Public Education Advocates Flood Milwaukee Joint Finance Committee State Budget Hearing

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Just in case GOP legislators on the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) had forgotten how dramatically their last state budget hurt Milwaukee Public Schools, parents, students, educators, and community members came to the April 5 State Fair public budget hearing to remind them.

Public education supporters arrived early to the Milwaukee JFC hearing from all over Southeastern Wisconsin (Photo: Joe Brusky).

The hearing provided a steady flow of public education supporters who, one-by-one, stepped up to the microphone to testify in support of fair and equitable public schools. The last two-year state budget that passed, not only continued the massive cuts to Wisconsin’s public schools by over $2 billion dollars, but it also snuck in the Midnight Takeover of Milwaukee Public Schools. By inserting the non-fiscal Takeover plan into an Omnibus state budget bill at the last minute, legislators knew they could pass the controversial provision without holding public hearings. The Takeover was eventually defeated by a popular uprising against it and the sham Takeover Czar it empowered over the city’s democratically elected school board. But, the residents of Milwaukee have not forgotten, nor are they willing to allow it to happen again in the next budget.

Members of the Joint Finance Committee were seated above public hearing attendees and were separated by a yellow barrier fence (Photo: Joe Brusky).

The JFC is mandated to hold hearings around the state, and usually a wide array of issues are spoken to. This year, the one issue that came up again and again was public education. Kilbourn Elementary teacher Shari Redel took a personal day out of the classroom to speak up for her MPS students who currently receive thousands of dollars less in per pupil funding when compared to their suburban school counterparts:

MTEA member and Kilbourn Elementary teacher Shari Redel speaks before the JFC. Every time a public education supporter spoke, other advocates wearing “Go Public” t-shirts stood in support (Photo: Joe Brusky).

As a proud Milwaukee Public School teacher for the past thirty years and as the parent of a child who attends public school in a suburban district, I see firsthand the funding disparities, such as the unequal access to specialist teachers, lack of fully resourced libraries, large class sizes, and even the quality of hot lunch. I love my child very much, but I love my students too. It literally breaks my heart to know that my students are treated as less than because many are impoverished. I am asking you to raise the revenue limits so my students have the same opportunity as my own child.

The funding disparities that Redel speaks of have real consequences as Wedgewood teacher Julie Meyer attested to:

MTEA member and Wedgewood Park teacher Julie Meyer testifies before the JFC (Photo: Joe Brusky).

My principal made the choice to fund a social worker, yet because of that choice I have thirty-nine students in my class. We should not have to make that kind of a choice. We should have well funded public schools so I can address the needs of all my students with a smaller class size and I can have a social worker to address those imminent student needs. I ask you to please maintain the budgeted request for a $200 increase per pupil. Thank you!

MPS parent Jenni Linse Hofschulte registered her outrage over the last few state budgets included many public education killing provisions:

MPS parent Jenni Linse-Hofschulte speaks in favor of fair and equitably funded public schools (Photo: Joe Brusky).

These measures were not measures that were asked for by the constituency and parent and students in our state. In the next budget cycle the voucher scheme cap was expanded, but without accountability, a measure not being asked for by the constituency. In the next budget cycle, voucher accountability, as promised, never arrived and funding for our public schools was not restored, and finally in the cloak of darkness came the gifts of the OSSP otherwise known as the Milwaukee Takeover, a measure that was not being asked for by Milwaukeeans. I could have stood hear and asked for a lot today, but my request is really fundamental, please do not use the budget and Omnibus to strip local control and force measures on our schools. Show my 6 year old that you value and respect our voices, our community, and our public schools.

Another public school parent shared a story of how her desire to find the best education for her child with special needs led her to stumble upon why handing public dollars to private institutions only hurt public school children:

A public school parent and supporter of “Save Our Schools – Wauwatosa” testifies on what she discovered when she inquired about sending her child with special needs to a private school (Photo: Joe Brusky).

By the time Sam was four he finally found the right therapists to begin helping him and they told me to get him a public school evaluation. Prior to making that appointment I had called and toured several private schools to see what kind of services they could provide for Sam and his special needs. Each school’s representative told me they could not accommodate a child with special needs. So I was unsure if a public school could help if a private school couldn’t and I began to worry. I nervously called the Wauwatosa School District…and I was immediately put at ease as they reassured me that Tosa could meet our needs. Sam is now 9 years old, thriving at school, learning from incredible teachers on how to use coping strategies for any frustrations that pop up. This is the power of public school! I ask that you raise the revenue cap, providing $300 per year per student, and pause voucher school expansion until they have the same accountability measures as all publicly funded schools.

Students were also present at the Milwaukee JFC hearing. A group of students from Youth Empowered in the Struggle collectively stepped to the microphone to speak as well:

Youth Empowered in the Struggle (YES) students testify before the JFC on how budget cuts have hurt them and their teachers (Photo: Joe Brusky).

Today, we are here to demand that you fund our schools and stand up to Scott Walker, who already cut state tuition for undocumented students. This makes it harder for us to attend college. Our schools are underfunded and that is not a coincidence. We are Black and Brown working class students who live in impoverished communities. The lack of funding in our schools contributes to the school-to-prison-pipeline. How are we supposed to be productive citizens when you keep taking resources away from us? We are tired of being told their no money for art programs. We are tired of having to share worn down textbooks from the 1980s. Our teachers should not have to use their checkbooks to better serve us.

Students, parents, educators, administrators, and community supporters spoke all day long in support of a state budget that respected Milwaukee Public Schools and other public districts in our region. Public education advocates kept tally of speakers throughout the day. Of the 216 total speakers, an astonishing 73 spoke in favor of a strong public education budget that respected MPS, but will the legislators be listening this time?

Public education advocates set up camp on the State Fair parking lot outside the Milwaukee JFC public hearing, where these posters were hanging for all arriving to see (Photo: Joe Brusky).

 

YES Students Testify Before the Joint Finance Committee from MTEA Union on Vimeo.

YES Students and MTEA Members Collaborate to Win Sanctuary District in Milwaukee

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On March 30, the students of Youth Empowered in the Struggle in Milwaukee, along with a group of MTEA educators, successfully organized and won a Sanctuary District resolution for Milwaukee Public Schools. The resolution was passed unanimously by the Milwaukee school board and proved a major organizing victory. But our work is far from over. Students and educators are now employing similar tactics in Sheboygan and Racine, Wisconsin where they hope to win the same policy for students there.

How did YES students, allied with MTEA members, win in Milwaukee? YES students and supportive MTEA educators formed an Education Task Force Committee to help spur success. The committee met weekly to collaborate and develop petition language as well as a plan to win support. MTEA leadership also met with select school board members to develop resolution language that protected students and engaged district staff in the policy. The Education Task Force of students and MTEA members backed that work up by composing the petition below to help build support for the resolution and to mobilize other students and educators to action.

 

Education Task Force Committee members circulated the petition before and after school to parents, educators, and community members to build a list of supporters. YES students attended MTEA’s March Representative Assembly meeting to share personal stories with union leaders on why the resolution was important. Leaders immediately passed a resolution supporting the work of the committee with a pledge of greater commitment to helping make it happen.

YES students and members of the Education Task Force speak to the MTEA Representative Assembly to build support for the Sanctuary District resolution (Photo: Joe Brusky).

YES students reached out to each school board member and invited him or her to Voces de la Frontera, where the students shared stories of what life was like for undocumented students in school.

YES students invited School Board President Mark Sain and Director Carol Voss to hear their personal stories. After meeting with the students they took this group photo (Photo: YES).

The students used their newly forged connections with MTEA members to attend school staff meetings at select schools, where they again shared powerful and moving testimonials with staff to build wider support.

YES students attended a morning staff meeting at Wedgewood Park School to share personal stories and build support for a Sanctuary District policy (Photo: Joe Brusky).

 

The student and teacher Task Force Committee’s collaboration produced nearly 2,000 signatures in support of the policy. The committee scheduled an “art build” the weekend before the final school board meeting to paint a banner and screen print signs in preparation for a short rally before the board meeting. They also used the opportunity to phone bank signers of the petition to ensure a packed room for the vote, which is exactly what happened.

The Education Task Force held an Art Build and phone bank to drive supporters to the March 30 rally and school board meeting (Photo: Joe Brusky).

 

 

Education Task Force Paints Sanctuary District Banner from MTEA Union on Vimeo.

The March 30th school board meeting was full to capacity and an additional auxiliary room was opened to handle the swelling attendance. A yes vote was unanimously reached on the resolution.

The entire MPS School Board auditorium was full and an additional room was opened up for those attending in support of the resolution (Photo: Joe Brusky).

MTEA member, Education Task Force member, and South Division teacher Berta Barillas testifies in support of a Sanctuary District (Photo: Joe Brusky).

YES students are now utilizing the same template and plan in Sheboygan and Racine, where they hope to have similar success. Racine Horlick High School junior and YES member, Fernanda Jimenez was present for the March 30th Milwaukee board meeting and is now organizing in Racine:

I went to go see that board meeting where they passed the resolution. It felt loving to be there. All the district members were really there for their students and students felt joyful to be part of that district. That’s what we want to feel here.

YES students in Racine attend a school board meeting to register support for a Sanctuary District policy (Photo: Ricardo Torres).

The Education Task Force Committee crafted the blueprint to bring this policy to other districts around the state and country and they hope their efforts will be duplicated elsewhere.

 

Union educators are taking an active role in supporting students working towards a safe space in their schools. The YES students in Wisconsin are taking the initiative to make sure their fellow classmates are given a safe space to learn. It is imperative for educators to step up and help make sure their voices are heard. We owe it to our students to amplify their voices and guarantee their needs are met.

 

NEA has developed sample resolution and district policy that can be used as a template or guidance for local school districts to create their own Safe Zones resolutions.

 

 

Thanks to the following MTEA members for their efforts on the Education Task Force:

 

Jeanette Arellano (South Division High School)

Berta Barillas (South Division High School) – Video testimony is here.

Joe Brusky (MTEA released organizer)

John Fleissner (Hamilton High School)

Cynthia Frankowiak (Vieau Elementary)

Kenicia McKinney (Parkside School of the Arts) – Video testimony is here.

Julie Meyer (Wedgewood Park)

Henry Leonard (Bethune Academy) – Video testimony is here.

Monica Pallo (Greenfield Bilingual)

Yesenia Saavedra (Wedgewood Park)

Make MPS a real “Sanctuary School District”

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As educators we know that schools should be safe places for ALL students. Yet, under the Trump administration, our students and their families are living with the fear of being torn apart at any moment.
MTEA is joining with our students organized in Youth Empowered in the Struggle to defend against attacks on immigrant communities. We are gathering signatures in support of a school board resolution that would make MPS a sanctuary district.
As a sanctuary district, MPS will not:
• Cooperate with ICE
• Allow ICE on school premises
• Share students’ confidential information.
PetitionA resolution put forth by school board directors Larry Miller and Tatiana Joseph will be before a school board committee on March 23. If it passes committee the resolution will move to the full board meeting for a vote on March 30, so please be prepared to attend this meeting in support.
If  you are interested in circulating a petition in support of the proposed resolution you can download the petition tear off card  or sanctuary petition and return sign copies to the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association office located at 5130 W. Vliet St. or the Voces de la Frontera office located at 1027 S. 5th St.
You can sign a petition in support below:

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MTEA Welcomes Educators at Green Bay Avenue to our Union!

Photo: Joe Brusky

Photo: Joe Brusky

In November, news broke that Universal Academy–a non-instrumentality charter school brought into MPS under former Superintendent Gregory Thornton–was closing 2 of its schools.
MPS converted the campus on N. 8th St. back into Green Bay Avenue, a traditional MPS public school and welcome students and families from both closed universal schools.
Over the next couple of months, nearly 100% of the educators organized at Green Bay Avenue to become members of the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association and have been working tirelessly to improve teaching and learning conditions at their school.
On January 11, 2017 MTEA President Kim Schroeder awarded them with the Sid Hatch Outsanding School Leader award for their advocacy on behalf of MPS students!
Welcome to the MTEA, Green Bay Avenue!
MTEA president Kim Schroeder presents leaders at Green Bay Avenue School with the "Sid Hatch Outstanding Building Leader" award at a recent union representative assembly.

MTEA president Kim Schroeder presents leaders at Green Bay Avenue School with the “Sid Hatch Outstanding Building Leader” award at a recent union representative assembly.

Re-Elect Dr. Tony Evers! | Early voting has begun | Election Captains needed

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a 1Canvassing & Phone Banking
Saturday canvassing and phone banking efforts for WEAC and MTEA endorsed candidates begins Feb. 11 and run through April 1 from at the MTEA office. RSVP at mtea.org/events.

Election Captains Needed!
The MTEA is looking for member volunteers to sign up as “Election Captains” and adopt a list of 20 members to make sure they vote. If you are interested in being a captain, please complete the Election Captain form and email it to Melissa Zombor at zomborm@mtea.weac.org. 

a 2Early Voting has Begun!
Early voting for the 2017 Spring Primary ends on Friday, February 17. Vote early at the City of Milwaukee Election Commission, 200 E Wells Street, Room 501, 8am- 4:30pm, Monday through Friday (no weekends). 

The spring primary will be held Tues., Feb. 21.  


WEAC & MTEA Endorsed Candidates:

WEAC Endorsed State Superintendent
a 3Dr. Tony Evers 
Under Tony Evers leadership of the Department of Public Instruction, Dr. Evers has introduced solid solutions for school funding, promoted public schools for their role in providing opportunities to all children, and opened a larger role for educators and parents in state education decisions. 
MTEA School Board Endorsed Candidates:
MTEA members have voted to endorse the following candidates for the Spring MPS School Board Election. 
  • Annie Woodward for School Board District 4
  • Larry Miller for School Board District 5
  • Tony Baez for School Board District 6
  • Joey Balistreri and Paula Phillips for School Board District 7

To learn more about the WEAC and MTEA recommended candidates, click here.

Additional Resources

To see which district you live in, click here.
To see a sample ballot, click here

MPS Art Teachers Team Up with Local Artists in Support of Public Education

 

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All blog photo taken by Joe Brusky.

Last weekend, over 150 people, screen printed and painted over 600 banners, signs, and posters; all in the name of public education. The Milwaukee Art Build for Public Education took place above Company Brewing in the Riverwest neighborhood over a three-day span beginning February 3.

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A dedicated group of Milwaukee Public School art teachers convened several meetings with local artists to brainstorm and create images and slogans to be used in support of:

  • Closing the MPS Funding Gap that currently puts MPS students thousands of dollars behind their suburban counterparts in per pupil funding.

“Close the MPS Funding Gap” image created by Milwaukee artist Nicolas Lampert created using a photograph taken by Joe Brusky.

“Organize” image created by MPS art teacher John Fleissner.

  • A robust expansion of the public Community Schools model that has already brought seven schools to Milwaukee.

“Schools for Community, Not Profit” image by Milwaukee artist Pete Railand.

"Whose Schools? Our Schools!" banner image by Milwaukee artist Susan Simensky-Bietela.

“Whose Schools? Our Schools!” banner image by Milwaukee artist Susan Simensky-Bietila.

“Public Schools – Heart of the Community” image by John Fleissner.

  • Racial and educational justice for our students and our communities.

“Black Lives Matter” banner designed by Nicolas Lampert using photo taken by Joe Brusky.

  • Democratically controlled and accountable school boards elected by the people of Milwaukee.
Image designed by John Fleissner.

Image designed by John Fleissner.

“Community Schools Build Democracy” image created by Nicolas Lampert.

“Community Schools Build Democracy” banner designed by Nicolas Lampert using photo taken by Joe Brusky.

Check out these photos of the Art Build in action and watch for the pieces created to start showing up in front of a school or in a street near you, especially as debate around the new 2-year Wisconsin state budget heats up.

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A children’s corner was set up during the Art Build.


Thank you to all those who volunteered their time to make this happen. A very special thanks to the following local artists for creating the stunning images used in the Art Build:

Susan Simensky-Bietila

Nicolas Lampert

John Fleissner

Pete Railand

Raoul Deal

Jazzica Jazzner

Thank you to the MPS art teachers on the Art Build Organizing Committee:

Allyson Craft – Clarke Street

Sue Pezanoski-Brown – Fratney Elementary

John Fleissner – Hamilton High School

Liz Kremer – Brown Street

Gina Jorgensen – North Division High School

 

Check out this time lapse video below of one of the 24-foot parachute banners being painted over a span of 8 hours.

Milwaukee Art Build for Public Education Parachute Timelapse from MTEA Union on Vimeo.

National Act 10 will devastate students, educators, and public schools across the nation

 

WalkerTrumpBWFeb. 2, 2017 – Today the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association (MTEA) President Kim Schroeder and Vice President Amy Mizilako released the following statement on Scott Walker’s recent visit to the White House to discuss a national Act 10 law.

Act 10 was and is part of a coordinated national campaign to destroy the public sector, and let unaccountable, corporate interests rule with even more privatization. The students in our state have suffered because of it.

From day one, Scott Walker’s Act 10 sought to undermine educators’ rights in the workplace and created instability for nearly one million public school students across the state.

In Wisconsin, Act 10 was immediately followed by the largest cuts to public education since the Great Depression. A national Act 10 law will devastate students, educators, and public schools across the nation.

Public education and workers’ rights are pillars of our democracy. Post Act 10, Wisconsin continues to experience an alarming crisis of teacher vacancies. Enrollments in Wisconsin’s teacher preparation programs continue to drop.

A national Act 10 law is meant to break the backs of public school students, educators, and our community.

Despite Scott Walker’s Act 10, unions will never stop standing up for the best interests of our students, parents, communities, and educators. The members of the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association are highly motivated and organized. We will continue to fight every single day for the quality public schools every child deserves.

 

Take Action Before Jan. 17 DeVos Nomination Hearing!

Can you call committee members today? 

DeVos-Red-Duotone-Trump-Congress-Education-NomineeOn January 17 at 10:00 am the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee will begin a hearing on the nomination of Betsy DeVos to serve as Secretary of Education. The DeVos agenda would dismantle public education and turn our schools over to private operators. 

For more background on Devos, click here to read President Kim Schroeder’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Op Ed.
It is critical that we join with the Network for Public Education (NPE) and other pro-public education organizations to express our strong concerns regarding her nomination.

Please take the time to call every member prior to the January 17 hearing. Below are committee members, along with their Washington phone number, fax numbers and local phone numbers.

A suggested phone script from the NPE is available below.

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Sample Script: 

My name is xxxx and I am calling to let the Senator know that I would like him/her to oppose the appointment of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education.
DeVos and her family heavily lobbied the Michigan legislature to shield the charter industry from greater oversight. She pushes for-profit charter schools and online schools, which consistently fail the students that they are supposed to serve.
I want my tax dollars to stay in my community to support my public schools. Betsy DeVos is bad for American education. She is unqualified to serve as Secretary of Education.

28 Milwaukee Public Schools Participate in United Way’s “Season of Caring” Program

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Over 3,200 Milwaukee Public School elementary school students at 28 different schools, including Lisa Schmidman’s classroom at Browning Community School, participated in the United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County‘s volunteer project, “Season of Caring.”

The volunteer project consisted of a one-hour classroom activity. The goal for this event is to educate children about the importance of caring for and sharing with others, both inside and outside the classroom through a literacy lesson and hands-on-activity. The program also engages students in an age appropriate reading and story comprehension activity to help inspire interactive conversation about the related topics; and to offer students an easy but meaningful volunteer activity that they can complete inside the classroom.

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United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County is supplying a book for the children that highlights the importance of caring and sharing. The book will be read aloud by the teachers with a corresponding activity that highlights the key messages of caring and sharing. Students will then complete a volunteer activity – making and coloring birthday cards, get-well cards, and meal program placements, which will be distributed to United Way’s local agency partners.

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Schroeder: Betsy DeVos’ dark money connections and the dismantling of democracy

President-elect Donald J. Trump greets Betsy DeVos, his choice for education secretary, during his “USA Thank You Tour” at the DeltaPlex in Walker, Mich., on Dec. 9. (Photo: Associated Press)

President-elect Donald J. Trump greets Betsy DeVos, his choice for education secretary, during his “USA Thank You Tour” at the DeltaPlex in Walker, Mich., on Dec. 9.
(Photo: Associated Press)

By MTEA President, Kim Schroeder
December 15, 2016 | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Mark Twain said, “We believe that out of the public school grows the greatness of a nation.”

Public schools are a fundamental piece of American democracy, with 91% of all American students attending public schools. They remain the only educational institutions with the capacity, commitment and legal obligation to educate all students. Defunding our public schools would be a threat to the quality of life and well-being of children in every Zip code.

But now, this most cherished of American democratic institutions is facing its greatest threat with the appointment by president-elect Donald Trump of billionaire Betsy DeVos as education secretary. DeVos, a longstanding member of the GOP corporate elite, is known for some of the most aggressive failed free-market experiments seen in America’s public schools.

DeVos’ track record speaks clearly. If she is confirmed by the Senate, students who attend public elementary and secondary schools will see billions of dollars siphoned from their public schools into unaccountable private vouchers and charters.

Some Trump backers claim that they wanted to shake up the establishment, but DeVos comes from a family of well-financed billionaires tightly woven into the Republican, corporate-dominated political machine. They have helped fund every Republic presidential candidate for the last 50 years and are deeply embedded in the world of dark money groups such as Americans for Prosperity, ALEC, and Blackwater.

Betsy DeVos was one of the key players who pushed for Michigan’s charter school law, which passed in 1993. The disaster of Detroit’s private charter system is her legacy.

Nearly $1 billion of public dollars are siphoned away from Michigan public schools every year. According to the New York Times, “over the past five years, divisive politics and educational ideology and a scramble for money have combined to produce a public education fiasco that is perhaps unparalleled in the United States.” For-profit companies operate over 80% of Detroit’s charters, more than in any other state.

Critics may say that not all charter schools are bad, which may be true. But only a small percentage of private charters outperform traditional public schools. And private schools serve fewer English-language learners and children with special needs; expel a disproportionate number of minority students; and, even though they are funded with public dollars, are not held to the same legal standards as public schools. We should not consider funding these schools with public dollars unless they are held to the same standards as public schools.

The Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association represents the educators who work with the children and families of Milwaukee Public Schools. We cannot stand by as the private school profiteers cheer, waiting for DeVos to funnel every last dollar from our public schools into their bank accounts — without any strings attached. This single cabinet appointment could undo decades of advances in public education set up to protect the educational rights of every child in this nation.

To view the original article, click here.