Educators’ moving testimony highlights the need for career paths

The MPS School Board budget meeting was packed on Thursday night. An additional overflow room was also filled (Photo credit: Joe Brusky).

The MPS School Board budget meeting was packed on Thursday night. An additional overflow room was also filled (Photo credit: Joe Brusky).

There were many interesting twists in last night’s budget hearing at the MPS School Board. When MTEA members started pouring into central office at around 6pm, the auditorium was already partially filled with dozens of principals and administrators who were directed by their supervisors to come to the meeting and speak in support of the administration’s proposed budget. Because of the large number of administrators present, over a hundred MTEA members and supporters were sent to an overflow room to listen to the hearing.




MTEA members’ testimony was interspersed throughout the night with rosy reports from principals about how supportive the budget is for students. MTEA president Bob Peterson noted: “if state legislators are listening to the principals’ testimony at this hearing, they are going to think that everything is fine with the budget. It is not.”

MTEA members, while supportive of many aspects of the budget, focused our testimony on the need to pass a budget that attracts and retains great educators by converting last fall’s EA bonus to a raise, honoring the salary steps for teachers that the administration and school board agreed to last year, and placing social workers, nurses, and physical therapists on a salary schedule.

Paraprofessional Marcelia Nicholson gave moving testimony about her decision to become a teacher next year and asked the board to “please, please, prioritize our students by creating a budget that will attract and retain great teachers…The reality is that I am pursing a teaching certification because there are little boys and girls that look like me and deserve someone that is passionate and understanding. They deserve a teacher that has lived in the same poor neighborhoods because I know what it means to face adversity. They deserve teachers that are committed to their communities, and to the families that need us.”

Throughout the hearing, the passion and dedication of MTEA members came through clearly. Several MTEA leaders addressed the administration’s attempt to divide and conquer by pitting principals against teachers. MTEA secretary Ingrid Walker-Henry said: “I need the school board to take a look at the people behind me. We should all be one MPS. The real fight is not in this room. It is with those who do not value what we do every day. The fastest way for us to fail is to continue to widen the rift that started a long time ago. Disagreement is only natural, but working against each other is unacceptable. EVERY person in this room deserves a raise. EAs, Teachers, and Administrators; we all work hard with the students. It makes no sense that Administrators haven’t seen a raise in 6 years. EAs make less than $20,000 and have to wonder how they will make ends meet. AND teachers, the ones who work with the kids every day, deserve compensation for the work they do. Stop with the division. Do what’s right because when you look out tonight, know that this is your army. We will be the ones defending public education with you.”

Educator Rachel Maciewski Schlueter asks the administration to have a heart and gives educators a pay raise (Photo credit: Joe Brusky).

Educator Rachel Maciewski Schlueter asks the administration to have a heart and gives educators a pay raise. Watch her testimony here (Photo credit: Joe Brusky).

Although no principal mentioned raises or career ladders in their testimony, MTEA vice president-elect Amy Mizialko spoke up for them when she testified that “the principals in this room and all of the students at our schools have benefitted from teachers like me and my fellow MTEA members who have made teaching in MPS a career, because there has been a clear path of advancement with yearly step increases. I don’t believe that the principals in this room truly want a budget that will guarantee a teaching force that is temporary and transient. The teachers and educational assistants in this room are the first responders to the children of this district. And without a committed, experienced cadre of first responders, this board will fail our children.”

Members are encouraged to attend and testify at the next (and final) budget hearing on Thursday, May 28. The board is expected to consider an amendment to fund the teacher salary schedule and an amendment to convert last fall’s EA bonus to a raise, among others.

Real Sacrifice from MTEA Union on Vimeo.

GOP Legislators Propose Plan to Takeover Milwaukee’s Poorest Public Schools – by Bob Peterson

Photo credit: Barbara Miner


On Friday state Representative Kooyenga from Brookfield circulated a new version of a “recovery zone” proposal that he and Senator Alberta Darling have been promoting for several months.

The newest version, called the “Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program”is beset with problems as described in the statement below written by Bob Peterson, MTEA President on May 9, 2015.

The plan by Darling and Kooyenga to take over several of Milwaukee’s public schools is an insult to the Milwaukee community and is part of a larger plan to privatize schools throughout the state. I call on all people who believe in public schools and democracy to oppose this plan.

For two white suburban legislators to propose that the white County Executive appoint a “Commissioner” who will have “parallel authority” to the democratically elected school board is a racist attack on the democratic rights of the citizens of Milwaukee, the majority of whom are black and brown. The Commissioner will be able to privatize five schools a year under this proposal.

This proposal is replete with false assumptions, misguided assertions, and unworkable ideas. It would be laughable if not for the fact that anti-Milwaukee bias and anti-public education sentiment among some power brokers in Madison make this threat real.

Twenty-five years of experience with voucher and charter schools in Milwaukee has proven that turning schools over to private operators is not a silver bullet for improving academic achievement. There is no guarantee that students at a privatized school will perform better.



The false assumptions and assertions include the following:

1) The basic “solution” proposed by Darling and Kooyenga is that their “new governance structure in MPS [is] to free students from nonperforming schools.” The assertion that there is a need to provide “new opportunities” to parents and students ignores the fact that the city of Milwaukee has more school options for parents to choose from than virtually any other city in the nation.

2) The assumption that privatizing schools” will improve educational achievement in Milwaukee ignores the fact that after a quarter of a century of massive school “choice” in Milwaukee, there is little evidence showing improved educational achievement.

3) Labeling schools “failing” due to low test scores is wrong. There are a multiplicity of factors – such as low attendance, concentrated poverty, impact of high levels of students with special needs or English language learners – that may contribute to low scores. This does not mean the school is failing. In fact, it is a signal that other institutions in our society are failing.

4) The assertion that “consequences of these ‘failing schools’ are a significant factor in contributing to Milwaukee’s declining economic and social health” shows little understanding of the social, economic, and political history of our city. It ignores the long history of racial segregation in housing, schools and jobs, the devastating consequences of the corporate decisions to move tens of thousands of family sustaining jobs out of Milwaukee, and the hyper-segregation and growing inequality and joblessness that plagues our city.

5) There is no cost estimate or funding source provided for the “Commissioner’s” work, which according to the proposal, includes doing a qualitative analysis of 55 schools and directly managing several schools or supervising charter operators.

6) Under the proposal parents, students and community members are stripped of their democratic rights as to the future of their schools because power will be transferred from the democratically elected school board to an appointed “Commissioner.” The Commissioner will have unilateral authority to choose schools that will be taken from the public school system and privatized.

7) Educators at the privatized schools will be required to “waive current and future privileges to be represented by any union,” which is contrary to federal law governing private sector employers.

8) Apparently the educators at the schools established by the Commissioner will not have to have a teacher or administrator license because, “employees shall receive non-portable licenses as requested by the commissioner.”


Educators tell school board: Attract and retain qualified staff with raises, career ladders, planning time

before the budget hearing

Members entering central office for the budget hearing (photo credit: Joe Brusky).

Hundreds of MTEA members and supporters attended the MPS School Board’s budget hearing on Tuesday to urge the board to pass a budget that will attract and retain highly qualified educators. Our demands: support the administration’s proposal to authorize bargaining of a 1.62% raise for all MTEA units: educational assistants, teachers, substitutes and bookkeepers. Fully fund the salary schedule steps agreed to last spring for the teacher unit. Convert last year’s bonus for educational assistants to a base building raise. And provide educators with much-needed time in the workday to meet student needs – including a 45-minute lunch period for elementary teachers and a maximum of one hour per week of meeting time for all teachers.

Several members attending the Tuesday school board meeting held signs up during testimony

Several members attending the Tuesday school board meeting held signs up during testimony (photo credit: Joe Brusky).

Second-year MPS teacher Josh Jackson told the board: “I started at MPS in K4. I stayed in MPS for fourteen years as a student. I came back to MPS as a teacher because I wanted to give back to the community that raised me. I want to succeed in MPS.” Jackson described how teachers will lose their career path if MPS does not honor the salary schedule it agreed to last spring: “Right now, my salary is $41,000. If we do not get our salary schedule steps, in 2045, when I am 56 years old, I will have the exact same amount of buying power I have right now: $41,000.”

MTEA vice president Kim Schroeder said: “This is not how we attract and retain quality teachers. We need you to honor the teacher salary schedule we agreed to last year.”

MTEA vice president Kim Schroeder addresses the school board (photo credit: Joe Brusky).

MTEA vice president Kim Schroeder addresses the school board (photo credit: Joe Brusky).

Educational assistants who have been active in the Raise UP EAs campaign testified in support of the proposed 1.62% raise, but were adamant that it would not be enough to make up for more than three years with no raises. Paraprofessional Ruth Moore testified: “This is a profession where kids need stability. Without pay increases, the stability will not be there, and our kids will not have a committed staff to educate and nurture them.” MEAA president Sequanna Taylor urged the board to approve the proposed raise for educational assistants, convert last year’s bonus to a base building raise, and unfreeze salary steps for educational assistants in their first five years on the job.

Several teachers and parents also testified about the need for teachers to spend their time on planning, contacting parents, and working with students – not in endless staff meetings. Rufus King High School teacher Kelly O’Keefe Boettcher choked up as she told the story of having to deny a student the opportunity to work with her after school because it was a staff meeting day. The student then said, “When is your lunch? I’ll come and work with you then.” O’Keefe Boettecher told the board: “When a student expects me to work through my lunch and through my prep, it’s innocent. But when my employer expects me to work through my lunch and my prep, it’s exploitative. Stop making teachers attend so many meetings, and return me to my classroom and my students.”

Members also testified about the need to preserve and expand the traveling music teacher program, and the need for librarians to be placed on a 200-day schedule.

Initial reaction by top level administrators was not favorable to implementing the teacher salary schedule. One official said that the teacher steps MPS agreed to last spring could only be paid next year if drastic changes to health insurance are made.

The board will hold budget hearings next Tuesday and Thursday, May 12 and 14. It is important that MTEA members continue to have a strong presence at the next two budget hearings, to remind the board they must find a way to honor the teacher salary schedule and to adequately compensate educational assistants.



MTEA members elect new president, vice president

MTEA members elected a new president and vice president in a biennial election that ended Friday. Kim Schroeder, a fourth grade teacher on release to the MTEA who is currently serving as vice president, was elected president. Amy Mizialko, an MPS special education teacher on release to the MTEA as Teaching and Learning Director, was elected vice president. Both Schroeder and Mizialko ran unopposed. Schroeder will replace outgoing MTEA president Bob Peterson, who served two terms as president, the maximum allowed under the MTEA constitution.

President-elect Schroeder said: “I’m proud to represent and serve thousands of hard-working, dedicated educators in the Milwaukee Public Schools. Under my leadership, our union will continue to fight for the best possible teaching and learning conditions for students and educators. We will demand adequate funding from the state of Wisconsin for the public schools our students deserve and depend on every day. We will fight to reduce standardized testing and bring back student-centered learning, and we will unabashedly fight to defend worker rights and for fair compensation for our members.”

Ingrid Walker-Henry, a teacher at Auer Avenue School, was re-elected secretary of the MTEA, and Dorothy Hancock was re-elected as treasurer. Three executive board representatives were re-elected: Monica Lopez (primary representative), Wanda Welch (intermediate representative), and Andrea Loss (high school representative). One new executive board representative was elected: Cathy Jester (middle school representative).

The newly elected leaders take office on June 3, 2015.

MTEA Leader Election April 17-24

All MTEA members vote in April 17-24 leader election

Elections for MTEA officers and executive board will be held from noon on April 17 through noon on April 24. Elections will be held for the office of treasurer, primary teacher unit representative, and high school teacher unit representative. (All other candidates are running unopposed and therefore no election is held for those positions.)

Members from all four MTEA bargaining units (teachers, educational assistants, substitutes and bookkeepers) vote for the treasurer position. Only teacher unit members at the primary and high school level vote for executive board. (Special education teachers do not vote for the primary and high school reps.)

Our first electronic election! Vote online or by phone

For the first time, we are conducting our union leader election electronically. To participate, you will need a voting registration code, which will be sent to all members via email from Vote-Now. (Members who do not have an email on file with the MTEA office will receive a postcard in the mail with the voting registration code.) Do not share your voting registration code with anyone. Your code can only be used one time.

When the election starts, you will be able to click here to vote online. You will need to enter your voter registration code when prompted. To vote by phone, dial (888) 997-6533 and at the prompt, enter your voter registration code.

On your ballot, there are links to the biographies of the candidates. Candidate information is also emailed to all MTEA members.

Once voting starts, if you need help with the ballot system, please contact or call 888-993-9801.

Milwaukee students ask legislators: Which future will you fund?

Milwaukee is the textbook example of the school to prison pipeline. The city’s public education system is severely underfunded, and was the first in the nation to transfer tax dollars from public schools to private interests. Now Wisconsin has the widest achievement gap between African American and white students in the nation. The Wisconsin prison population has more than tripled since 1990, and the state of Wisconsin now incarcerates black males at the highest rate in the country.

The current situation only stands to worsen under Governor Walker’s proposed budget, which allocates more money to the Department of Corrections than to the entire state university system (UW System). The students of Youth Empowered in the Struggle organized one of the most powerful testimonies you’ll ever see before a legislative committee. Watch as the students demand money for education, not incarceration.

Which Future Will You Fund? from MTEA Union on Vimeo.

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State budget hearing in Milwaukee March 20 | Rally and testify

public ed is good for WIAll students deserve a high quality public education. But Governor Walker has proposed a $127 million cut to public schools statewide, including $12 million to MPS alone. Voucher and private charter schools are expanding statewide, and legislators want to hand over dozens of MPS schools to private companies.

Please attend a rally and action with parents, students and educators at the state budget hearing Friday, March 20 at 4:30pm at Alverno College, 3400 S. 43rd Street. Public education advocates are also needed to testify at the hearing that day, which will run from approximately 10am-5pm. Please share this information with parents and students!

RSVP below.

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March 18 rally to support public schools

All kids deserve a high quality public education. But Governor Walker has proposed a $127 million cut to public schools statewide. Voucher and private charter schools are expanding statewide, and legislators want to hand over dozens of MPS schools to private companies. Class time spent on testing has nearly tripled since 2002, and test scores are used to punish and take over schools.  Join us on March 18 and stand up for the education our kids deserve!

Image credit: Nicolas Lampert

Image credit: Nicolas Lampert

Rally and Call to Action: Support Public Schools!
Wednesday, March 18 at 6pm
at MATC Cooley Auditorium, 700 W. State St.
featuring national education expert Diane Ravitch

Door prizes: Laptop computer, 2 iPad Minis, t-shirts
Free tickets for groups of 10 or more. Single tickets $5.

Click for a flyer you can use to invite others.

Click here for an English flyer and/or Spanish flyer; these have been approved for distribution to MPS families.

Fill out the form below to reserve your tickets.

***Parking is available for a fee in a ramp on the corner of 8th and State St and 6th and State Street***

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Milwaukee School Board asks state lawmakers to increase public education funding

The Milwaukee School Board approved a resolution Thursday night joining a growing number of school districts in calling on Gov. Scott Walker and the state legislature to restore the $127 million K-12 education funding cut in the first year of the governor’s proposed budget.

MTEA supports this resolution and is committed to fighting the governor’s current budget proposal.

The resolution, like those in a number of other districts, also calls on lawmakers to increase state-imposed revenue limits to match the rate of inflation.

The proposed budget would cut approximately $12 million in funding to Milwaukee Public Schools. Coupled with the fact that the budget proposal does not provide for any increase in the revenue limit for Wisconsin school districts at a time when costs are growing due to inflation, MPS will have to cut about $23 million in spending for the 2015-16 school year.

The resolution notes that, while the governor’s budget plan includes $142 million in per-pupil “categorical” aid in the second year of the budget, the net effect is still a $112 million cut to K-12 schools over two years.

A copy of resolution passed by the board is available here.

Resolutions have also been passed by school boards in Wauwatosa, Brown Deer, Maple, Omro, and are being introduced in other communities throughout Wisconsin.


March 18 event will address over-testing, school takeovers

National education expert Diane Ravitch will speak to hundreds of parents, educators, students and community supporters on Wednesday, March 18 at 6pm at MATC’s Cooley Auditorium.

Ravitch, one of the country’s foremost experts on testing and school privatization, couldn’t come at a better time. Controversial budget and school takeover bills are in play in the Wisconsin state legislature. The proposed budget cuts public education by $127 million, as Republicans continue their strategy of labeling schools “failing” on the basis of test scores to justify school takeovers.

Battles are also heating up around the Smarter Balanced assessment and other tests. As the video below shows, testing has nearly tripled since the passage of “No Child Left Behind,” and nearly a third of teachers’ time is now spent on testing and preparation.

Educators, parents, students and community members are invited to bring a group from your school or organization to hear Ravitch’s talk. Together we can learn how to stop over-testing our kids, increase quality learning time, and end school takeover attempts. Click here for a flyer you can use to invite others.

Fill out the form below to register your group. Any group with 10 or more participants will receive free tickets! Single tickets are $5, available at the MTEA office.

Please select a valid form