The lines have been drawn. The time is now to stand up for public schools!
On Thursday, April 21, 2016, Demond Means laid out plans to the MPS administration and School Board to begin the initial phases of the MPS Takeover. Means has been appointed by County Executive Chris Abele as the Commissioner in charge of the Takeover plan orchestrated by suburban Republican legislators.
From the very beginning, the Takeover legislation spelled bad news for MPS schools. Modeled after failed attempts in other cities to create “Recovery” districts, the Takeover plan gives Means the authority to strip control of our schools from the publicly elected School Board.
Means’ plan flies in the face of promises made by the County Executive earlier this year, when Abele said he would take over no more than one empty building.
5 Ways the Means/Abele Takeover Plan Undermines your Milwaukee Public School
There are numerous ways his plan undermines Milwaukee Public Schools.
- Threatens the Authority of Your Democratically Elected Public School Board
Means sent a strong message that he is ready to use his powers granted to him in takeover legislation to select an operator without any oversight or input from the Advisory Council, MPS, or the democratically elected Milwaukee Board of School Directors. The current plan gives the school board “input” instead of control and limits the Board’s statutory powers. Language in the plan defines MPS as an “active partner” instead of the governing authority.
- Creates False Promises
The plan puts forward a distorted version of the community schools model, that does not follow the 6 core tenets of the community school model. Means’ plan cheapens the community schools model by offering a counterfeit that is not research based and could be facilitated by a private religious group instead of the only organization in Milwaukee that has already stepped up to implement the Community School Model, the United Way. The United Way acts as a Community Schools backbone partner in many cities across the nation. In order for community schools to provide the positive results that six million students are already benefiting from these core tenets must be implemented with full fidelity. Our students deserve no less.
- Reinforces Inequality
Data show that privately run charter schools serve significantly fewer students with special needs, English language learners and more difficult to educate students. Students are counseled out and pushed back into public schools. The new Takeover proposal seeks to sift and winnow schools through a process to find those with more resources, partnerships, or active programs. Once operational, this plan includes creating school admission requirements and discipline procedures not governed by the MPS School Board. These actions all create an uneven playing field that will continue to draw resources from MPS and create schools that are unwelcoming to all of Milwaukee’s children.
- Starves Milwaukee Public Schools of Needed Resources
The plan is unfunded and burdens the district by forcing MPS to reallocate already limited MPS staff and resources to support a new, unaccountable, parallel, school system. Under the Takeover plan, MPS will be responsible for carrying out and funding all payroll functions for schools they have no control over. In addition, MPS will be responsible for conducting and paying for all human capital functions including, staffing, background checks, benefits, pre-placement physicals, and more.
Time and time again, Means has mentioned that there is no dedicated source of funding for this Takeover district; claiming he will rely on philanthropic donations. As Milwaukee children continue to be the victims of failed privatization experiments, it is absurd to ask any parent to place their child into a school that has no budget or funding. True public Community Schools need a consistent funding source and should not be subject to the whims of philanthropic donations.
- Exacerbates Milwaukee’s Teacher Shortage
School takeovers in other parts of the country eliminate good jobs that can attract and retain a highly qualified workforce. A recent report, found that nearly half of all Wisconsin teachers that have left their school districts have been from Milwaukee.
It is no accident that this plan will not only starve Milwaukee Public Schools of resources, but it will decrease the pool of highly trained, qualified educators who will choose to teach in the district. This is a coordinated attack to further disrupt public schools and take away local control.
This plan undermines Milwaukee Public Schools and destabilizes our community. Means’ Takeover proposal is a vicious attack on Milwaukee Public Schools.
We will never stop fighting for our students until we have secured fully resourced public schools that educate all children. We will continue to organize with families, students, and communities to resist this assault on public education.