Educate All Students: Larry Miller's Blog

March 1, 2015

Resolution Passed by MPS School Board on Walker Budget Proposals

Filed under: MPS,Scott Walker,Wisc Budget Bill — millerlf @ 9:42 am

Resolution 1415R-013

WHEREAS, It is important that parents and citizens of the state have a clear understanding of the state budget and its implications for funding at the school district level; and
WHEREAS, When Governor Walker publicly presented his proposed biennial budget on February 3, he stated, “our budget will increase state support for schools by providing more than $100 million annually for the school levy tax credit and more than $100 million in the second year of the budget for equalization aids — while maintaining revenue limits to ensure continuing property tax relief,” no mention was made of the cut of $150 per pupil ($127 million statewide) in special categorical aid in the first year of the proposed budget;
WHEREAS, Such a decrease would result in a “base” cut to the Milwaukee Public Schools of approximately $12.1 million in 2015-2016; and
WHEREAS, While cutting $150 per pupil in the first year — funding that, under current law, would be provided in each year of the 2015-17 biennium — Governor Walker’s budget plan provides no increase per pupil in the revenue limit even to minimally cover inflation, a provision commonly included in previous state budgets that recognized the costs associated with maintaining programs for students; and
WHEREAS, When the base cut and the lack of an inflationary increase in the revenue cap are factored together, the overall result is a total reduction conservatively estimated at $23 million in funding for the provision of educational opportunities for children in the Milwaukee Public Schools; and
WHEREAS, Even though the Governor proposes to include about $142 million (about $165 per pupil) in the per-pupil categorical aid in the second year of the biennium, the net result over the biennium is a cut of approximately $135 per pupil ($112 million); and
WHEREAS, Although the Governor also proposes spending $211.2 million in increased school-levy credits ($105.6 million in each year) and $108 million in increased general aid, with no corresponding increase in the revenue limit, this $319 million is “school funding in name only” —none of which schools will be able to spend to meet the educational needs of their students; now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED, That the Milwaukee Board of School Directors join with other school districts in the State of Wisconsin to strongly encourage the Governor and the State Legislature to revise the Governor’s proposed budget to restore school funding in 2015-17 to levels adequate to fund public education in Wisconsin and to reject any decrease in anticipated revenue in the first year of the biennium, while also providing for inflationary revenue increases in both years; and be it
FURTHER RESOLVED, That this Resolution be spread upon the permanent Record of this Board, and that the Board direct the Board Clerk to prepare and to present engrossed copies of this Resolution, suitably signed and sealed, to the Governor and to the State Legislature.
Adopted this 26th Day of February, 2015,
Michael Bonds, President Milwaukee Board of School Directors

February 28, 2015

Public schools serve the whole community

Filed under: Public Education,Scott Walker,Wisc Budget Bill — millerlf @ 5:55 pm

Mary Jarvis February 26, 2015

Know the facts about public schools vs. taxpayer-subsidized private schools.

A 21st-century public education system is the foundation of democracy and provides equal opportunity. The doors of public schools are wide open for all students and are essential to the well-being of our communities, state and country.

Do you know the difference between taxpayer subsidized private schools and our community public schools?
• Responsibilities and standards. Taxpayer-subsidized private schools do not need to hire highly qualified teachers and were not required to take state assessments until last year. Public schools are rated by the state every year, but taxpayer-subsidized private schools have a free ride from state report cards until 2017-18 or possibly later.
When taxpayer-subsidized private schools close, taxpayers can’t recoup our losses when displaced children return to public schools. When Life Skills Academy in Milwaukee closed in the middle of the night, $2.3 million tax dollars went down the drain.

• Funding. Wisconsin public schools were subjected to the largest cuts in the nation, totaling $1.6 billion, and there’s another $127 million cut on the table in the new budget proposal. As a result of continuing cuts in resources, there are fewer teachers and less one-on-one time for students. At the same time, taxpayer-subsidized private schools have skimmed $18.4 million dollars from public schools in 2013-2014 with a projection of $54.7 million going to them this year.
You may have noticed the significant increase in local referendums as state funding cuts to local schools, take their toll on students and communities especially rural areas. More communities than ever before are voting to raise their own local property taxes so children can still get a good education.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Nearly 80 percent of private school subsidy goes to students who never attended public schools in the first place — taxpayers are subsidizing private education at the expense of most of the children in our own neighborhoods.

• Special education. Taxpayer-subsidized private schools are only required to offer services to assist students with special needs that can be provided for with minor adjustments. Public schools employ licensed teachers, provide the full scope of special education and comply with federal law. As a result, subsidized private schools enroll far fewer children who require extra attention to succeed.

• Student achievement. Studies have found public schools to be equal or better performing than private institutions. This is true here in Wisconsin, where public school students are outperforming their peers in subsidized private schools. Taxpayer-subsidized private schools aren’t the answer to improving education. They ignore the real factors impacting student success — family income, involvement, and attendance.

• Public oversight. Taxpayer-subsidized private schools do not have democratically elected boards that represent the public — even though you, the taxpayer, are footing the bill. Private schools are not required to meet basic public standards, such as open meetings and records laws, or to publicly release test scores, dropout rates and other information.

• Responsibility to students. Many of the taxpayer-subsidized private schools springing up are private schools geared for profit and looking to advertise their way into getting tax dollars. Just look at the recent request by the subsidy lobby group to get the names, addresses and phone numbers of children in public schools. Subsidized private schools can spend your tax dollars any way they want, because there’s little oversight.
The bottom line: Public schools preserve our democracy and provide a fundamental public purpose for all. They are the heartbeat of thriving communities, the foundation of our quality of life. We need to support our neighborhood public schools so every child has a good public school to attend no matter where they live or what their family circumstances are.

Mary Jarvis of Wausau is a retired teacher and former president of the Wausau Education Association.

February 25, 2015

Wauwatosa School Board asks lawmakers to increase public education funding

Filed under: Scott Walker,Wisc Budget Bill — millerlf @ 2:17 pm

$5 Tax savings will further dismantle public education in Wisconsin. Referencing Walker’s proposal to save the average taxpayer $5 over each of the next two years, school board member Michael Meier brought a bag of ten silver coins to the board meeting Feb. 23.

By Rory Linnane Feb. 25, 2015

Facing a loss of about $900,000 in state funding under Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed state budget, Wauwatosa School Board members are asking their lawmakers to push for more money for public education.

In a resolution that passed the school board unanimously Monday, Feb. 23, members detailed the restrictions they are under in budgeting for the 2015-17 school years. Walker’s proposed budget would cut $150 in state aid per student in the next school year, while holding the revenue limit flat so that school boards could not raise taxes to make up the difference.

“Therefore, be it resolved, the Wauwatosa School Board calls upon Senator Leah Vukmir and Representatives Dale Kooyenga and Rob Hutton, to work with their legislative colleagues to support increased funding for public education in the current budget for the benefit of Wisconsin’s future and for the benefit of all public school students,” the resolution reads.

Kooyenga said Feb. 24 that he respected the school board’s position and would try to help.
“Just like last time in the budget the Joint Finance Committee increased the funding for public schools, I’ll be working hard to get to the same objective this time to see if we can fix the funding issue for Wauwatosa schools, and work on the resolution as they proposed it,” Kooyenga said. “I’m very supportive and we’ll be working to do that.”
Wauwatosa Superintendent Phil Ertl said although Wauwatosa is in a good financial position to weather “tough times,” other districts are not as fortunate.

“Can we operate with a $1 million cut for a year?” Ertl said. “Sure we can. But can Steven’s Point? Can Green Bay? Can all these other districts around the state that don’t have a fund balance, that have other, different needs than Wauwatosa? No, they can’t. When we fight, it’s not just for Wauwatosa. We’re fighting for public education in general.”
Ertl also said he believes the cuts are discouraging people from going into teaching.

“There’s always going to be a pool of candidates, but are some of our best students deciding they don’t want to go into public education? We’ve seen it,” Ertl said.

Referencing Walker’s proposal to save the average taxpayer $5 over each of the next two years, school board member Michael Meier brought a bag of ten silver coins to the board meeting Feb. 23.
“For ten pieces of silver, I can turn my back on 100 years of public education — my heritage, my community, the future of my grandchildren,” said Meier, who said four generations of his family have benefited from public schools. “I understood four years ago that we didn’t have the money anymore. But this time, it’s for $10.”
Board member Kristy Casey said she was optimistic that lawmakers would step in.

“It’s really early on,” Casey said. “I do believe these numbers will change, or at least I hope that they do. We can’t allow our schools to be victim to things like this, so it’s really important we advocate for what we believe is important in our community, which is our public schools.

February 23, 2015

MPS Board Resolution on Walker Education Budget

Filed under: MPS,Scott Walker,Wisc Budget Bill — millerlf @ 7:11 pm

By Larry Miller
This Thursday I am proposing, to the MPS Board of Directors, the following resolution in response to Governor Scott Walker’s cuts in education. Public Testimony will be taken for this item. To see the proposed resolution go to:
MPS Board resolution

Following is a statement by MPS School Board President Michael Bonds.

Statement from Milwaukee Board of School Directors President Michael Bonds regarding Gov. Walker’s proposed 2015-17 biennial budget

MILWAUKEE (February 23, 2015) – Milwaukee Board of School Directors President Dr. Michael Bonds announced Monday that the Milwaukee Board of School Directors will consider a resolution by Director Larry Miller calling on Gov. Scott Walker and the Wisconsin Legislature to restore adequate funding to public schools in Wisconsin.

Gov. Walker’s proposed biennial budget cuts more than $127 million in funds to school districts statewide and also fails to provide inflationary increases.

The resolution, in part, calls on the Legislature to “…reject any decrease in anticipated revenue in the first year of the biennium, while also providing inflationary revenue increases in both years.”

“School boards across the state are stepping forward to make sure the devastating impact of the Governor’s proposed budget is understood,” said Bonds. “I fully support Director Miller’s resolution and the call for action.”

Director Miller’s resolution will be introduced at the Milwaukee Board of School Directors’ Regular Monthly Board Meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, February 26. The meeting will be held in the Donald O’Connell Auditorium in the School Administration Building, 5225 W. Vliet Street, Milwaukee 53208.

This news is available online at

February 22, 2015

Racist History of “Right To Work”

The Ugly Racial History of “Right to Work” (Written in 2012 When Michigan Passed “Right to Work”)

Richard D. Kahlenberg and Moshe Z. Marvit ▪ December 20, 2012

The victory for so-called “right-to-work” legislation in Michigan, the heartland of industrial unionism in America, has spurred talk of expanding efforts to pass similar laws to weaken unions in other states, such as Kentucky and even New Jersey. Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer goes so far as to suggest that the spread of such anti-union laws is “inevitable,” given economic globalization—a conclusion that might surprise Germans, who have strong labor laws and collective bargaining agreements yet nevertheless manage to compete quite well.

Most of the discussion has centered on the political and economic effects of right-to-work laws—which allow workers to benefit from collective bargaining but withhold dues or agency fees to support the bargaining process. E.J. Dionne correctly notes that Republicans in Michigan were trying to weaken unions for political reasons. In Michigan in 2012, Dionne writes, “Obama won union households 66 percent to 33 percent, the rest of the electorate by 50 percent to 49 percent.” And the Economic Policy Institute finds that workers—whether or not they are in unions—earn about $1,500 less per year on average in right-to-work states, as the policy essentially transfers wealth from workers to employers and stockholders.

But as other states consider such laws, it is important also to remember the ugly racial history of right-to-work legislation. A key driver of the right-to-work movement beginning in the 1930s was Texas businessman and white supremacist Vance Muse, who hated unions in part because they promoted the brotherhood of workers across racial lines. As author Mark Ames notes, Muse bluntly outlined the thinking behind “right to work,” declaring, “From now on, white women and white men will be forced into organizations with black African apes whom they will have to call ‘brother’ or lose their jobs.”

Indeed, unions have a powerful interest in reducing racial discrimination and animus because racial hostility inhibits worker solidarity and union organizing. Southern segregationists knew this, which is why they eagerly signed on to right-to-work efforts to weaken unions in the middle part of the twentieth century.

In the 1930s and 1940s, organized labor made great strides in the northern and midwestern parts of the United States, but racial animus in the South proved a key impediment to union organizing. It was very threatening to southern segregationists, therefore, when the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) launched “Operation Dixie” in the 1940s to organize the South, because the CIO’s agenda included efforts to reduce discrimination. Southern conservatives feared that if unions united working-class whites and blacks, they could upend the politics of the South, where Jim Crow laws helped keep white and black workers on opposite sides of the political fence. They argued that unions could bring “black domination in the South.” For Martin Luther King, Jr., the unity of interests of labor and civil rights groups was underlined by segregationist opposition to both. In 1961, he told the AFL-CIO that “the labor-hater and labor-baiter is virtually always a twin-headed creature spewing anti-Negro epithets from one mouth and anti-labor propaganda from the other mouth.”

As historian Tami Friedman notes, the CIO, with a $1 million war chest and 250 organizers, set out in 1946 to organize at least 1 million workers by the end of the year. The AFL also made a pledge to organize 1 million southern workers. CIO president Philip Murray promised both “political and economic emancipation” for southern workers, and vowed to defeat two major segregationists in Mississippi. W.E.B. Du Bois called the CIO the best hope for equal rights in the postwar era.

With President Truman also beginning to move forward on civil rights, southern segregationists ramped up their anti-union efforts. As the CIO began Operation Dixie, southern Democrats joined northern Republicans in voting for the 1947 Taft-Hartley legislation to cripple union organizing, in part by authorizing states to adopt right-to-work statutes. Friedman writes, “While the measure is often seen as the work of a Republican-dominated Congress, southern Democrats were instrumental in its passage; in both houses, over 80 percent of southern Democrats backed the bill. After President Truman vetoed the legislation, 90 percent of southern Democrats in the House of Representatives and over 77 percent of those in the Senate helped override his action.”

Southern segregationists followed up their support for Taft-Hartley with an array of state-based right-to-work laws, a strategy King strongly opposed. He declared, “In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as ‘right to work.’ It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights.”

To this day, the states most resistant to unions are those in the former Confederacy and the Jim Crow South. Of the seventeen states that had legally required segregation prior to Brown v. Board of Education, twelve are today right-to-work states. All five states that ban collective bargaining with public employees—Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia—are from the Jim Crow South. And, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the eleven states with the lowest rates of unionization are North Carolina, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, Texas, Oklahoma, and Florida. All of these states were formerly segregated.
Given this history, one can fully appreciate the bitter irony of Michigan’s adoption of right-to-work legislation. While Michigan’s own racial history is hardly unblemished, the United Auto Workers, led by Walter Reuther, were champions of racial equality within the labor movement. Whereas the AFL-CIO refused to endorse the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, for example, the UAW and Reuther were central players in it.

Sixty-five years later, Operation Dixie has been turned on its head. Not only did labor fail to organize the South; we have now witnessed what was once unthinkable: the passage of right-to-work legislation in Michigan, on the heels of the crippling of public employee unionism in Wisconsin.

The far more hopeful story since the 1940s, of course, is the tremendous racial progress made in the United States, and particularly in the American South. Today, Vance Muse’s rhetoric about race is rejected by the vast majority of Americans and serves as a source of enormous embarrassment for the anti-labor, right-to-work movement.

As labor thinks through how to get out of the deep mess it finds itself in, it can draw inspiration from America’s great civil rights movement. In Mississippi, the UAW is framing labor organizing at a Nissan Motors plant as part of a twenty-first-century civil rights movement, and Richard Trumka, the president of the AFL-CIO, has endorsed the idea of incorporating worker rights to organize into an amended Civil Rights Act. If anything good is to come out of the terrible loss in Michigan, it will be that labor has discovered that the false rhetoric of “right to work” can be directly rebutted with the powerful idea that worker rights are civil rights.
Richard D. Kahlenberg is a senior fellow at the Century Foundation and Moshe Z. Marvit is a civil rights and labor attorney. They are coauthors of Why Labor Organizing Should Be a Civil Right: Rebuilding a Middle-Class Democracy by Enhancing Worker Voice (2012).

February 19, 2015

Superintendents Are Speaking Out: Stop Dismantling Public Education

Filed under: Scott Walker,Wisc Budget Bill — millerlf @ 2:09 pm

The following are letters from Wisconsin superintendents informing their parents and communities about the short- and long- term setbacks facing the over 400 state school districts. Please join them in speaking out against a travesty in the making.

Each year we make many difficult choices about how to spend our available dollars, similar to any business, but the challenges are becoming increasingly difficult. With significant tax dollars being funneled to private voucher schools, which are not accountable in the same manner as the Wauwatosa School District schools, there is a fundamental shift in the foundation of public schools that will negatively impact our schools and the students they serve permanently.

Full letter:

Within the televised context of the Governor’s budget address, Governor Walker stated the new budget would provide public schools with roughly the same amount of funding as during the previous year; thus, suggesting that the per pupil revenue limit increase most recently set at $75.00 would be reduced to zero. This reduction in projected revenue, along with other baseline assumptions, would result in a necessary Wausau School District 2015-2016 budget reduction of $1,250,000. However, contained within the actual 900+ page executive budget report, verbiage indicates that the same amount of funding will not be forthcoming. In fact the budget report clarifies that in addition to the per pupil revenue limit remaining at $0, the proposal also calls for a categorical aid reduction from $150.00 per pupil to $0 thereby increasing necessary budget reductions to a total of $2,500,000.

Full letter:

Dane County Superintendents
Too often taxpayers, parents, politicians, and educators talk about what they dislike or what they are against. As leaders of school districts in and around Dane County, we are compelled to speak out about what we need to maintain and improve our already excellent schools. We are united in the mission of working for excellence for all of our children.

It is also important for the public, the legislature, and Governor Walker to advocate for both policies and budgets that make sense, while also resonating with parents, grandparents, the business community, and the voters of Wisconsin. It is in this spirit that we submit this letter. It is in this spirit that we call upon our state representatives to act to support our schools.

Full letter:

Whitefish Bay
The governor’s budget bill was released last week. If the education-related items within the proposal prevail, it will be a crushing blow to public education in several ways. I will touch upon just two of those items below.

Full letter:

River Falls Budget Resolution

February 18, 2015

Wausau Superintendent Sends Letter to Parents Informing Them of the Consequences of Walker’s Proposed Budget

Filed under: Scott Walker,Wisc Budget Bill — millerlf @ 3:19 pm

Dr. Kathleen Williams, Superintendent of the Wausau School District, sent a letter to the households of their students informing them that, “There is no question that should the budget proposal remain unchanged, the financial impact on the Wausau School District will be significant and have ramifications for both short- and long-term planning.”
T o read the letter go to:

Save the Wisconsin Idea: UW-Milwaukee Professor Schools Scott Walker on the Value of Education in Wisconsin

Filed under: Scott Walker,Wisc Budget Bill — millerlf @ 8:01 am

By Christine Evans Feb. 16, 2015 NYTimes Op-ed

MILWAUKEE — EARLIER this month, Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin and potential Republican presidential candidate, unveiled a proposed budget that would cut $300 million of funds to the University of Wisconsin system and shift power over tuition from the Legislature to a new public authority controlled by appointed regents. The initial draft of Mr. Walker’s budget bill also proposed to rewrite the university’s 110-year-old mission statement, known as the Wisconsin Idea, deleting “the search for truth” and replacing it with language about meeting “the state’s work-force needs.”

This attack, surely meant to impress possible donors to the governor’s potential presidential campaign, squanders the inheritance of all Wisconsinites: an affordable, top-ranked university system that attracts students and scholars from around the world and is a major contributor to the state’s economy. Criticism prompted the governor to restore the Wisconsin Idea’s wording, but the budget cuts remained.

Mr. Walker’s action implies that Wisconsinites no longer share their parents’ and grandparents’ values. He suggests that a university system with a mission to “educate people and improve the human condition” is no longer a priority here. He is wrong.

I teach history, a discipline that is always in the cross hairs of cuts designed to make a public university education more “practical.” But my students have shown me that they find the study of the past very relevant to their lives.

Many have already had careers when they come through my classroom door. Quite a few are military veterans, others have worked in factories and trades. We have a master’s degree student who runs a successful local business; other graduate students are former teachers who intend to return to their schools.

These students do not come to our university to get basic vocational skills or a modest-paying job. They already have those things, and they want more.

One recently returned veteran in my 20th-century Russia class was struggling emotionally. The tone of his questions could be hostile or abrupt. He missed classes because of medical appointments at Veterans Affairs. Then, a few days before a paper on Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich” and Varlam Shalamov’s “Kolyma Tales” was due, he wrote to me. The descriptions of the Soviet gulag brought back his experiences of fear and privation as an infantryman. He wondered if other vets had been similarly unsettled.

I urged him to write about his experiences, because his story mattered. We met to get him back on track academically. I was so proud when he passed.

Signs that my students know what a humanities education is worth abound in more everyday moments as well. When, in an introductory lecture, I offhandedly mentioned Andrei Bely’s “Petersburg,” a novel about terrorism and revolution in Russia, undergraduates lined up to ask me to repeat the details, so that they could read it on their own time.

I ran into a former student recently and he mentioned that his mother was looking forward to reading the books from our class last year. One history major, an avid gun collector, commuted five hours each way from rural Wisconsin to take my historical methods class.

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where I work, is an urban research university that has been nationally recognized for service to the community. Twenty million dollars — our campus’s likely share of the cuts — represents the entire annual budget of our business school, or our college of engineering, or our schools of public health, information studies and social welfare combined. Which should we eliminate to help students prepare for “real world” jobs?

We should reject Mr. Walker’s claim that he knows best what the limits of Wisconsin students’ education should be. As my students understand, the humanities train critical thinkers and citizens. That may be inconvenient for politicians who see their constituents as merely a “work force,” but it is definitely good for our democracy, as well as our economy.

Students like mine are the ones who will be hurt most directly by Mr. Walker’s proposed changes. The experiences of the Wisconsin system and that of other state universities show that when state funding is cut, regents raise tuition sharply to compensate. Students pay more and get less. This has already happened in Louisiana, where Gov. Bobby Jindal has implemented similarly drastic cuts to the public university system. During his time in office, tuition at public universities in the state has nearly doubled.

The Wisconsin Idea has been a national model for over a century. Mr. Walker’s assault on it is meant as a model, too — a guide for dismantling the public universities we’ve all inherited.

Christine Evans is an assistant professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

February 14, 2015

Grassroots Organizing Against Walker Budget Attacks

Filed under: Scott Walker,Wisc Budget Bill — millerlf @ 8:43 am

On February 7th, hundreds of Milwaukee parents, teachers, students and activists met at MATC to begin a grassroots campaign to oppose Governor Scott Walker’s proposed disastrous budget.
Their first action is to hold a march and rally in Wauwatosa on Monday February 16th. The coalition is meeting at Juneau Play Field (64th Street just south of Bluemound) before marching to Governor Scott Walker’s Wauwatosa residence.

Following is the presentation given by Bob Peterson at the MATC event.


Choose Hope Over Despair – Fighting Gov. Walker’s Attack on All Things Public
Remarks by Bob Peterson at the Save Our Schools Community Strategy Session
MATC • Milwaukee, Wisconsin February 7, 2015
Why are we here? We are here our children, our grandchildren, and our entire community. We are also here for the people have gone before us, those who fought for the rights that are now being threatened by the know-nothings that run our state government.
We know the public schools needs to improve, as do most social services in our community. That’s why several of our workshops today will examine how to improve our public schools while we fight to defend them.
But we also know that when governors cut budgets, when companies move family sustaining jobs out of our community and when business leaders and politicians ignore the glaring racial and economic inequalities, it’s time to organize and to stand up for what is moral and just.
We did that in 2009 when a Democratic Governor and Mayor proposed that Milwaukee’s democratically elected school board be replaced by one appointed by the mayor. Wendell Harris of the NAACP and I co-chaired the Coalition to Stop the MPS Takeover and together, with many people and other leaders, we stopped that sorry attempt to disenfranchise our community.
But those who oppose democracy and justice do not rest. Backed by the wealth of the Walton’s, Koch brothers, and the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce they managed to pass a voter ID law that would have disenfranchised hundreds of thousands had it not been the legal work of the ACLU, the NAACP and others.
In 2013 the MMAC and Republicans talked about a New Orleans style recovery zone for the Milwaukee Public Schools – in which dozens of public schools would be taken over by private operators unaccountable to any elected body. We restarted the Coalition to Stop the MPS Takeover and again, with many others, pushed back. The idea was shelved and anti-public school legislation like SB 286 was blocked.
The coalition to stop the takeover, however, didn’t want to always be viewed as on the defensive and only against things. So we changed our name to Schools and Communities United. Last May 17th over 500 people commemorated the 60th anniversary of the Brown v. Board school desegregation decision. We did so by publishing the booklet “Fulfill the Promise: The Schools and Communities Our Children Deserve” that’s in your pocket folder. It’s main message: our children deserve both high quality public schools and revitalized neighborhoods. You can’t have one without the other.
And notice I said public schools. The Milwaukee Public Schools are the only institution in the city that has the commitment, capacity and legal obligation to serve ALL children.
Schools and Community United continues today – promoting community school model – which you’ll hear more about shortly – and organizing against privately-run charter schools that don’t serve all kids. Currently we’re campaigning to convince the City Council that it should hold the schools it charters more accountable, and we’re having impact – but we need your help, which will be explained later in the program.
But today we face one of the greatest challenges of our lifetime. We have a governor who is set on destroying the public sector to benefit the wealthy few. If it’s public Walker and the 1% want it defunded and turned over to private operators — whether it’s our public university, our public schools, public radio, public TV, public transportation, public sector unions, or our public natural resources.
Unfortunately many in the state legislature have the same attitude.
A key ingredient in Walker’s success so far has been to play the race card, saying he didn’t want Wisconsin to become like Milwaukee. Too many white working people voted their prejudice instead of their class interests. And because of that we are in one hell of a mess. And it’s a national mess, with Wisconsin and Milwaukee at ground zero.
Some friends throw up their hands and say, but what can we do? The forces of evil are too powerful and too wealthy.
I acknowledge that these are very difficult times and short term, it’s bleak. To those who say it is hopeless and use such pessimism to rationalize their own inaction, I say look at our history. I ask, would confronting Walker and reinvigorating public life in our country take more effort than that exerted by the abolitionist movement as they successfully fought to end the scourge of slavery? Would it take more work than that by the suffrage movement as they successfully fought to win the right for women to vote? Or of the labor movement which won union rights, social security and Medicare. Or of the civil rights movement that won the right to vote and ended de jure segregation?
Yes, I am comparing our current situation to some of the historic challenges that our forefathers and foremothers had to confront. And they fought for justice and succeeded because they had the tenacity and courage to continue in even the darkest of times.
While we are here advocating for educational justice, our struggle will only be successful if we see ourselves as part of a broader social movement including Black Lives Matter, Raise Up 15 for living wage, immigrant rights, the environmental movement and prison.
That’s what we must do now, we must unite in a broad social movement for economic and political democracy and racial and social justice. All those who are under attack – students, women, people of color, parents, undocumented, elderly, the unemployed – must recognize that our future and the future of our children are bound together. Thank you for coming today, continuing our work tomorrow. Let us choose hope over despair and continue to work united for our children and our communities.

Express Milwaukee: Scott Walker Attacks Public Education—Again

Filed under: Scott Walker,Wisc Budget Bill — millerlf @ 8:02 am

UW and K-12 schools get major cuts to fill his $2.2 billion deficit

By Lisa Kaiser Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2015 Shephard Express

It was no surprise that when Gov. Scott Walker unveiled his proposed two-year budget last week he included massive cuts to public education.

The governor famously slashed $1.1 billion from public schools in his first budget, along with implementing tight spending caps that prevented districts from raising property taxes to make up the shortfall and all but eliminating collective bargaining rights for teachers and staff.

But facing a $2.2 billion structural deficit in his next budget as he eyes the White House, Walker topped himself last week. Not only did he syphon off more than $400 million from public schools from K-12 to the university level, but he also attempted to eliminate the Wisconsin Idea and change the University of Wisconsin’s mission to “develop human resources to meet the state’s workforce needs,” a task best handled by our technical colleges.

When the “Walker Idea” was spotted by the Madison-based Center for Media and Democracy, the governor tried to back away from his plan, claiming it was a “drafting error,” a “miscommunication” and not a “big deal” that could be dismissed in a Tweet.

But Walker’s rewriting of the Wisconsin Idea is a big deal, and it’s yet another attempt by the governor to weaken our public schools and devalue education in Wisconsin.

In a speech before the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents on Thursday, UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank explained how devastating the cuts would be. UW-Madison would take a $91 million hit in Walker’s budget, a massive cut that cannot be filled with tuition—Walker is implementing a two-year tuition freeze—or by trimming waste. None of UW-Madison’s peer schools are facing such massive cuts, Blank said, and other schools will poach the university’s talent and prospective students as they flee the state for a more welcoming and financially supportive environment. And that’s a terrible strategy for the state’s long-term economic prospects. Historically, Wisconsin has had one of the finest higher education systems in the U.S.

“With this budget, if you are a really top Wisconsin student you might be looking a little harder at some of the other really top schools elsewhere in the country,” Blank told the regents. “And you all know that it’s just harder to bring really top talent back once they’ve left the state.”

State Superintendent Ignored

But Walker’s $300 million cut to the UW System isn’t the only way he’s gutting public education. Although the state’s technical colleges aren’t harmed, K-12 public schools also face an impactful $127 million cut on top of $834 million cut Walker imposed in his first budget.

It didn’t have to be this way, though.

Last fall, state Superintendent Tony Evers unveiled his proposed budget for 2015-2017, the highlight of which is the Fair Funding for Our Future plan meant to address the state’s broken and highly complex schools funding formula. Evers wanted to help out districts with high property value but not high incomes, districts that receive reduced state aid because they look wealthy. He also wanted to guarantee that each student receives $3,000 in state aid and eventually get the state to recommit to funding two-thirds of a per pupil cost, a promise that fell apart about a decade ago.

Redistributing state aid under the Fair Funding plan would reduce property tax burden at the local level, Evers says, and boost state aid for 95% of the 424 districts around the state. Evers also wanted to address support for English-language learning, rural districts and class size through the SAGE program.

Although Evers is a constitutional, independently elected officer who is the state’s education chief, very little of his proposal ended up in Walker’s budget.

Instead of fixing the funding formula, Walker is keeping general state aid flat next year. He’s also eliminating $127 million of what’s known as categorical aids, targeted funds for specific programs such as SAGE; science technology, engineering and math (STEM) programming; school breakfast; special education aid and more. He’s even doing away with the Chapter 220 program in Milwaukee, an important voluntary integration program that allows MPS’s ethnic and racial minority students to attend predominantly white suburban schools and white suburban students to attend MPS schools.

The categorical cuts will be restored in the second year of Walker’s budget, but over the course of the two years schools will lose $135 in state aid per pupil.

“I think it’s a huge shift away from the state’s long-term, long and proud commitment of investing in education at all levels,” said Jon Peacock, research director for Wisconsin Council on Children and Families. “It’s going to severely compound the fiscal challenges for schools that began with the governor’s first budget.”

Superintendent Evers blasted Walker’s education budget in a statement last week, saying it “advances a political agenda based on an ideological checklist.”

“It does not increase investments in local public schools,” Evers said in his statement. “This budget sets Wisconsin on the path to delivering a legacy of less for hundreds of thousands of public school kids in local revenue limit authority and state aid.”

Michael Bonds, president of the Milwaukee Public Schools board, said MPS will lose $12 million in the next academic year. But its cost to continue operating next year is an additional $11 million. So MPS will find itself with a $23 million hole in the fall. That’s on top of the $84 million in lost aid MPS had to cope with in Walker’s first budget.

“It’s untenable,” Bonds told the Shepherd. “We keep cutting and cutting but at some point there won’t be anything left to cut.”

He said that Act 10, Walker’s signature piece of union-busting legislation, did help the district cut its unfunded liabilities and expenses. But the governor’s constant cuts to classroom funds, stringent revenue caps, continual changes in education policies and state support for voucher and charter schools have challenged the district to do more with less. He said that Walker backed off a proposal to impose sanctions on and create a recovery district for “failing” schools, but that idea is still popular among legislative Republicans, including state Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills).

“It’s been a mixed bag,” Bonds said of Walker’s education policies.

But Milwaukee isn’t alone. Even suburban, wealthier districts would be harmed by Walker’s budget. Cheryl Maranto, a member of the Whitefish Bay School Board, said that the district will lose an estimated $411,000 of its $30 million operating budget. She said the district, like all districts around the state, is running about as lean as it possibly can, thanks to almost two decades of revenue caps and Act 10’s massive cuts.

“Even flat funding, no increase, would have been a challenge,” Maranto told the Shepherd. “Unfortunately, the governor can’t require our utilities and our vendors to not increase their prices.”

She said she was especially dismayed by the termination of the Chapter 220 program. Whitefish Bay was a major participant in the program to increase the number of minority students in the district.

“Our schools are enriched by the diversity,” Maranto said.

Support for Privatization Schemes

Although Walker is chipping away at public schools to cover his own budget hole, he still managed to find money to expand charter and voucher schools—and let them get away with little oversight.

Walker has proposed to lift the cap on voucher schools, meaning that additional students from moderate- and low-income families can attend private schools at the state taxpayers’ expense. Walker doesn’t indicate how many students will take advantage of the offer, but he did allocate an extra $17 million for the expanded program in the next two years. He’s also loosened up voucher school accountability requirements that were set to kick in this year. Instead of providing parents with a way to make apples-to-apples comparisons between public and other types of schools, Walker’s plan would simply make it more confusing.

Walker has been a staunch and steady supporter of vouchers throughout his career. And it’s no wonder why: Out-of-state voucher advocates such as the Walmart heirs and the DeVos family are listed among his consistent, high-dollar donors and the movement in Wisconsin uses former Republican legislative leaders Scott Jensen, Jeff Fitzgerald and John Gard as lobbyists. According to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, voucher advocates ponied up $2.4 million to support Walker directly and with independent expenditures since 2009.

The governor has also revived the idea of establishing a state-level charter school oversight board, which would consist of Evers and two of his appointees as well as gubernatorial and legislative leaders’ appointees, so it likely will be dominated by conservative anti-public education members. The unelected board, flush with $4 million in state funding, would be able to sign up new charter schools around the state. Walker and others have floated this idea in the past, but nothing has been implemented at the state level.

In addition to promoting vouchers and charters, Walker is doing away with important accountability measures. He wants to change state report cards and testing requirements and issue teachers licenses to those who lack a degree in education but have earned a bachelors’ degree. Walker’s stance on Common Core-aligned standards and testing is something that he’s waffled on in the past. Now, as he runs for president, he’s attacking them in his budget, perhaps because reputed GOP frontrunner Jeb Bush is a staunch Common Core advocate.

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