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.

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Workers interrupt Senate ‘right to work’ hearing

RTW rotundasilenced

Rallies and protests continued at the Wisconsin Capitol today as the Senate considered and passed the fast-tracked anti-worker legislation known as “right to work.” Multiple disruptions and interruptions occurred throughout the afternoon as workers shouted out during the Senate debate, and were led out by state troopers.

MTEA president Bob Peterson and vice president Kim Schroeder were among those who were escorted out for demanding that more time be provided for testimony and public input. Yesterday evening a public hearing was ended abruptly by the GOP, despite the fact that many were still waiting to testify.

The Wisconsin State AFL-CIO has called for protests at the Capitol this Saturday; watch the MTEA website and social media for updates on times and details.

Thousands protest fast-tracked anti-worker legislation

RTW Tuesday

Thousands gathered at the Wisconsin Capitol yesterday to protest Republicans’ fast-tracked “right to work” (RTW) legislation. Another rally will be held at noon today.

The Senate Committee on Labor and Government Reform took testimony all day while protests continued outside the Capitol. The committee voted to pass the legislation, and cut off testimony earlier than expected, walking out on a packed room of people waiting to testify as they shouted, “let us speak!”

If passed by the legislature, the proposed RTW legislation would make it illegal to require workers in the private sector to join a union or pay union dues.

MTEA vice president Kim Schroeder said, “This bill is just another attack on the working families of Wisconsin. Unions help all workers whether they are in a union or not, by creating a standard of living in Wisconsin that is much better than in so-called ‘right to work’ states. RTW will drag wages down for all workers in Wisconsin and that is what this bill is really about – keeping more money in the pockets of the corporations and CEOs at the cost to the Wisconsin working class.”

MTEA leaders will attend the noon rally today.

 

Support Jobs, Not Attacks on Working Families

By Bob Peterson

RTW is a lie

Wisconsin desperately needs family-supporting jobs. Yet Governor Walker and the Republicans’ misnamed “right to work” legislation will do the opposite.

Such legislation might boost Walker’s presidential ambitions, but it will hurt all working people in Wisconsin.

In 2011 Governor Walker and the Republican majority used a budget shortfall as an excuse to attack the rights of public sector workers and the public sector.

Now they have turned their attack towards destroying the rights of private sector workers, blaming private sector unions for our economic woes.

This law is nothing more than a cover for pro-corporate interests who know that weak unions and low wages can build ever-higher profits. Rather than build prosperity, this legislation will undermine our state’s progressive tradition and quality of life.

This country has a long history with such anti-union laws. Most states with these measures are in the West or the South, such as Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, and have lower wages and a poorer quality of life.

A better name for Republican’s proposed legislation would be “race to the bottom.”

Here’s why.

So-called right-to-work states have lower wages.

Good wages and benefits are key to quality of life – both to support families and to provide a reliable tax base for education, infrastructure and public services. Yet the annual median income in right-to-work states is $6,185 less than in other states, according to 2009 U.S. Census Bureau data. What’s more, these anti-union states tend to have higher poverty rates, less access to health care and lower performing schools. In the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s well-respected “Kids Count” survey, the three worst states for children are in right-to-work states and the three best all allow workers to form strong unions. Would you rather have your child go to the University of Wisconsin or the University of Mississippi? Would you prefer to raise a family in Mississippi, where the 2013 child poverty rate was 34%, or in Wisconsin, where it was 18%?

Strong unions build a strong middle class.

During the New Deal, federal laws not only permitted but encouraged collective bargaining. After World War II, such policies built a foundation for shared prosperity and a thriving middle class. With the rise of deregulation and attacks on unionization in recent decades, including Walker’s attack on public sector unions in Wisconsin in 2011, income inequality has skyrocketed as the rich have grown richer, the poor poorer, and the middle class has shrunk. As The New York Times has editorialized, “the drive for more jobs must coincide with efforts to preserve and improve the policies, programs and institutions that have fostered shared prosperity and broad opportunity – Social Security, Medicare, public schools, progressive taxation, unions, affirmative action, regulation of financial markets and enforcement of labor laws.”

So-called right-to-work laws undermine workplace democracy and foster a freeloader mentality.

Right-to-work laws promote freeloading and are a backhanded way of de-funding unions. The union, by law, negotiates wages and benefits that all workers receive whether or not they are union members. The union, by law, represents workers in disputes that arise – whether or not they are union members. Under current

Wisconsin law, all represented employees in private sector job sites share in the cost of union representation. The proposed Republican legislation would allow workers to escape paying their fair share while still receiving all benefits. That’s not the way democracy works. Contributing to the common good is an essential component of democracy. Imagine if this freeloader scheme existed throughout society. People could refuse to pay taxes and still receive a public education, drive on our freeways and receive police and fire protection.

As we dream of a better future for our children, we should heed the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., assassinated during his campaign supporting striking sanitation workers in Memphis.

“In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, as right to work,” King warned. “It provides no rights and no works. Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining. . . . We demand that this fraud be stopped.”

Governor Walker should deliver on his campaign promise to create jobs, not use false slogans and a new attack on Wisconsin working families to bolster his presidential ambitions.

Bob Peterson is president of the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association.

“Walker continues to hide,” won’t talk about public education budget cuts

Students, parents and educators who gathered on Monday to protest Scott Walker’s massive cuts to public education were immediately attacked by the right wing for our choice of location – his house in Wauwatosa.

Since then, several publications have followed up with their own investigations of who owns the house, who lives there, and why the right is so focused on the location.

Esquire pointed out that Walker did not have to hide from protesters – not in 2011, and not now: “He could have met with them, or some of them, or any of them. He was their governor, too, at least in theory. Instead, Scott Walker hid in his office, hid with the deep pockets of his political puppet masters, changed the rules so he could hide behind his personal police force, hid this very week behind his aging grandparents and in the soft confines of Fox News, and is now pitching a book about how ‘Unintimidated’ he was, the essential mythology on which he is out there now running for president.”

esquire screen shot

Express Milwaukee looked into who really lives at the house on N. 68th St., and who owns it: “Walker didn’t really come out with the truth, which is that the protesters actually went to the correct home. His own home, the one he and Tonette bought in 2007, the one he shares with his parents and that state taxpayers provide with security. The right wing’s reaction is all too predictable. They, along with Walker, don’t want to discuss the subject of the protests: Walker’s terrible education budget.”

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Walker is changing the subject, as this Wisconsin State Journal headline points out:

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Walker’s a busy man these days. But the people of Wisconsin deserve to hear the truth about the $127 million he plans to cut from our public schools.

Walker refuses to acknowledge $127 million public school funding cut

Schools and Communities United released the following statement today:

“After students, parents, and educators gathered to protest severe budget cuts to public schools and universities yesterday, the governor issued a statement that failed to acknowledge his proposed $127 million cut to Wisconsin’s K-12 public schools.

We don’t know why Walker is refusing to acknowledge his giant cuts to public education, but he owes it to the people of Wisconsin to be honest about what his budget will do to our public schools.”

Hundreds visit Walker’s home with “fund our future” message

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Students, parents and educators braved the cold and came out by the hundreds to deliver a Presidents’ Day message to Scott Walker at his Wauwatosa home. Students from Youth Empowered in the Struggle and other children from a variety of MPS schools asked Walker to “fund our future.” The group, including dozens of MTEA members, was protesting massive budget cuts to the UW System, K-12 public education and critical services for families such as BadgerCare and SeniorCare.

“Walker is cutting $127 million from public schools statewide, and that’s $12 million for Milwaukee Public Schools alone,” said Ingrid Walker-Henry, co-chair of Schools and Communities United, the coalition that planned the rally.

“My younger siblings deserve to have the same opportunities I had,” said Rafael Diaz, a student at MPS’s Reagan High School.

Jennifer Epps-Addison, Executive Director of Wisconsin Jobs Now, one of the organizations that planned the rally, said “Governor Walker brought budget cuts to all our homes, so today we brought it to his.”

Parents and community come out to support public education

Parents, educators, and community members check in at the registration table for Saturday's Community Strategy Session

Parents, educators, and community members check in at Saturday’s Community Strategy Session

Nearly four hundred parents, educators, students and community members came together on Saturday, February 7, determined to fight public education budget cuts, school takeover legislation, and the expansion of voucher and privately run charter schools.

The community meeting took place just four days after Governor Walker released his budget proposal, which dramatically cuts K-12 public education by $127 million statewide and cuts UW system funding by $300 million.

MPS bilingual educators Jose Trejo and Ivelis Perez lead a session on how to successfully advocate for bilingual education.

MPS bilingual educators Jose Trejo and Ivelis Perez lead a session on how to advocate for bilingual education.

The event, organized by MTEA and other organizations in the Schools and Communities United coalition, was held at MATC and featured over a dozen workshops on topics such as bilingual education, community schools, advocating for students with special needs, and problems with voucher schools and privately run charter schools.

Milwaukee Rep. mandela Barnes spoke to gathering about the community schools model he endorses in contrast to handing our schools over to third party operators.

State Rep. Mandela Barnes spoke to gathering about the community schools model he endorses in contrast to handing our schools over to third party operators.

State Rep. Mandela Barnes announced that he will introduce legislation to support community schools as an alternative to current proposals that punish public schools in high poverty areas or hand them over to private companies to operate.

MTEA president Bob Peterson told the group: “Today we face one of the greatest challenges of our lifetime. We have a governor who is set on destroying the public sector to benefit the wealthy few. If it’s public, Walker wants it defunded and turned over to private operators. We know that when governors cut budgets, when companies move family sustaining jobs out of our community and when business leaders and politicians ignore the glaring racial and economic inequalities, it’s time to organize and to stand up for what is moral and just.”

Elsa Diaz-Bautista and Joanne Juhnke led a session on how to advocate for a child with special needs, and how to organize against so-called "special needs vouchers".

Elsa Diaz-Bautista and Joanne Juhnke led a session on how to advocate for a child with special needs, and how to organize against so-called “special needs vouchers.”

The coalition plans to take several steps to fight the proposed budget cuts and oppose schools takeovers and privatization, including:

  • Demonstrations opposing the budget (save the date of Feb. 16)
  • Informational meetings with concerned parents and educators at schools, organizations or places of worship (click here to request a speaker)
  • Testimony at budget hearings
  • Social media petitions and campaigns

Stay tuned to our website or Facebook page for more info. Plan to get involved, stay involved, and reach out to others in your school community so they can take action.

Click here for a flyer you can print and share with others who want to take action to support public schools.

Click here to sign our petition supporting community schools and opposing school takeovers.

Wisconsin's Overpass Light Brigade light up the night with a message in support of public schools.

Wisconsin’s Overpass Light Brigade light up the night with a message in support of public schools.

We Are Public Schools! from MTEA Union on Vimeo.

UW students, angry about budget cuts, greet Board of Regents

 

University of Wisconsin-Madison students welcomed UW Regents as they arrived for a meeting this morning on campus with signs opposing Governor Walker's massive cuts to public education in the state budget.

University of Wisconsin-Madison students welcomed UW Regents as they arrived for a meeting this morning on campus with signs opposing Governor Walker’s massive cuts to public education in the state budget.

“Money for public education, not for tax cuts to corporations!”

Chants rang as the UW Board of Regents walked into their meeting this morning. UW students lined the entrances of the meeting to let Regents know where they stood on Gov. Walker’s massive budget cuts to public education.

 

Five minutes before the meeting began, the group organizers announced they would go into the meeting to sit in silent protest with their signs held high. However, many demonstrators were not allowed into the meeting. As the number of protestors grew, the University Police shut the doors and said the room was at capacity.

 

This action follows two large actions at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee this week. If Gov. Walker thought he could drain hundreds of millions of dollars more from public education, he was wrong. One thing is clear: the students of Wisconsin are organizing and fighting back and they can’t close the doors on us forever.

Walker’s budget takes aim at students; hides cuts to public schools

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Image credit: Nicolas Lampert

When the governor released his 2015-17 proposed budget yesterday, he failed to mention some critical cuts to K-12 public schools that are hidden in the budget document.

For weeks it has been said that K-12 public education funding would not be cut in this budget. But Walker’s proposed budget includes a $150 per pupil cut, which means a significant budget cut for Milwaukee Public Schools and all districts across the state in 2015-16.

In addition to the K-12 funding cut, Walker’s budget proposes:

  • A massive cut to the UW system.
  • Unlimited expansion of the statewide voucher program.
  • A state board to authorize charter schools.
  • Alternative licensure that allows any person with a bachelor’s degree and “real life experience” to pass a test and get a three-year renewable license to teach grades 6-12.
  • Elimination of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.
  • A statewide accountability system that would rate schools using A-F letter grades.
  • Different accountability tests for different schools.
  • Closing the Chapter 220 desegregation program to new students and eventually ending it.

MTEA president Bob Peterson released the following statement yesterday immediately following the governor’s budget address:

“Tonight Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker used his budget address to launch his presidential campaign, taking aim at the children and students of Wisconsin.

Walker wants to inflict massive cuts on one of the most highly acclaimed public university systems in the country, while promoting unlimited expansion of unaccountable, taxpayer-funded private voucher schools, and lowering teacher quality by gutting licensure requirements.

Walker also attacks local control by proposing a state board to authorize charter schools, when local school boards already have that ability. He proposes ending the Chapter 220 program, which was created to tackle school segregation and expand public school options for children of color in Milwaukee. Walker’s budget expands all private school options, yet he wants to end this choice for Milwaukee families.

Walker’s proposals should give the voters of this nation pause. We do not need a president who destroys a world-famous public university system while funneling hundreds of millions of dollars into unaccountable private religious schools.

This and other budget proposals demonstrate that Walker is not fit to be governor of our state, to say nothing of president of our nation.”

The best action that you can take right now to respond to the multiple injustices in this budget proposal is to make sure that parents, educators and students from your school attend the Community Strategy Session to Save Public Schools this Saturday, February 7 at 9am at MATC. Click here for more information; click here to RSVP.