It’s time to hold the city’s charter schools accountable

Gail Hicks and Marva Herndon from Women for an Informed Community present a portion of Schools & Communities United's findings on 4 City charter schools to the Steering & Rules Committee

Gail Hicks and Marva Herndon from Women for an Informed Community present a portion of Schools & Communities United’s findings on 4 City charter schools to the Steering & Rules Committee

 

“If Republican lawmakers think that charter schools are an effective vehicle to increase student performance while providing public transparency, they should take another look at the city of Milwaukee’s experience with its 10 charter schools.”

Shepherd Express

 

Thanks to the work of a broad community coalition, Schools and Communities United (SCU), the Milwaukee Common Council’s Steering and Rules Committee has a much more honest view of what their city charter schools currently look like; and it doesn’t look good. The committee has been left in the dark on some serious red flags that were not provided by the city’s current oversight body (the Charter School Review Committee), or the independent consultant the committee relies on for information (the Children’s Research Center). At a recent Steering and Rules Committee meeting, SCU presented information on four schools and submitted research briefs to the S&R Committee. The coalition is making three demands of S&R Committee members:

  1. Fix the broken charter school oversight process:
  2. A moratorium on any future City charter schools, regardless of where they are in the approval process.
  3. Revoke the charters of four schools: Milwaukee Math & Science, Milwaukee Collegiate Academy, Northpoint Lighthouse Academy, and King’s Academy.

 

Here are summaries of the briefs on the four schools of concern (click on the school’s name for the full report on the school)

Milwaukee Math & Science Academy 

 

In June 2014, FBI agents raided 19 of its schools in Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. In July, the corporate headquarters in Illinois was raided. An FBI statement said they were part of “an ongoing white collar crime investigation.” Also in July 2014, the Ohio Department of Education began an investigation into alleged “attendance rate falsification and test tampering” at a Concept Schools facility. Other investigations concern its use of H1-B visas (Visas made available for workers in areas of high need) to bring teachers from Turkey when there is a supply of local teachers.

 

Milwaukee Collegiate Academy

 

Milwaukee Collegiate Academy is in its 11th year of operation, first as a private voucher school and now a Milwaukee City charter. In both 2011-12 and 2012-13, the school expelled 11% of its students. In 2013-14 it expelled 16% of its students. That’s 5 times more expulsions than any other City-chartered school and 10 times more than Milwaukee Public Schools high schools. Its suspension rate was 56% in 2011-12 and 42% in 2012-13, higher than any other City charter school or MPS high school.

 

Northpoint Lighthouse Academy

 

North Point Lighthouse Academy is a Milwaukee city charter school run outside the control of the local school board. It is located in a former steel fabrication plant amid industrial and commercial properties and has an electricity tower and a transformer in back. In 2012-13, the school paid a $111,378 management fee to its parent, Lighthouse Academies as “pay down with interest” on prior funding.

 

King’s Academy

 

King’s Academy is in its 5th year as a City charter; before that it was a private religious voucher school for 11 years. In December 2014, the City’s Charter School Review Committee recommended putting King’s Academy on probation, because of poor academic performance and high turnover in staff and administration. In its 16th year as a school, it “hasn’t risen to the level one might expect” (Review Committee member) and has experienced extremely high teacher turnover.

 

Please call the alderpersons on the Steering & Rules Committee and demand they hold these charter schools accountable and follow through on these three demands:

 

1. Fix the broken charter school oversight process:

2. A moratorium on any future City charter schools, regardless of where they are in the approval process.

3. Revoke the charters of the Milwaukee Math & Science, Milwaukee Collegiate Academy, Northpoint Lighthouse Academy, and King’s Academy.

 

Ashanti Hamilton 1st district: Phone: (414) 286-2228

ahamil@milwaukee.gov

Joe Davis Sr. 2nd district: Phone: (414) 286-2221

jldavis@milwaukee.gov

Nik Kovac 3rd district: Phone: (414) 286-2221

nkovac@milwaukee.gov

Robert J. Bauman 4th district: Phone: Phone: (414) 286-2221,
 rjbauma@milwaukee.gov

Jim Bohl 5th district: Phone: (414) 286-3870
, jbohl@milwaukee.gov

Michael J. Murphy 10th district (Chairman): Phone: (414) 286-2221, 
mmurph@milwaukee.gov

Terry Witkowski 13th district: Phone: (414) 286-8537
, twitko@milwaukee.gov

Tony Zielinski 14th district: Phone: (414) 286-3769
, tzieli@milwaukee.gov

Celebrating the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

writing contest winners

Students, families and educators gathered at the Marcus Center for the Performing arts yesterday to celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and to honor the winners of this year’s Dr. King writing, speech and art contests. The theme of this year’s contest: “We have a great deal of positive work to do.”

Click for a photo gallery of the event; click here to watch powerful speeches by first-place winners Terynn Erby-Walker, a student at Alcott who won the 3-4th grade division, and Marissa Robertson, a student at Milwaukee High School of the Arts who won the 11-12th grade division.

About 4,100 students entered the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Writing Contest this year, with an additional 600 students entering the speech and art contests. The writing contest is co-sponsored by MTEA and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. All students and teachers who participated in the writing contest also received a certificate and button from MTEA last week at school.

The winning writing contest entries were published in a special section of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Sunday, January 18. They will be available online soon at jsonline.com.

2014 Writing Contest Winners:

Grades K-1 (Group project)
Grade 1 room 133, Fairview Elementary, Ms. Michaud

Grades 2-3
1st: Blaise Wood, Trowbridge School, Ms. Desire Tyler, grade 3
2nd: Vincent McMurtry, Underwood Elementary, Ms. Kathy Sicula, grade 3
3rd: Jada Akins, Hi-Mount Community School, Ms. Mary Seewald, grade 3

Grades 4-5
1st: Alexa Hernandez, Hayes Bilingual, Ms. Hayes, grade 4
2nd: Edgardo Carrasquillo, Golda Meir, Ms. Richardson, grade 4
3rd: Jasmine Wright, Elm Creative Arts, Ms. Conrad, grade 4

Grade 6
1st: Aracely Esqueda, Manitoba Elementary, Ms. Bahr, grade 6
2nd: Richard Yang, Hartford University School, Ms. Joyce Peoples, grade 6

Grades 7-8
1st: Layal Khreis, Salam School, Ms. Schauer, grade 8
2nd: Darien Crawford, Golda Meir, Ms. Razaa, grade 8
3rd: Kelaiah Smith, Golda Meir, Ms. Razaa, grade 7

Grades 9-10
1st: Pasua Chang, Hmong American Peace Academy, Ms. Meyer, grade 10
2nd: Noemi Gutierrez-Godoy, Riverside University HS, Ms. Gulbronson, grade 9
3rd: Chachee Lee, Riverside University High School, Ms. Gulbronson, grade 9

Grades 11-12
1st: Marissa Robertson, Milwaukee High School of the Arts, Ms. Katter, grade 11
2nd: Abigail Thompson, Milwaukee High School of the Arts, Ms. Katter, grade 11
3rd: Ufaira Shaik, Salam School, Mr. Jason Then, grade 11

Parents stand up for bilingual public schools

bilingual instituteParents of bilingual MPS students recently attended a Bilingual Education Parent Institute to learn leadership and advocacy skills needed to stand up for bilingual and public education in Wisconsin.

The institute was conducted completely in Spanish and was co-sponsored by Centro Hispano, Wisconsin Association of Bilingual Educators (WIABE), The MTEA Bilingual/ELL Committee, Youth Empowered in the Struggle!, and Schools and Communities United. The institute also received support from Alianza Latina Aplicando Soluciones.

Many of the participants from the Bilingual Education Parent Institute will also attend the February 7th Save Public Schools Strategy Session. Click here for more information and to RSVP.

School privatization fight heats up in Milwaukee

common council hearing

The Milwaukee Common Council’s Steering & Rules Committee received two reports on the city’s charter schools today. One was the official report from the city Charter School Review Committee (CSRC). The other was from a broad community coalition – Schools and Communities United. It made for one of the longest meetings on record and some heated exchanges.

The Milwaukee City government was the first city in the nation to authorize privately-run charter schools. They’ve been criticized for being a financial drain on the public schools and for not enrolling the equivalent percentage of students with special needs and those who are learning English as a second language.

The official report was an update on the ten charter schools the city oversees. Members from Schools and Communities United used the public testimony portion of the hearing to present what they called “new facts” on four of the city’s charter schools identified as struggling.

The coalition Schools and Communities United sent several rounds of speakers to the microphone to present new information on four schools being considered for renewal. They identified several concerns they had with Milwaukee Collegiate Academy, King’s Academy, Milwaukee Math and Science Academy, and Northpoint Lighthouse Academy and had some pretty direct examples highlighting those concerns. Below are the reports outlining their concerns.

The coalition presented all of their new information to the committee, leaving many members visibly surprised by these new facts. The hearing ended with no vote or sanctions being placed upon these four schools, but it seems clear that many Alderpersons have now seen that the city charter school review process is flawed and needs to be scrapped. Our children deserve better!

Watch video of the proceedings here.

Please call the alderpersons on the Steering & Rules Committee and demand they hold these charter schools accountable. Click here for their phone numbers.

Powerful teacher testimony on the Public School Takeover Bill

AB 1 Amy testifying“We don’t have an education problem. We have an economics problem that has caused an education problem.”

There was a common theme at yesterday’s public hearing on Assembly Bill 1, the Public School Takeover bill. The schools that AB 1 targets for takeover have high numbers of students living in poverty. AB 1 does nothing to address poverty or the huge resource disparity it creates for districts and schools in our communities. A true “accountability” bill would recognize and adjust for this truth.

One speaker in particular, MTEA member Amy Mizialko, laid this reality out clearly for committee members late in the hearing Wednesday night. When she was finished, several committee members were in tears.

Watch to see what Amy said. It’s likely that her testimony made some of the Republicans on the committee think twice about what they are proposing.

Students receive free glasses

WI Vision fall 2014 frames WI vision fall 2014 glasses fitting

MTEA, Wisconsin Vision, Prevent Blindness Wisconsin, and Milwaukee Public Schools teamed up again this year to provide vision screening and free eyeglasses to hundreds of students at Brown Street Academy and Auer Avenue School. Students who did not pass vision screenings were seen by Wisconsin Vision’s doctors and had an opportunity to choose from hundreds of fashionable frames. They received their glasses in early December. In addition, all students at both schools received a free book courtesy of First Book and WEAC.

Click to watch a video of the program.