Spotlight on Locals: Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association

MTEA Vice President Amy Mizialko (left) and MTEA President Kim Schroeder (right) stand with WEAC Vice President Peggy Wirtz-Olsen as she presents the MTEA with the WEAC Strong Local Affiliate Recognition Certificate.

By Peggy Wirtz-Olsen, WEAC Vice President

Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association President Kim Schroeder told me that strength of the MTEA comes down to two things: “member involvement and members who are ready to act.”

“Our members understand that the union is them,” Kim said.

This was demonstrated clearly this spring as the MTEA asked members to join together in opposition to budget cuts in the Milwaukee Public Schools. Members and supporters turned out in large numbers at school board meetings and to picket in front of the Milwaukee Public Schools Administration building.

Amy Mizialko, Vice President of the MTEA, echoed Kim’s sentiment as she said, “We are constantly pushing and asking our members to do more. We have decided, in this environment, we never give up on each other or on our profession, and we will not quit on our students.”

Ultimately, this approach was successful in creating a budget that put the needs of students and educators first.

I asked these leaders about MTEA success stories, and Kim said, “Our beating back of the MPS school takeover after it passed into law was one of our successes. It was our members at each building who stood up and said, ‘You’re not taking my building.’  The communities surrounding these schools stood against the takeover and, ultimately, the number of schools taken over in MPS was zero. This victory showed our members, the community, and our parents that when we stand up, we can win.”

Amy said, “Wisconsin educators are writing labor history. Scott Walker doesn’t write the last chapter. We write the last chapter with our parents, our students, our members, and our community.”

Amy shared another victory which happened a year ago when the Milwaukee Public Schools became a sanctuary school district for undocumented students and their families. She said, “It was a proud moment when the MTEA, MPS administration, and the school board declared solidarity with our undocumented students and their families after hearing over two and a half hours of student testimony.”

When I asked about their advice to leaders who are struggling, Kim pointed out, “There are activists in every local and every building. You have to find them and help them to build a team. As a local president, you can’t do it alone. You also can’t be afraid to fail sometimes. Everything that we try doesn’t work, but we learn from it and move on.”

In Milwaukee, there are 137 buildings, and the MTEA is working to locate activists in every building and train them to be leaders in their local. “We are the only organization in this city fighting for the public schools that all of our students deserve,” Kim said.

Amy’s advice: “The MTEA never fights and wins alone. When we fight and win, it is with our local coalition of Schools and Communities United who has grown to become a mighty force in Milwaukee.”

The MTEA has worked closely with many community groups and community partners on behalf of students and families. These partnerships have helped them to create powerful coalitions and, as Amy said, “United, we fight and win.”

Read all of Peggy’s ‘Spotlight On Locals’ columns at weac.org/Spotlight.

Article focusing on Arena, Wisconsin, examines the deep challenges and heartbreak faced by rural schools and communities

A New York Times article focusing on the closing this week of Arena Community Elementary School in the River Valley School District examines the heartbreak felt by students, parents and the community as they lose not only their school but the centerpiece of their community.

“After classes let out last Monday, the school was shuttered permanently by the River Valley School District, whose administrators say that unforgiving budgets, a dearth of students and an aging population have made it impossible to keep the school open. For the first time since the 1800s, the village of Arena has no school,” the article states.

It is a scene being played out in rural Wisconsin and small towns throughout the nation.

“Officials in aging communities with stretched budgets are closing small schools and busing children to larger towns. People worry about losing not just their schools but their town’s future — that the closing will prompt the remaining residents and businesses to drift away and leave the place a ghost town.”

Read the entire article:

School’s Closed in Wisconsin. Forever.

ARENA, Wis. – Ten-year-old Lola Roske grabbed her backpack and headed to elementary school for the last day of class, the final check on her to-do list before the unstructured bliss of summer. At drop-off, her mother, Kellie Roske, was determined not to linger. All around her, parents were hugging their children.

Democrat Caleb Frostman wins Senate District 1 seat

Caleb Frostman

WEAC-recommended candidate Caleb Frostman won election to Senate District 1 in a special election Tuesday. His victory attracted national attention because Frostman, a Democrat, won in a district that went for Donald Trump by more than 17 points two years ago and for Scott Walker by 23 points in 2014. The district has been held by Republicans for over 40 years. Frostman will replace Republican Frank Lasee who resigned to take a job in the Walker administration. Frostman’s victory reduces the Republican majority in the Senate to 18-15. In recommending Frostman, of Sturgeon Bay, WEAC noted that he:

  • Supports investments in our public schools and technical colleges.
  • Advocates for affordable healthcare and childcare for Wisconsin workers.
  • Is a product of Wisconsin’s public schools and universities.
  • Is former Executive Director of the Door County Economic Development Corporation, with experience in commercial real estate finance.

WEAC-recommended candidate Ann Groves Lloyd of Lodi lost in her bid for the Assembly District 42 seat in the June 12 special election. Because both these were special elections, the seats will be up for election again in November.

Northeast Wisconsin Technical College ESS Local wins recertification election, second time around

A new recertification election has proven successful for the Northeast Wisconsin Technical College Educational Support Specialists Local. The initial recertification election in April failed by 2 votes. However, the unit experienced voting difficulties in the first 24 hours of the voting period April 5-6. All of the Social Security numbers were incorrectly entered into the AAA database, but were corrected on the second day of voting. However, some people who reported having difficulty subsequently did not log in to vote. The union challenged the outcome and a new voting period was approved. The new election for the Northeast Wisconsin Technical College Educational Support Specialists Local was held May 18 – June 7, and this time certification was easily approved, with 125 yes votes of 187 eligible voters. Congratulations, NWTC Educational Support Specialists! This means 18 of the 19 WTCS recertification elections this spring were successful! Read more.

Spotlight on Locals: Dodgeville Education Association

WEAC Vice President Peggy Wirtz-Olsen (right) presents the WEAC Strong Local Affiliate Certificate to Dodgeville Education Association’s Leadership Team (left to right), DEA Treasurer Joan Davis, DEA Communication Lead Joe Stodola, DEA President Dennis Baumann (Center), DEA Chief Negotiator Jeff Bradley. DEA Leadership Team Members Gerri Jumbeck and Erin Bavery were unavailable for the photo.

By Peggy Wirtz-Olsen, WEAC Vice President

When asked what makes the Dodgeville Education Association strong, the answer was clear — relationships. DEA President and 5th grade teacher Dennis Baumann said, “We have a strong relationship with the school board and members of the administration. We can talk to them and move on issues through casual conversation. Our relationship was built over years.”

Dodgeville EA Treasurer Joan Davis credits the local’s success with working collaboratively with their pro-education and pro-educator school board. “There’s a small town part of this,” she said. “We know each other, we talk with one another outside of school, and school board members ask us for our input.”

She went on to say, “Having fair, reasonable, and intelligent people making decisions on behalf of your students and colleagues is so helpful.”

“We know that our colleagues value the work that the DEA does, and we are working to get them to join us,” she added. Last fall, the Dodgeville Education Association recruited six new members by asking and engaging them at a new teacher event, and they are planning to continue this approach.

Additionally, the DEA has focused on increasing its visibility. The DEA created local polo shirts this year available for all as a part of fundraising efforts for the local scholarship, which provides funding for one graduating senior who is entering college and planning to study education. The DEA is a part of the community, participating in the roadside clean-up every year, and Dennis wants the community to recognize the DEA as the education association that continues to give back.

Other strengths of the Dodgeville Education Association include the leadership team approach to the local association. Joe Stodola, who serves as a co-chair in member communication, said, “We delegate responsibilities, and we each serve our roles well. That means that we work to put our leaders into the right places by assessing their skills and strengths, and then having them work to those strengths.”

Finally, the Dodgeville Education Association leaders credited some of their success in recruiting new hires to their members who were involved in the university chapters of the Aspiring Educators of Wisconsin. Joan said, “These young leaders have helped us to redefine what it means to be a member in a local association.” And, recruiting has been a challenge for the DEA, as DEA Chief Negotiator Jeff Bradley pointed out, because, “We’ve been hurt by the free agency approach to education. As a rural district, we can’t keep teachers.”

The DEA continues to work on this issue with members of the school board and administration, but hopes that solutions can come at the state level. Despite challenges, which are common struggles across Wisconsin, the Dodgeville Education Association is making steady progress by redefining itself and reaching out to a new generation of educators.

“We do the work (of the association) because of our passion for the profession,” Joan said. “We believe in educators.”

Read all of Peggy’s ‘Spotlight On Locals’ columns at weac.org/Spotlight.

Use intrinsic motivation, not gimmicks or rewards, to inspire students, Wisconsin’s 2017 Teacher of the Year writes

Chris Gleason

Using gimmicks or rewards to get students to study or perform tasks can backfire by damaging their “innate intrinsic motivation,” Sun Prairie music teacher Chris Gleason writes in a new Teacher Leader Voices blog posted this week at EdWeek.org.

“I believe that we need to ‘work with’ kids and not ‘do things to’ them. We need to fan the flames of curiosity in every child and foster their love of learning,” writes the 2017 Wisconsin Teacher of the Year, who is a member of WEAC Region 6. “Educators, let us use research, not gimmicks, to inspire our students. Inspire students using autonomy, mastery, and purpose.”

Read the entire blog post on EdWeek.org:

Don’t Use Gimmicks to Motivate Students

My son Miles hopped up on his bed with six of his favorite short stories that he wanted to read before bedtime. He had a voracious appetite for reading and loved asking “what if” questions about the characters in the stories. On this night, however, something changed.

Special education enrollment increasing

Special education enrollment trends upward | News From Around the Web: WEAC

“The number of students receiving special education in the nation’s public schools is on the rise, according to a new federal report. There were 6.7 million kids with disabilities in classrooms across the country during the 2015-2016 school year, accounting for 13.2 percent of all students. That’…

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This article is from disabilityscoop.com and shared (via Scoop.It) on WEAC’s News From Around the Web news roundup page. Click the image above to read more.

Public school supporters call for results at final School Funding Commission hearing

From the Wisconsin Public Education Network

Wisconsin public education supporters united at the Capitol Monday to send a final message to members of the Blue Ribbon Commission on School Funding, which is holding the last of its statewide tour of public hearings in Madison.

“We have attended every single one of these hearings,” said Heather DuBois Bourenane, Executive Director of Wisconsin Public Education Network. “And we have heard superintendents, board members, parents, and teachers say the same thing from one end of the state to the other: Our system of school funding is not working and is not fair.

“We believe every student in every public school in Wisconsin deserves equal access and equal opportunity to receive an equally excellent public education.  The state is not currently meeting this obligation. To do so, our public school districts and community members have made clear their needs for a funding formula that is predictable, sustainable, transparent, and adequate to meet student needs.”

These advocates called on members of the Blue Ribbon Commission to take what they have heard and use it to develop a comprehensive plan — including policy and budget recommendations, and future legislation — to address the funding inequities in the current system.

“We heard so many unique stories around the state,” DuBois Bourenane said, “but clear patterns emerged. We took careful notes and compiled a summary of the main categories of concerns. The bottom line is that the state is not meeting its moral, legal, or constitutional obligation to our children.”

The bulk of public testimony at Blue Ribbon hearings has revealed five main issues of concern for school leaders and community members:

  1. Revenue limits, which vary widely and do not correspond to financial need, are unfair and widen the gaps between “have” and “have not” districts.
  2. The funding formula is broken, overly complicated, and doesn’t do what it’s supposed to. It should be overhauled to adequately meet  the most pressing needs of our students (particularly to address poverty, needs of English language learners and students with special needs, mental health issues, and challenges facing rural schools).
  3. Special education funding is inadequate and must be sufficiently restored. Public schools have a mandate to meet the needs of every child, and local communities should not be responsible for paying the lion’s share of these increasing costs.
  4. Wisconsin’s teacher crisis creates tensions within and between districts, and has resulted in winners and losers as many (and especially rural) districts cannot afford to “compete” with others.
  5. The growing costs of privatization and the lack of taxpayer transparency for publicly funded private schools is problematic and costly for urban and rural schools alike.

Commission member Dr. Julie Underwood, the Susan Engeleiter Prof. of Education Law, Policy & Practice at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, hopes the Commission’s findings will lead to a system where children are treated equitably: “We have heard from the public. We have heard from fiscal experts. We have heard from Wisconsin school administrators. The message is clear; we are falling short on our responsibilities to our children. They deserve better.”

“In the 2011 Budget Repair Bill, schools were cut $1.6 billion.  That cut continues to harm Wisconsin’s children today. The few increases to funding that we have had, have come nowhere near making up for the damage done,” Underwood said.

“In spite of Wisconsin’s history of open and transparent public policy making, school finance is not open and transparent,” Underwood added. “Transparency is threatened by a complexity that makes it difficult — if not impossible — to understand certain programs. For example, the school levy credit looks like a funding path for public education, when in fact it is a program for property tax relief. Another example is when local school districts have to levy additional taxes if they want to make up for the funds which are sent to the private schools under the state’s various voucher programs. We need truth in budgeting.”

“Wisconsin schools are facing dire levels of unmet needs for students with mental health and behavioral health challenges,” said Joanne Juhnke, policy director for Wisconsin Family Ties. “Ten years of frozen special education funding is ten years too many, and our staffing ratios for school social workers and counselors and psychologists are sadly inadequate. Wisconsin will continue to struggle to build the kinds of school-based relationships that lift our children up when the funding is stretched this thin.”

Pecatonica School District Superintendent Jill Underly shared these concerns, and said she worries that rural schools are impacted disproportionately by the current system. “I hope that the Blue Ribbon Commission looks at the innate funding inequities that smaller, rural schools in particular face compared to larger more populated school districts with much higher property values that are able to raise revenue without much taxpayer impact,” Underly said.

“Our students deserve the same quality of instruction, facilities, and programming — the same opportunities — that their peers receive in higher populated areas. On the other end of that, I sympathize a bit with the faster growing districts that cannot fully plan for growth and are cash-strapped. I also empathize with Green Bay and Milwaukee that have a lower value per student member but have higher needs like poverty and English language learners.”

Like many others who have testified at public hearings, Madison teacher Andrew Waity said he worries the combined impact of under-resourcing our public schools while expanding private school tuition subsidies stretches resources to the limit.

“The dysfunctional funding system we have creates inequities across our state and puts unnecessary financial strains on local school budgets and taxpayers,” said Waity, President of Madison Teachers, Inc. “This is compounded by policies and budgets on the state level that have cut funding for schools and diverted substantial amounts of money to non-instrumentality charter schools and private school vouchers.”

“People who understand best the challenges facing our schools have spent the past six months sharing their concerns, and have called on the members of this Commission to produce results. We’re here today to let them know we expect them to deliver,” said DuBois Bourenane. “There is no mystery surrounding what our schools need to succeed; the mystery is why we haven’t provided the resources for them to do so.

Watch the Wisconsin Public Education Network news conference:

See more on the Wisconsin Public Education Network Facebook page.

 

Spotlight on Locals: United Lakewood Educators-Muskego

United Lakewood Educators-Muskego Co-Presidents Anna Wendt (left) and Kathy Humke (right) accept the WEAC Strong Local Affiliate Certificate from WEAC Vice President Peggy Wirtz-Olsen.

By Peggy Wirtz-Olsen, WEAC Vice President

When I sat down with United Lakewood Educators-Muskego Co-Presidents Anna Wendt and Kathy Humke, they told me that their relationship with administration has helped to keep their local association strong. Of her Co-President, Kathy Humke said, “Anna has a gifted way of speaking with our administration where she finds a way to be heard because she is pro-active and works to solve problems.”

During our conversation, Anna told me, “A change in the law has curtailed our ability to negotiate, but we continue to advocate on behalf of our members’ financial needs, and we are clear with the district about inequity and injustice.”

For example, ULE-Muskego organized its membership into action when the district intended to back out of paying educators who had attained their master’s degrees, and they were successful. Anna said, “Our local continues to maintain a clear and amicable relationship with the district administration and school board. We’re not here to cause problems; on behalf of our students and colleagues, we have provided stability and continue to share the rich history. ULE-Muskego has been a level-headed support network and a voice of reason.”

When the Educator Effectiveness evaluation system went into effect, ULE-Muskego worked with the district on implementation and ways to help build plans so as not to be punitive. This spring, they were at the table during conversations about a new building configuration in their school district. Anna said, “We come with good questions, and we offer help and support.” This applies to their work with their members and their work with members of administration and the school board.

As far as advice to other locals, Kathy said, “Surround yourself with people you trust and with whom you can work effectively. And, don’t get isolated — reach out to others in your network. WEAC Region 7 has been a helpful support network for us. They have offered valuable trainings in member recruitment, and given us good ideas for our next steps.”

United Lakewood Educators-Muskego has a history of strength that it is maintaining through its calm and measured approach. Kathy said, “We know that we have the support of so many in our district, as our yearly recertification numbers are between 70 and 80 percent. Our colleagues, members and non-members alike, value what we do.”

Read all of Peggy’s ‘Spotlight On Locals’ columns at weac.org/Spotlight.

Election Watch: WEAC PAC recommends Josh Kaul for Attorney General

The WEAC Political Action Committee is recommending Josh Kaul for Wisconsin Attorney General, and now it’s members’ turn to weigh in on whether they support that. Members can weigh in using WEAC’s online feedback form. The deadline is 5 p.m. Wednesday, June 13.

More Election News:

Friday filing deadline for gubernatorial candidates. Friday is the filing deadline for gubernatorial candidates, and this weekend is the Democratic Convention in Oshkosh. At the same time, Governor Walker dropped the fourth TV ad of his re-election campaign. He’s getting an extra push from the state GOP, which started a digital ad campaign and website called www.dangerousraceleft.com. The candidates who have met requirements to speak at the Democratic Convention are:

  • State schools Superintendent Tony Evers
  • Attorney Matt Flynn
  • Businessman Andy Gronik
  • State firefighters union President Mahlon Mitchell
  • Activist Mike McCabe
  • Former State Representative Kelda Roys
  • Madison Mayor Paul Soglin
  • State Senator Kathleen Vinehout
  • State Representative Dan Wachs
  • Kenosha attorney and activist Josh Pade

While the big 10 are gearing up, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett announced he will not run for governor, putting to rest six weeks of public speculation on whether he would make another bid for the governor’s office.

Special elections June 12 in SD 1 and AD 42. WEAC is recommending Caleb Frostman in the former, and Ann Groves Lloyd in the latter.

Supreme Court Justice Shirley Abrahamson won’t run again. The longtime justice announced Wednesday she’ll pass on another election bid (but fill out her term). A respected Justice and human being who was appointed in 1976 and then rose to chief justice, Abrahamson reflected the promise of separate and equal branches of government in her decisions – never wavering to corporate influence even as those around her crumbled. Appeals Court Judge Brian Hagedorn, who was appointed to the bench by Governor Scott Walker, has indicated interest, along with Court of Appeals Chief Judge Lisa Neubauer.

Banks looks to replace Young. Milwaukee’s Assembly District 16 is up-for-grabs now that Representative Leon Young announced he’s not seeking re-election, and community organizer Rick Banks has filed to run as a Democrat. Supreme Moore Omokunde, son of U.S. Representative Gwen Moore, is also considering a run. Candidates have until next Monday to turn in signatures.

Brooks backs Kurtz. After Ed Brooks announced he’s not running again in AD 50, he decided to be treasurer for Republican Tony Kurtz’s campaign to replace him.

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Mike McCabe Turns in 4,000 Nomination Signatures on Birthday
The State of Politics: Six Questions for Democratic Convention
Dems determined to be ready for WI governor nominee
In WI, do too many Democrats want to be governor?
Senator Baldwin’s new ad
Democratic AG candidate Josh Kaul: Department of Justice needs “new leadership”
Western WI voters have Walker’s attention, but does he have their votes?
WI lawmakers got $164K in travel and perks last year from outside groups
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This is an 11.0101(10)(b)(1) communication with WEAC members.