Educate All Students, Support Public Education

May 23, 2016

Journal Sentinel Assesses State of OSPP

Filed under: MPS Governance Debate,MPS Takeover,Recovery District — millerlf @ 10:54 am

Taking over struggling schools easier said than done, experts say

Players in the debate over the Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program in Milwaukee: Demond Means, commissioner (clockwise from upper left); County Executive Chris Abele; MPS superintendent Darienne Driver; and state Rep. Dale Kooyenga.

Players in the debate over the Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program in Milwaukee: Demond Means, commissioner (clockwise from upper left); County Executive Chris Abele; MPS superintendent Darienne Driver; and state Rep. Dale Kooyenga. Credit: Journal Sentinel files

By Annysa Johnson of the Journal Sentinel

Milwaukee Public Schools has until June 23 to respond to an invitation from County Executive Chris Abele and his Opportunity Schools commissioner, Demond Means, to partner with them in a plan to turn around some of Milwaukee’s poorest performing schools.

Means has told MPS that rejecting the deal could force him to bring in an outside operator to run the schools as dictated in state law. But school reform advocates and observers in Milwaukee and around the country say that would be tougher than it sounds, and may not yield the results the Legislature envisioned when it created Means’ post.

Charter school operators generally prefer to create schools from the ground up, rather than take over existing operations, they said. In addition, the lack of seed money, the lower per-pupil funding for charter schools, Milwaukee’s competitive school market and highly charged political environment could make it difficult to attract quality operators.

“It’s much easier to build a school from scratch than to go in and work with an existing one,” said Sean Roberts, executive director of Milwaukee Charter Advocates.

“It’s challenging to recruit quality providers in general because of the disparity in funding” between traditional public schools and public charters, he said.

“Most of the good operators in town have their hands full,” said Ricardo Diaz of the United Community Center, which operates the Bruce Guadalupe charter schools.

“And, of course, we haven’t seen a great deal of success from national operators,” he said.

Means, superintendent of the Mequon-Thiensville School District, was appointed by Abele under a new law drafted last year by suburban Republican lawmakers in an effort to force improvements in Milwaukee Public Schools.

The Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program, adopted as part of the 2015-’17 budget, requires Means to take control of one to five schools annually and turn those over to competing operators.

Instead, he and Abele have proposed what they see as a compromise that would be less disruptive to the district. Under their plan, Means would operate the schools as a consultant to MPS, bringing in a number of agencies and organizations to improve staff training and offer wraparound services to students.

Teachers would keep their jobs and remain MPS employees. MPS would retain its per-pupil funding, albeit less than it gets currently if the schools operate as charters. And the MPS board would lose governance authority over the schools. The schools would revert to MPS control after five years if they meet improvement goals.

MPS Superintendent Darienne Driver, who is in the midst of her own reform initiatives, said the district has been exchanging emails with Abele and Means to flesh out the details of the plan.

“It’s really around whether this is a value added for our children and families, and whether or not we have the appropriate infrastructure and resources to be able to implement this plan,” said Driver, who took issue with the characterization of the proposal as a “partnership.”

“We’re going through a number of elements, not just the plan, but the statute itself, making sure that we have all of those details ironed out,” Driver said. “The proposal has left the district with more questions than answers.”

Questions about plan

Among the questions that have circulated between the parties and within the broader education community:

■ What under the statute constitutes a “school” for purposes of a takeover? Does it give Means and Abele authority to take just the building? The furniture and resources inside?

■ Who will pay the start-up costs? MPS estimates it costs as much as $150,000 to launch a community school like the one envisioned by Abele and Means. The state law included no money for the turnaround district, and Abele has yet to attract outside funders, he said, because of the lack of certainty.

State aid to schools is paid quarterly beginning in October, so someone would have to front the enterprise. One likely candidate would be MPS, which would effectively be asked to do more with less, according to critics. MPS would be paid as much as $2,000 less per-student for the targeted schools, meaning it would need to tap funds meant for other schools to subsidize the turnaround schools over which it would have no control.

Abele said the wraparound services would be covered through federal reimbursements at no cost to MPS.

Some have speculated that Abele, a millionaire philanthropist, might tap his own coffers. He skirted the question Friday, saying “my intention is to continue to approach others.”

■ What happens if MPS says no? Means declined to speculate, saying he prefers to focus on hammering out a deal with MPS. But the law is clear: Abele and Means would need to attract another operator. Most independent charter schools in Milwaukee — Bruce Guadalupe and the Milwaukee College Preparatory schools, for example — are homegrown and run by people with deep ties in the community. But those often take years to plan and develop.

Few outside operators

Only four of the more than 20 independent charter schools are run by so-called charter-school operators. One of those, North Point Lighthouse, will close at the end of the school year. Only one of the four — Rocketship South Side Community Prep — has posted the type of academic results Means and Abele would likely tout.

Charter advocates say such operators have generally steered clear of Milwaukee for a host of reasons, including the disparity in per-pupil, and the stiff competition among providers in all three sectors — public, public charter and voucher schools.

State Rep. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield), who co-authored the Opportunity Schools statute, said last week that he would encourage Abele and Means “to take a more aggressive approach” with MPS if it declines to take part. And he said he would continue to work to close the funding gap in an effort to better attract charter operators.

The Abele-Means plan has been derided as a takeover because it usurps the authority of the elected School Board. It’s viewed as an attack on the first black woman to lead the district, a Harvard-educated PhD who’s spent her career working in urban school districts.

Means feels heat

Much of the criticism has been directed at Means. Earlier this month, he was uninvited as commencement speaker by his alma mater, Milwaukee’s Riverside High School, after school staff objected.

And last week, a coalition of public school supporters delivered a letter to the Mequon-Thiensville School Board urging it to rein in its superintendent.

“What would you do if the superintendent of Mukwonago, Madison or some other place came here and said they were taking over Homestead High School and turning it over to a private operator?” Ingrid Walker Henry, co-chairman of Schools and Communities United, said, reading the letter aloud to the board.

“Dr. Means is participating in a coordinated attack on public education in Wisconsin and undermining our communities’ democratic rights,” she said.

Means apologized to his board because the protests had followed him to Mequon. And he objected to the assertion that he was out to undermine public education.

“I have spent my entire career advocating for public education,” he said in an email to the Journal Sentinel.

Some observers questioned whether either scenario — the MPS collaboration or bringing in outside providers — will yield the improvements the Legislature is hoping to see.

“They’ve picked up a rock that’s pretty heavy to lift,” said Sen. Luther Olsen (R-Ripon), who chairs the Senate Education Committee. “If this were easy, it would already be done. Milwaukee wouldn’t have these low-performing schools if it were easy.”

June 4, 2015

Response: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Op-ed

MPS is changing the status quo
By Larry Miller June 3, 2015 MJS Op-ed

Charles J. Szafir’s May 31 opinion piece contains a glaring factual error that undercuts his entire piece — and it repeats the often-used but false claim that Milwaukee Public Schools leaders believe the “status quo” is acceptable (“At MPS, the status quo is unacceptable,” Crossroads). Both claims are just plain wrong. A clear reading of the piece also calls into question the credibility of a recovery district plan that does not include some of the city’s lowest-performing schools.

First, Szafir falsely tied an analysis showing low test results in reading among schools whose students are mostly African-American and low-income to MPS when it in fact represents results from voucher and charter schools as well, as PolitiFact Wisconsin has noted.

When the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel took a closer look at data for such schools, it found that seven of the 10 lowest-performing schools in the group were, in fact, voucher schools. Of the five lowest-performing schools — schools where no students were proficient in reading — three are voucher schools.

If Szafir and his allies in the state Legislature are concerned about improving all of the low-performing schools in Milwaukee, why doesn’t their plan address low-performing voucher schools, as those schools have results that are the same or worse than those in MPS’ lowest-performing schools?

Put another way: Why is the status quo at voucher schools apparently acceptable to them?

Milwaukee Public Schools is already implementing its plans to accelerate student achievement growth, and the district is seeing early signs of success, a fact that Szafir failed to note. Specifically:
■MPS’ Commitment Schools effort to transform underperforming schools is accelerating reading and math achievement enough to narrow achievement gaps in most grades K-8.
■MPS’ GE Foundation Schools are seeing similar gains.
■MPS’ 5-in-1 collaboration at Carver Academy is improving school climate and academic outcomes.
■MPS’ work with Milwaukee Succeeds on a foundational reading pilot is seeing some encouraging early results.
■MPS’ four-year graduation rate is up slightly to 60.9% and five- and six-year rates (68.7% and 72.9%, respectively) show that significant numbers of MPS students are willing to take additional time, if necessary, to graduate.
■MPS’ eight strategic objectives — created with input from students, staff and the community — are in place to further accelerate improvement.

Szafir also plays fast and loose with facts about MPS buildings. He falsely claims that Bradley Tech High School is “operating well below capacity,” when its 2014-’15 enrollment of 889 puts it at about 95% of its capacity of 931 as identified in the district’s facilities master plan. He made a point of identifying the number of buildings his organization considers underutilized while failing to note that by his organization’s own standards, MPS has substantially more buildings that are at 100% capacity or above than are underutilized.

MPS has utilized buildings strategically to expand successful schools with waiting lists — such as Golda Meir School and Ronald Reagan College Preparatory High School — and it will continue to do so, which helps address the overcapacity issue identified above.

Of the remaining MPS school buildings not currently in use, four already have been specifically identified as sites for expansion of sought-after programs, including international baccalaureate education, language immersion and a charter school. Another nine have been declared surplus by the Milwaukee Board of School Directors and transferred to the city for redevelopment. Yet another is being redeveloped into housing.

The efforts MPS is undertaking to improve outcomes for students may not have the “flash” of plans to strip local control of schools, to transfer public buildings to private entities or to fire teachers en masse. But they are far from the “status quo” and they have the benefit of being strongly rooted in what has worked and is working to improve achievement for students in Milwaukee.

Larry Miller is vice president of the Milwaukee School Board.

May 17, 2014

Lisa Kaiser Blog on Sheldon Lubar’s Comments on Takeover of MPS

Filed under: MPS Governance Debate — millerlf @ 3:53 pm

Sheldon Lubar’s Next Target: MPS

By Lisa Kaiser Friday, May 16, 2014

Last night, in a discussion devoted to Milwaukee County government “reforms,” conservative gazillionaire Sheldon Lubar casually dropped a bomb: His next target is the Milwaukee Public Schools.

Responding to a question about whether he or fellow panelists Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele or state Rep. Joe Sanfelippo would be involved in taking away the authority of the board of MPS, Lubar said, “That’s a very good question. It’s very provocative. And on my agenda, that’s the next thing.”

The crowd gasped as Lubar passed the microphone to Sanfelippo.

Later, Lubar clarified his plans when responding to a question about charter schools.

“The origin of these schools was to give the parents of children an option if they felt their public school was not performing, that they could go to another school that wasn’t being subjected to the rules of the administration largely driven by the teachers union,” Lubar said. “I’ve always been a believer in parochial schools. I’ve been a believer in private schools and I do believe in charter schools. I think that the school board and the means of electing them needs to be changed.”

In response, some in the crowd booed, while others clapped.

In 2009, Lubar infamously announced that he wanted to radically overhaul Milwaukee County government back when Scott Walker was county executive. You know, just blow up a level of government.

Later, with the election of his lapdog Abele as county executive and tea party Republican Sanfelippo as state legislator, conservative lawmakers passed Act 14, which gutted the power of the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors and enhanced Abele’s power to a staggering extent. If last night’s performance indicates anything, it also crowned Lubar as the most powerful puppet master.

I’ll have more on this event in next week’s Shepherd.

May 16, 2014

Sheldon Lubar says MPS Board is Next for Governance Changes

Filed under: MPS Governance Debate,Privatization — millerlf @ 11:31 am

On Thursday May 15, at the annual meeting of the Friends of UWM Libraries, County Executive Chris Abele, Rep. Joe Sanfelippo and Sheldon Lubar presented.

It was a love-fest among the three speakers as they criticized the County Board – until they started reading questions submitted anonymously from the audience.

One question asked: “Are you involved, or will you soon be involved in plans to take away the authority of the Board of the Milwaukee Public Schools?”

Lubar answered: “That’s a provocative question. Yes. MPS is next on my agenda.”

Another asked: “Do you trust managers of hedge funds and private equity to create schools that are better for kids than a board that’s elected by the community?”

Lubar answered that there should be options for parents of children who have been failed by the public schools. He said the rules of the administration are largely driven by the teachers union. He said he believes in private, parochial education. He hadn’t mentioned schools in his presentation, but he apparently decided at this moment that as long as he was speaking candidly, he’d do so about the schools.

Abele added that it’s less important how decisions are made. Whatever is working is what should be done. (???)

Sheldon Lubar is the founder and Chairman of Lubar & Co.
He is a director of several public companies, including Crosstex Energy, Star Gas, Approach Resources, and Hallador Energy as well as other private companies. Previously, he served as Chairman of Christiana Companies, Inc., chairman of C2 Inc. and a director of MassMutual Life Insurance Co., U.S. Bancorp, MGIC Investment Corp., Ameritech Corporation, Weatherford International, Grant Prideco and other public companies.


January 13, 2011

The Milwaukee Journal Does The Usual Bi-Weekly Attack On the School Board and Democracy, While Using a Self-Congratulatory Voucher Comparison as Evidence

Filed under: Mayoral Control,MPS Governance Debate,Vouchers — millerlf @ 12:00 pm

I ask, where’s the journalism? Where’s the critique of the business community and city government’s failure to create family sustaining jobs and economic development?

Jan. 11, 2011 Editorial MJS

Where’s the leadership?

Milwaukee School Board members wanted the community to give them a chance to lead. Recent decisions show the board is not up to the challenge.

The dearth of candidates for the Milwaukee School Board is another sign of how little democracy there really is in the current governance structure.

How little, you ask?

Five of the nine seats are up for election, but only one race will have a primary in February because three candidates are running. In three races, there will be only two candidates on the April ballot, and no one challenged School Board President Michael Bonds.

The lack of interest in School Board elections is nothing new in Milwaukee, of course, but it’s still troubling. And here’s something else that’s troubling: A new study shows voucher school kids are 17% more likely to graduate than Milwaukee Public Schools students.

MPS disputes the numbers. What cannot be disputed are the financial and academic problems looming over the district. And effective leadership is critical to turning MPS around.

A 70% graduation rate is not good enough. The 82,000 students who attend MPS deserve better, and the community as a whole depends on the district’s success because MPS is, essentially, the region’s biggest workforce development agency.

Financially, the School Board has shown it is not ready to make big decisions.

Milwaukee Common Council President Willie L. Hines Jr. and state Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) questioned why the School Board refused to sell empty buildings to its competition when the district is paying about $1 million a year to maintain those buildings.

Bonds’ response: Mind your own business.

“You are focusing on MPS issues while neglecting the problems that you were elected to solve,” Bonds said in a letter to Hines.

Not exactly the sort of leadership that inspires confidence.

That’s why we still believe a governance change is required. We have no confidence that this board will be able to address the mounting financial and academic crises.

A change in governance alone won’t fix MPS. Schools need to be safe; parents need to be involved. Each school needs effective, top-to-bottom leadership.

Superintendent Gregory Thornton is trying, but an ineffective board stymies effective leadership.

It’s time for better leadership.

November 22, 2010

Republican Control: What Wisconsin GOP Wins Mean for Milwaukee Schools

Filed under: Elections,MPS Governance Debate,Right Wing Agenda — millerlf @ 8:12 pm

By: Terrence Falk | Monday 11/8/2010

Republicans now control state government. How will they treat Wisconsin’s largest school district?

Don’t expect Mayor Barrett to get control of MPS no matter how many editorials the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel runs supporting the idea. In the last legislative session. Republicans stonewalled the idea. They are not about to change their minds now.

Instead some Republicans have been pushing the idea of breaking MPS into a half dozen or more districts. Their reasoning is that smaller school districts work well in Wisconsin; therefore, a major problem for MPS must be its sheer size. They forget that right behind Milwaukee in struggling school systems is Racine, Kenosha, and little Beloit, much smaller school districts. All have the common denominator: a high percentage of minority schools living in poverty, not district size.

Would creating six superintendents, six school administrations, and six school boards save any money? And saving money is what the GOP really cares about.

Breaking MPS into smaller districts is akin to smashing a hornets’ nest with a baseball bat.  The school system’s problems are going to fly off in all different directions, and a lot of people are going to get stung. No, breaking MPS into smaller districts is not likely to happens.

Might Republicans give more power to the state superintendent? If Milwaukeean rejected mayoral control, how do you think they would react to state control? Former GOP Governor Thompson actually tried to get rid of the state superintendent office. Republicans will be cautious in giving more power to the state superintendent whose election is often dependent upon support from teacher unions.

Walker and the GOP are likely to do three things:

Are you against unfunded mandates? So are the Republicans. But they are not likely to give school districts more money for those mandates. Instead they will cut state regulations saying schools can do “more with less.”  But schools will just do less.

Limiting the number of choice schools in Milwaukee? That is gone. The real question is whether Republicans will keep in place higher standards in place.   Some choice providers were caught falsifying enrollment numbers, buying BMWs, and offering substandard educations. The theory that simply relying on free market competition would weed out substandard schools did not work out very well. Will GOP have the courage to close failing choice schools?

How do you feel about teacher unions? They are likely to be the biggest losers. the GOP may say they care about improving education, but they also care about raw political power. Teacher unions have been a reliable Democratic power base. Cut them off at the knees.

The GOP is likely to make it easier for individual teachers to opt out of joining local teacher unions. Right-to-Work, here we come. If unions have fewer members and less revenue, unions will have less power.

Getting rid of teacher residency in Milwaukee will be portrayed ss a civil rights issue and a method for opening up MPS to a larger pool of potential teachers. But fewer MTEA teachers living in Milwaukee will also dilute their power in city elections.

Placing teachers into the state health insurance system, making it easier to fire poor teachers, and pushing merit pay are all likely to come in second to raw political power.

Could the GOP actually improve Wisconsin education? Their wins free up the left to support reforms they may have not supported otherwise, but it is the GOP who are in the driver’s seat, and they have to make the first moves.

To visit Terrence Falk’s website Yellow Bus go to:


August 5, 2010

Ravitch on Mayoral Control

Filed under: Mayoral Control,MPS Governance Debate — millerlf @ 9:06 pm

Ravitch: Mayoral control means zero accountability

My guest is Diane Ravitch, New York University education historian and author of the best-selling “The Death and Life of the Great American School System.” Ravitch, once a supporter of No Child Left Behind and now a fierce critic of its impact, is traveling the country and meeting thousands of teachers as she blasts the Obama administration’s education policies.
By Diane Ravitch
For the past five years, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel Klein have claimed that, due to their programs, New York City was a national model. They proclaimed that the city had made “historic gains” on state tests, all because of the mayor’s complete control of the policymaking apparatus. The mayor testified in congressional hearings that New York City had cut the achievement gap in half. Klein traveled to Australia to boast of the city’s gains, and the Australian minister of education intends to align that nation’s education system with the New York City model.

It was an exciting and wonderful ride while it lasted. But last week, with the release of the state test results for 2010, New York City’s claims came crashing to the ground. The national model went up in smoke. The miracle was no more. The belief that mayoral control was a panacea for urban ills was no longer sustainable.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has gone around the nation for the past 18 months singing the praises of mayoral control. But in light of the New York City fiasco, he will have to find a new example when he lectures urban audiences, because the New York model just lost its wheels.

What is that model? All decision-making power vested in the office of the mayor, who chooses the school leadership; testing and accountability; report cards for schools with a single letter grade; bonuses for principals whose schools have rising scores; closing schools whose scores do not rise; opening charter schools and small schools; devolving authority to principals to make decisions about spending and instructional programs.

When Mayor Bloomberg first ran for office, he said that the legislature should give him control of the school system with minimal checks or balances. He promised accountability. If anything went wrong, the public would know whom to hold accountable; not some faceless board, but he, the mayor, would be accountable.

The New York City version of mayoral control means that parents and the public have no voice. The shell of the central board is dominated by a majority of mayoral appointees, who approve whatever the mayor wants. On the one occasion when two of his appointees threatened to vote independently, they were fired on the spot.
Every year, the State Education Department reported that scores were going up across the state and in New York City. In 2007, based entirely on steadily rising state scores, the Broad Foundation awarded New York City its annual prize as the nation’s most improved urban school district. Mayor Bloomberg used the state scores to win re-election in 2005 and to bypass term limits and get re-elected for a third term in 2009.
When the mayoral control law expired a year ago, the mayor referred to the state scores as evidence that his reforms were working and the progress should not be interrupted.

The narrative ended on a sour note last week. The State Education Department accepted that the state tests had gotten so easy in recent years that the standards had become meaningless.

Students could advance from level 1 (where remediation was required in New York City) to level 2 by random guessing. Reaching level 3 (“proficiency”) did not mean that students were likely to graduate high school. Under new leadership, the state raised standards, and the proportion of New York City students who reached proficiency dramatically declined.

The pass rate on the reading test fell from 69 percent to only 42 percent, and on the math test, it dropped from 82% to 54%. In addition, the achievement gap among students of different racial and ethnic groups grew larger, as large as it was when the mayor took office.

The mayor and the chancellor responded to the new situation not by accepting responsibility and accountability, but by denying the facts. In news conferences, press briefings, and opinion articles, they and their surrogates insisted that the “historic gains” of the past five years were still intact.

They pointed to scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress to defend their claims, but this was a weak reed. New York City’s gains on NAEP were garden-variety. Atlanta, Boston and the District of Columbia made larger gains in fourth grade reading and math; Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, and San Diego made larger gains in eighth grade math; and New York City made zero gains in eighth grade reading from 2003-2009, while Atlanta, Houston, and Los Angeles did see significant improvement in that grade and subject.

So the larger story is this: Mayoral control did not turn New York City into a national model. Before promoting mayoral control as the answer to urban education, Secretary Duncan would do well to consider Cleveland, which has had mayoral control since 1995.

Like New York City, Cleveand has participated in national testing from the inception of urban district assessment. Cleveland has made no gains in fourth grade reading or eighth grade reading or fourth grade mathematics or eighth grade mathematics.

Mayoral control is not a panacea. Not in Cleveland or in New York City. Nor in Chicago, which has seen some gains, but is still one of the nation’s lowest performing urban districts after many years of mayoral control.

May 3, 2010

WI Gubernatorial Candidates Weigh In On New DPI Power Over Failing Schools and Districts

Filed under: MPS Governance Debate — millerlf @ 8:28 pm

Published Online: April 30, 2010

New Wis. Law Targets Failing Public Schools

Gov. Jim Doyle said Thursday that he believes a new law giving Wisconsin’s education superintendent more power to try turning around failing public schools will survive a new governor.

The law is an alternative to a proposal Doyle and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Barrett backed earlier that would have shifted control of the troubled Milwaukee Public Schools system to the mayor. That failed to garner enough support.

Doyle, also a Democrat, isn’t running for re-election. Doyle said he doesn’t expect the superintendent’s new powers to be removed when a new governor takes office in January, despite two Republican gubernatorial candidates criticizing it.

“I can’t imagine that any governor would say, ‘You know, superintendent, I know you are turning around those schools. We’re going to pull the plug on it,'” he said. “It’s a very important piece of legislation that needed to be done for a long time.”

The law requires school boards in low-performing districts to adopt model teaching standards, create new programs to help struggling students earlier, and provide more learning time for those who need it. Those steps could include expanding the school day or academic year.

The worst public schools would be required to adopt new standards for evaluating teachers and principals, with academic improvement being a significant factor.

Milwaukee has struggled for years with closing the achievement gap between white and minority students as well as improving overall performance.

State Superintendent Tony Evers said he hopes to have some directives in place by the summer for Milwaukee Public Schools.

“It’s not all the answers, clearly,” he said, “but it’s a way for us as a state to assist the district to focus its efforts.”

Evers said the state is concentrating on the Milwaukee schools now but they might need to look at other districts later.

Two Republican gubernatorial candidates are criticizing the new law. Barrett, Milwaukee’s mayor, said the new law was a step in the right direction.

In a statement, Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker said Thursday the law is another example of Doyle’s and Barrett’s “failed leadership on education reform.”

“No real standards of accountability for our teachers are contained within the proposal, and our state has put another generation of children at risk of being lost in broken schools across our state,” he said. His spokeswoman didn’t immediately return an e-mail asking whether Walker would take away the superintendent’s power.

But former U.S. Rep. Mark Neumann said he would consider changing the law.

“We may need to change it, we may not need to change it,” he said in a phone interview Thursday. “The discussion needs to be about what we are going to be doing better for our kids to provide a higher quality education in our state.”

Barrett said he would have liked to see the law go further.

“I don’t think the last chapter has been written in this book,” Barrett said Wednesday in Madison, where he was campaigning.

Barrett said his main concerns are both the quality of Milwaukee’s public education and the district’s financial health. Barrett indicated he wouldn’t push for mayoral control if elected governor.

“Right now I want to see how well this works,” he said. “To me it’s all about performance. If those at the local level can produce a plan that’s going to improve the educational attainment and the fiscal health of the school district, then I’m going to be happy with that. ”

Mary Bell, president of the state teachers union, the Wisconsin Education Association Council, said her group supports the legislation.

“When you get to issues of struggling schools, we tend in Wisconsin to see those as local issues,” Bell said, “but the survival and thriving of students and our economy really are tied together.”

April 29, 2010

Doyle Signs Bill Giving Increased Power to DPI

Filed under: MPS Governance Debate — millerlf @ 4:18 pm

Ronald Reagan High School: Governor enacts law giving state superintendent more power

By Amy Hetzner of the Journal Sentinel April 29, 2010

Surrounded by legislators and Milwaukee high school students, Gov. Jim Doyle signed into law Thursday a measure that will give the state’s schools superindent more authority to intervene in struggling school districts and their schools.

“This bill really makes a major step forward for us to begin to give the superintendent real power to make major changes,” Doyle said.

The new law will give the state’s superintendent of public instruction the authority to direct school boards in failing districts to adopt new curriculum, provide early intervention services for children, extend student learning time and implement professional development programs for teachers and principals. The law also requires the state superintendent to enact rules for how school districts and schools will be identified for this intervention.

In addition, the law specifically requires that Milwaukee Public Schools draw up a master plan to analyze aging facilities and buildings, collaborate with non-profit organizations to provide social services and develop alternative routes to high school diplomas for at-risk students.

The law also removes tenure for MPS principals, the only principals in the state to have such a protection provided by law. MPS Superintendent William Andrekopoulos said that was a positive.

But he criticized the new law as being too weak on the school system’s teachers, by allowing them to avoid accountability.

“There’s a section in there that gives the teacher a million excuses for not performing,” he said.

He called the measure “a bit racist” because “I don’t think this would be in the bill if these kids were white kids.” If the same teachers were failing kids in suburban schools, Andrekopoulos said he thought the Legislature would take more definite action.

But Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association President Mike Langyel said that the new law makes sure that teachers in struggling schools are provided the proper support they need to do their jobs.

“I think what this bill does, it moves us beyond the blame-the-teacher mentality that is prevalent in the administration of Milwaukee Public Schools,” he said.

April 25, 2010

Read the New Legislation Giving DPI and Tony Evers Increased Power Over MPS

Filed under: MPS Governance Debate — millerlf @ 9:49 pm

To Read the full Bill 437 with amendments go to the following link:

Final Plus Amendments SB-437

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