Educate All Students, Support Public Education

September 20, 2015

Some thoughts on Wisconsin’s fight against the right wing: My conversation with Chicago education activist Fred Klonsky

Filed under: Scott Walker — millerlf @ 11:33 am

Fred Klonsky September 17, 2015 (Fred Klonsky Daily posts from a retired public school teacher who is just looking at the data.)

Recently I had the chance to sit down with Milwaukee school board member, Larry Miller, to talk about the lessons he has drawn from the fight against Wisconsin governor Scott Walker.

Tell my readers about yourself.
I taught for 15 years in Milwaukee Public Schools and for 2 years was a principal at a small high school. I ran for the school board of Milwaukee Public Schools and I am now midway in my second 4-year term and serve as vice-president of the board. I am also an editor of Rethinking Schools.

We know about Gov. Walker’s attack on workers, unions and bargaining rights. What are some of the ways it has impacted students in classrooms in Milwaukee?
Walker and the Republican legislature have driven thousands of qualified and dedicated teachers from the profession in Wisconsin. The cuts in funding for public education have been disastrous. Walker cut nearly $1 billion statewide from public education when he first took office. Milwaukee Public Schools lost $80 million with those cuts. Over the past five years, the legislature followed with more cuts to public schools and increased funding to vouchers and private charters. There are presently over 26,000 students receiving private school vouchers in the city of Milwaukee – many of them students at parochial schools who were already enrolled when they began using vouchers.
All of this has meant increased class sizes, reduced resources and expanding stress to the one school system that has the capacity and will to teach all students. For many schools the funding for the arts, physical education, school nurses and librarians is reduced. Our children are suffering.

I was in Madison during the early protest of Walker policies. Some protests had over 150,000 people. What happened to that movement?
The Madison marches in 2011 were in response to Act 10, Walker’s proposed legislation to destroy public sector unions and particularly Wisconsin’s teacher unions, and to demean the teaching profession. He hid his intention to do this when he ran for governor a few months earlier. But the background to that election shows the advantage he’d been given. It was clear in 2009 that the Democratic mayor of Milwaukee, Tom Barrett, was going to run against Walker for governor. So what did Tom Barrett, in alliance with Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle propose?
They attempted to take over Milwaukee Public Schools and replace the elected school board with an appointed superintendent. The Wisconsin legislature at the time was controlled by the Democratic Party.
A grassroots movement in Milwaukee split the Democratic Party and prevented any changes to the governance of Milwaukee Public Schools. So the Democrats entered the first election against Walker divided. The critical Milwaukee electorate had no enthusiasm for the Democratic nominee who had just attempted to take away their right to elect a school board, and who earlier had opposed a highly popular paid sick days initiative.
After Walker won, he introduced Act 10 and the Democratic senators left the state to prevent a quorum in the legislature, the uprising grew, with tens of thousands marching in Madison.
Once the Democratic senators returned, Act 10 was enacted and the movement switched from the streets of Madison to a recall election. Walker was very savvy in focusing on the idea that he was democratically elected and the recall was undemocratic. He ran ads with white workers saying, “I didn’t vote for Gov. Walker but I do not support a recall.” Many voters who opposed his policies bought into this view.
More damaging, the Democrats in the recall ran the same neoliberal, tepid candidate who had divided the electorate going into the first election, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. Also he had no standing to challenge Walker on failure to create jobs.
Throughout the state, opponents of Walker gathered nearly one million signatures. People signed at doorsteps, at shopping centers, at deer hunting stations, at workplaces; it was truly a mass movement. But once the election happened, the movement did not have a cohesive focus.
Many grassroots organizations used the opportunity to expand their work and strengthen their membership. This included groups like Voces de la Frontera, a Latino workers organization, Wisconsin Jobs Now, pro-public education networks, the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association, and many others throughout the state. They grew their base from the recall activities. But there was no statewide apparatus to follow up for the many others who had spoken out.

Larry, from your point of view, what are some of the things that were done right and what things were done wrong in fighting Walker’s agenda?
It became very clear once Walker was re-elected, with full control of the legislature, that organizing was needed both to elect strong candidates in the future and to carry out day-to-day grassroots resistance. This work is continuing throughout the state.
For example, in Milwaukee a coalition has formed called Schools and Community United, made up of 19 organizations, to fight moves against public education and other forms of privatization. They have played a role in resisting the attempt by the Republican legislature to create a New Orleans style recovery school District in Milwaukee. A grassroots coalition stopped an attempt to prohibit a living wage for contract workers in Milwaukee County.
Last year Walker ran for reelection and won by 138,000 votes. Once again the Democrats put forward a moderate and uninspiring candidate. The Democratic candidate for governor did not inspire the base and was unable to make inroads with new voters, even with Walker’s failings exposed.
An important lesson shown throughout the Wisconsin experience is that the Republicans and the status quo they represent are in no way willing to compromise. All they want is everything.
A fight during the legislative session this year was around a “right to work” bill. We needed a new uprising comparable to the one in 2011. Instead some within the construction trades believed that a compromise could be worked out. Their influence held back the labor movement from going all out to oppose this right-wing anti-labor bill. It passed in full.
Compromise with the tea-party Republicans is not an option.

Walker’s poll numbers are way down and his reelection seems improbable. What would it take to undo the damage he has brought to Wisconsin?
Since the 2014 Walker victory, many previous supporters in Wisconsin have turned against the governor. More people have seen the harm from his attacks on public education and his tax cuts for the wealthy. Damage to the environment and the rights of women, refusal to take funds to boost transportation and expand Medicaid, attempts to undermine government transparency, and failure to deliver job creation have helped undermine support for Walker. So has his bumbling performance on the presidential campaign trail.
But defeating Walker as governor and replacing him with a progressive governor won’t be enough to undo the damage. Gerrymandering by the Republican legislature following the 2010 census will make it very difficult to retake the Assembly and the Senate. That can be done only with strong candidates and real organization. It cannot be accomplished by running to the center or to the right to try and appease conservative voters. A movement that calls for real change that serves the needs of the poor and working class in the tradition of Wisconsin progressivism is the only way to reverse this travesty. This means work on the ground, grassroots organizing, must be the backbone of moving forward.
Wisconsin is overwhelmingly white. It voted strongly for Barack Obama both times he ran. If you add up the number of votes for Democrats and Republicans statewide, there are more citizens voting for Democratic candidates than Republicans. But gerrymandering and the tea-party anti-democratic power grabbing policies keep the right-wing in power.
Future organizing has to be able to win over the majority white counties throughout the state to secure a better future. Groups like Working America that know how to go into these communities and move them in a progressive direction must be invited to return to Wisconsin. We also need to energize voters of color, low-wage workers, women, young people – and that requires candidates who stand for a genuinely progressive agenda.
The alliance of labor, communities and social movements must be the backbone for future success.

September 1, 2015

Scott Walker blames Milwaukee Public Schools for Wisconsin’s incarceration rate of African American men

Filed under: Scott Walker — millerlf @ 4:58 pm

Sunday August 30: Chuck Todd, the host of Meet the Press, questioned Walker about Wisconsin having a higher incarceration rate of African-American men than anywhere in the country and ranking last in the country in the overall well-being of black children. Walker then blamed Milwaukee Public schools. See Milwaukee Journal report at:

Milwaukee is the 2nd poorest city in America and the most segregated. For the last 13 years Scott Walker has been directly in a position to reverse poverty and segregation in Milwaukee. Instead both have gotten worse.

As Milwaukee County Executive, starting in 2002, Scott Walker cut jobs, health care, recreation and transportation serving Milwaukee’s African American community. As Governor one of his first acts was to refuse Federal high speed rail funding that would have given Milwaukee’s Black community significant access to suburban and rural jobs. His economic development policies have served Milwaukee’s downtown while leaving poor communities with flat growth.

Scott Walker’s approach of economic deprivation has been accompanied with devastating cuts to public education. In his 1st budget, Walker cut $80 million directly from the MPS budget. This included a $10 million cut from the Math Project, a highly successful program in MPS. These cuts do not include the over $50 million lost by MPS annually to the failed voucher program.

Poverty and racism are the source of Wisconsin’s incarceration rates and the disgraceful well-being of African American children. It is time for Scott Walker to show some fortitude and take responsibility for his role.

August 23, 2015

Donald Trump Has Pulled Back the Curtain on the Republican Party Exposing the Profound Racism Plaguing Their Ranks

Filed under: Immigration,Scott Walker — millerlf @ 12:57 pm

Donald Trump has pulled back the curtain on the Republican Party, showing us the profound racism plaguing their ranks. This is the same once proud party based in abolition and in support of its first presidential candidate, Abraham Lincoln.

Now we see the arrogant Donald Trump leading the charge against babies, U.S. born citizen babies. He uses the racist term “anchor” babies. Who is now standing alongside Trump? Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has joined in the chorus, attacking immigrants and their children. (See Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial 8/23/15 at:Gov. Scott Walker: Wrong again on immigration )

This issue is not a policy discussion. This is an all out ultra-right wing call to round-up immigrants, giving police more power to act in a police-state fashion against Latinos. Trump wants to build a fence and put the Army at the border. He wants to deport 11,000,000 people.

Two men in Boston, motivated by Trump’s message, attacked a homeless Latino man last week. In response, Trump said, “the people that are following me are very passionate.” Trump later said it was “terrible” but the truth had already been revealed. His words encourage racist, KKK-style attacks on immigrants.

Following is section one of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. Trump said that it is “unconstitutional.”
Amendment XIV
Passed by Congress June 13, 1866. Ratified July 9, 1868.
Section 1.
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

August 22, 2015

Howard Fuller attempts to separate himself from Scott Walker while saying he is not “trying to be negative toward Scott Walker”

Filed under: Fuller,Scott Walker — millerlf @ 4:52 pm

Wisconsin State Journal on Scott Walker’s comments saying that Howard Fuller is “to whom he listens when it comes to education policy.” Read at:
The article shows Fuller attempting to separate himself from Walker but saying, “I’m not trying to be negative toward Scott Walker.”

Note the quote from Fuller at the end of the article which states, ““It’s very difficult for me because I come from a family where (public sector) unions were a critical part for my mother and her friends … but when it comes to teachers unions … I’m sort of split.”

At a 2010 KIPP school summit Fuller compared teacher unions and their leaders to Governor George Wallace standing “at the door trying to keep our kids from getting in.”

I guess being “split” is progress.

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:

Click to access Tosa-Family-Letter-0215.pdf

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:

Click to access Wausau-Stakeholders-02.16.15.pdf

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:

Click to access Dane-Cty-Supts.pdf

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

Click to access River-Falls-GOVERNORS-BUDGET-RESOLUTION-2-16-15.pdf

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