not the money or the teacher’s union, proponents of private school vouchers must ask, even demand, that Scott Walker take off the table his proposals for lifting the caps on enrollment and income eligibility.

To see the full Journal Sentinel article go to:

To see the DPI/Tony Evers News release and data on MPS/Voucher comparison go to:

DPI Comparison MPS Voucher WKCE Testing

March 13, 2011

Just say no to voucher expansion

Filed under: MMAC,Scott Walker,Vouchers — millerlf @ 8:22 pm

By Barbara Miner March 12, 2011 MJS Crossroads

Memo to all Wisconsin legislators. There is an easy way to prove you care about public education in Wisconsin. And it won’t cost a penny.

Just say no to Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed expansion of the Milwaukee voucher program providing tax dollars to private schools.

This may seem merely like a Milwaukee issue. It’s not. Voucher advocates have made clear for more than 20 years that their goal is to replace public education with a system of universal vouchers that includes private and religious schools.

The heartbreaking drama currently playing in Milwaukee – millions of dollars cut from the public schools while vouchers are expanded so wealthy families can attend private schools in the suburbs – may be coming soon to a school district near you.

For those who worry about taxation without representation, vouchers should send shivers down your spine. Voucher schools are defined as private even though subsidized by taxpayers.

As a result, voucher schools do not have to abide by basic accountability measures such as releasing their test scores to the public or providing data on teacher pay. They also can ignore basic democratic safeguards such as open meetings and records laws or due process rights for expelled students.

Former schoolteacher Frank McCourt, author of “Angela’s Ashes,” eloquently summarizes the issue. Asked several years ago if he would be for vouchers, he answered, “Only if you want to kill public education. That sucking sound you hear is the sound of public schools collapsing with the voucher system.”

A history of expansion

The voucher program started in 1990, billed as an altruistic effort to help a few struggling community schools serving mostly poor black kids. There were only seven schools and 300 students, with the program costing $700,000. To most legislators, it seemed a worthwhile effort, sort of like throwing a few dollars in the church missionary basket.

Even then, however, backers, such as Milwaukee’s Bradley Foundation, envisioned a full-scale voucher program. Michael Joyce, the late head of the foundation, made no secret of his belief that public schools were akin to socialism. Vouchers were his free-market alternative.

Bit by bit, budget by budget – as part of a long-term strategy – the program grew. The expansions always were couched in fine-sounding rhetoric that cloaked the program’s harm to public education.

This year, taxpayers are paying $131 million for the private school tuition of 21,000 students – making vouchers, in essence, one of the state’s largest school districts, on par with Madison, Racine, Kenosha and Green Bay. With the expansion, vouchers will become the state’s second-largest district, just behind Milwaukee.

All along, hard-core voucher proponents were using poor black kids as pawns in their voucher chess game. More than a decade ago, a strategy paper for the Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation likened vouchers for low-income children to a “viable beachhead,” a way “to win and hold new ground in the long march to universal school choice.”

Today, in Milwaukee, that long march is just about over. Vouchers are to be open, eventually, to any Milwaukee family, no matter how rich, to attend a private school anywhere in the county. The children of Milwaukee millionaires could conceivably receive $6,442 next year to help pay the $20,423 high school tuition at the private University School.

The Walker budget goes out of its way to help voucher schools and harm Milwaukee Public Schools. While voucher funding will increase, with no limit on how much, MPS faces untold millions in budget cuts. Some of those cuts are directly due to vouchers, which reduce the amount of state aid MPS otherwise would receive.

Milwaukee taxpayers, meanwhile, are forced to pick up the tab for more than a third of the voucher bill; already they pay $50 million a year.

Overall, Walker is cutting $834 million in public education – eliminating state funding for school nurses, Advanced Placement courses, alternative education and children at-risk programs. There are also significant cuts in programs such as the school breakfast program, Head Start and bilingual aid. Funding for special education and other essential programs is flat, with no additional money even if need increases.

Achievement no better

Voucher advocates promoted the assumption that private schools are inherently superior. The ruse worked for a few years – until stories started emerging about convicted rapists starting voucher schools or voucher administrators embezzling funds and buying expensive cars.

Under pressure, voucher schools were required to administer standardized tests. The results were not released publicly but to a group of academics in Arkansas. When those academics released their reports, the voucher schools did no better than MPS. What’s more, the reports became unreliable because more than half the students had dropped out of the voucher schools before final results could be tabulated.

Walker has figured a way out of this conundrum. He eliminates the requirement that voucher schools take the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination, the same test as public school students and the only test monitored by state officials. Once the WKCE is gone, there is no publicly accountable mechanism to gauge student performance in voucher schools. The voucher schools can claim whatever academic miracles they want – with no way to verify the information.

One thing can be verified. The public schools are left with students who are more challenging to teach. Take special education. About 20% of MPS students qualify for special ed services. And voucher schools? About 3%, most of whom have less severe challenges.

Taken as a whole, the Walker budget is a blueprint for expanding private schools and destroying public schools. And there’s nothing to stop this tragedy from spreading to the entire state.

Unless, of course, legislators do the right thing and protect the American dream of a free and public education for all children.

It isn’t hard. It won’t cost a penny. Just say no to the voucher expansion.

Barbara Miner is a Milwaukee-based journalist who has written on vouchers since the program began in 1990.


March 8, 2011

Howard Fuller, MMAC and Other Voucher Proponents, Is This What You Lobbied For?

Filed under: MMAC,Scott Walker,Vouchers — millerlf @ 3:58 pm

How MPS Gets Crushed

Bruce Murphy 3/08/011 Newsbuzz

Walker’s proposed two-year budget calls for ending the cap on school choice and even allowing city students to attend choice schools in the suburbs. This could crush Milwaukee Public Schools.

State funding for schools is equalized, meaning more aid goes to poorer districts with less property tax base per students. But Milwaukee currently gets $36.5 million less than it should under this formula. That’s because the 20,000 city students who now attend choice schools do not count when the state computes the amount of property value per student. This artificially raises Milwaukee’s property value per student, and to make up for this difference, the average Milwaukee homeowner is forced to pay $166 more in annual property taxes to make up for the loss of state aid.

The end of the cap could greatly increase this inequity as the number of voucher students increases. Should the number go up to 30,000, it would increase the amount of state aid lost to Milwaukee by nearly $33 million, almost doubling the total.

But Walker also wants to cap property taxes, meaning MPS couldn’t increase taxes to recoup the loss of $33 million in state educational aid. When added to an estimated $74 million MPS expects to lose under Walker’s budget annually, the district would have to absorb a loss of $107 million annually. The number of teacher layoffs and school closings this will require is almost unimaginable.

To see the full article by Bruce Murphy go to:

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