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

fund our future 2

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

wisconsin budget hatchet NL

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.


Defend our public universities

By Bob Peterson and Barbara Miner

Photo credit: Michael Pecosky

Photo credit: Michael Pecosky

Click here for a printable version of this statement.

Walker has said his proposed budget cuts for the UW System wouldbe like Act 10 for the UW.” It’s a frightening analogy.

As with Act 10, Walker’s proposed cuts have nothing to do with the state budget. It’s about promoting privatization, undermining democracy, and abandoning public institutions.


Image credit: Nicolas Lampert

Image credit: Nicolas Lampert

Walker’s Cuts are a Manufactured Crisis

In 2011, Walker introduced Act 10 —all but eliminating the collective bargaining rights of public sector unions — under the guise of solving a budget shortfall. Even after union leaders agreed to increase workers’ payments to healthcare and pensions, Walker continued with Act 10. It became clear that Act 10 was an attempt to weaken democratic rights, cripple the power of unions, undermine the public sector, and increase the power of private interests.

Today, in 2015, there is another manufactured crisis. Walker is proposing $300 million in cuts to the University of Wisconsin System. The cuts would be the largest in the UW System’s history, and would cripple one of the state’s most honored public institutions.

But this is a manufactured crisis. Just one example. If Walker had accepted full federal funding for BadgerCare, the state would have saved more than $500 million over three-and-a-half years. (Figures are from an August 2014 editorial in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.)


Walker is putting his presidential ambitions ahead of what’s good for Wisconsin

Walker is proposing his 13 percent, $300 million cut in funding to the UW System as part of his presidential campaign. Other states, focused on the needs of their residents, are putting money into their public universities and colleges.

Across the country, state support for public universities is up 10 percent in the last five years, according to a survey from Illinois State University. Iowa increased state funding by 12% from 2009-10 to 2014-15. In Indiana it was 8%, and 7% in Ohio. In Wisconsin, it’s down four percent — and now Walker wants an additional 13 percent cut.

In Milwaukee, Walker’s cuts would mean $40 million in cuts in the next two years — about the amount of money it takes annually to run the College of Engineering and Applied Science, the Silber School of Public Health, the School of Information Studies and the Helen Bader School of Social Welfare. Should those programs be eliminated?


Image credit: Nicolas Lampert

Image credit: Nicolas Lampert

Walker is undermining democracy

Act 10 was part of a multi-pronged, partisan attack on democratic rights and local control, from voting rights to collective bargaining. In undermining public sector unions, Walker sought to eviscerate the most powerful defenders of the public sector.

As part of his plan for the UW System, Walker is once again undermining principles of democracy and collaboration. In addition to the funding cuts, Walker wants to eliminate the UW system as a state agency run in accordance with state law. Instead, he wants to create a so-called “public authority.” But there are several devils in the details.

First, Walker would control those appointed to the new authority. Second, Walker wants to eliminate the long-standing concept of “shared governance” at the UW System, under which the faculty, students and staff are involved in decision-making.


Image credit: Nicolas Lampert

Image credit: Nicolas Lampert

Walker’s goal: public dollars for private interests

As governor, Walker has increasingly diverted public dollars into privately controlled organizations. In education, the most disturbing example is the public funding of private voucher schools, a program that Walker expanded across the state. (Since the Milwaukee voucher program was started in 1990, more than $1.7 billion in public tax dollars has been diverted into privately run voucher schools, most of them religious schools. The voucher schools are allowed to ignore basic democratic safeguards, from constitutional guarantees of due process, to open meetings and records requirements.)

The UW System has a worldwide reputation, not only for its excellence in education, but also for its role in promoting research and the free exchange of ideas in service to the common good.

The UW System is too valuable to be sacrificed in service to a conservative ideology that undermines the democratic mission of public institutions, and that privileges privatization over the public good.


Image credit: Nicolas Lampert

Image credit: Nicolas Lampert

By Bob Peterson, president of the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association, and Barbara Miner, author of Lessons from the Heartland: A Turbulent Half-Century of Public Education in an Iconic American City.

Click here for a printable version of this statement.

Feb. 2, 2015


Wisconsin legislators announce school takeover zone plan for Milwaukee

Photo credit: Barbara Miner

Photo credit: Barbara Miner

Wisconsin legislators from two of the wealthiest communities in our state have released a plan to hand over dozens of Milwaukee’s public schools to private companies, create a central city zone with no corporate taxes, and implement a “right-to-work” law only in the city of Milwaukee. 

Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) and Rep. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield) released their plan  yesterday and say they will introduce legislation soon. Click here for a Journal Sentinel description of the plan and here for more information about its education details.

Republican legislators have tried on many other occasions to create legislation that will hand over dozens of public schools – particularly those in neighborhoods with high poverty and segregation – to private companies. Senate Bill 286 in early 2014 and Assembly Bill 1 (currently in the Assembly) are two recent examples. Darling has threatened for months to create a school takeover zone in Milwaukee.

MTEA president responds
MTEA president Bob Peterson said: “Darling and Kooyenga’s plan creates a school takeover zone that hands over dozens of Milwaukee’s public schools to private companies, while offering no new resources or support. The plan will eliminate corporate taxes and institute ‘right-to-work’ in the central city of Milwaukee, and it opens the door for handing over public services to private companies. This is not democracy, it’s a new form of colonialism. We will unite with others in massive resistance to this senseless attack.”

Problems with takeover zones
In takeover zones across the country, including New Orleans, parents of children with special needs have struggled to get privately run charter schools to meet their children’s learning needs. Wisconsin parents have expressed similar concerns. Bilingual educators and parents in Milwaukee oppose privatizing public schools that educate large numbers of English Language Learners, since privately run charter schools do not meet students’ language needs.

A school takeover zone in Milwaukee would affect the entire district. Public schools will close, educators will lose jobs, and families will be forced to find different schools. The superintendent and school board president oppose the idea and have come out strongly against it.

What can we do?
MTEA members and MPS parents are mobilizing for a large community strategy session on Saturday, February 7 from 9am-12:30 at MATC downtown. Participants will get an update on all school takeover legislation and will develop skills and plans to advocate for quality public schools for all children. 

Please click here to RSVP. Click here for a flyer you can share with others in English and Spanish. Childcare and lunch are provided, and Spanish interpretation is available.

Racine public school teacher overcomes much to testify on SB 1

Racine Unified Public School teacher Angelina Cruz testifies at Tuesday's SB1 public hearing in Madison.

Racine Unified Public School teacher Angelina Cruz testifies at Tuesday’s SB1 public hearing in Madison (Photo credit: Rebecca Kemble).

Angelina Cruz, a teacher of ten years from the Racine Unified School District, suffered a traumatic brain injury 5 months ago that has kept her out of the classroom this year, but she mustered up the strength to testify at Tuesday’s public hearing on Senate Bill 1. Here is what she had to tell the committee on how to best help schools in Wisconsin:

Thank you for the opportunity to speak today. And I would like to thank you all for dedicating your work to public service. I do the same. My name is Angelina Cruz and I am a public school teacher. For ten years, I taught 5th grade in the Racine Unified School District. This would have been my eleventh year, except that 5 months ago I suffered a traumatic brain injury.

You may be wondering what would compel someone such as myself to find a way to Madison today to speak before you. Frankly, I should not even be alive. I shouldn’t be able to do this today. And that’s just it. I’ve been told over and over by some of the best doctors that my being alive is a miracle. So I feel very strongly that I must continue to use the voice that I have been blessed with to speak for my students and their families.

My first week out of the hospital was the first week of the school year. This was extraordinarily difficult for me. I’ve always taken what I do very seriously. These past five months I have been working very hard to get back to it. I receive e-mails from former students on a daily basis. I have had the opportunity to visit the school I was at for ten years. I miss it. I miss my kids. And I sit before you concerned that the place I love being most in this world, working with these kids, public schools, will not exist very soon.

I have a degree in educational policy so I like to think that I am pretty well versed in the history of public schools and how to move our schools forward successfully. So I am seeking some clarification:

  • How will voucher and privately run charter schools be held accountable? I’m not a statistician, but it seems to me that allowing charter and voucher schools to take different tests than public schools makes comparison and accountability unrealistic.
  • How do privatizing, or abandoning, public schools deemed “failures” ensure positive results when studies have shown that these schools do not perform any better than our existing public schools?
  • The establishment of a separate board is concerning. Will creating a separate board really hold private schools receiving public money accountable?
  • It seems as though this bill would remove local control of our schools. Presently, if a parent has an issue with a teacher or an administrator, they have the freedom to approach the local school board to redress their grievances. Passage of this bill seems to eliminate this as a possibility. Please explain to me how this is not a divestment in our communities.
  • What protections are in place for our special education students and English language learners under this bill? Private schools are not required under law to provide these services, whereas public schools must. Furthermore, private schools have the freedom to deny access to students that require services that they do not provide.

Please don’t get me wrong. I have no problems with private schools. I am a product of parochial schooling, grades K-12, because my parents thought it important that I have a religious upbringing. What this religious upbringing taught me is that our world is filled with beautiful diversity that must be embraced. We must love each other and support each other. And I fear that this bill does nothing toward that effort for those most in need.

Wisconsin has one of the finest public school system in the country. Yet here we are on the precipice of losing it all. If you are truly looking for ways to move our great state forward, and I believe that you are, please consider addressing issues related to poverty. Think about requiring smaller class sizes so that students receive more individualized attention. Please consider the provision of wrap around services so that children have adequate nutrition. Please ensure that schools are staffed with highly educated and experienced teachers. Consider raising the minimum wage to a living wage, so that parents have the means to provide for their families.

When you go to bed at night and close your eyes, please think about your own children and those that you know and love. Think about what it is that you would like for them to have. Because that’s what this is about. The kids. And it takes a village to raise them up. As politically charged as education has become across this nation, I believe that the legislators in our state have the courage to do the right thing for the voiceless that have gotten lost in this debate. The kids. This is not a Republican problem or a Democrat problem. This is a doing what is right versus doing what is wrong problem. As Kid President once said, “I disagree with you but I still like you as a person who is a human being and I will treat you like that because if I didn’t it would make everything bad and that’s what a lot of people do and it’s lame.” I believe that we, in Wisconsin, can choose to model for the nation what it means to put our differences aside for just about the best reason ever. For the kids.

I have included my name, address, e-mail, and phone number on my testimony that I will be submitting for the official record. I look forward to hearing from you. And for you to do the right thing.

Thank you.


Public school advocates testify on Senate schools bill

photo by Rebecca Kemble

photo by Rebecca Kemble

At yesterday’s hearing on Senate Bill 1, educators and parents urged legislators to require the same standards for all schools that receive taxpayer funding – whether they are public schools, privately run charter schools, or voucher schools.

Public school advocates testified that:

  • All schools should have to take the same test
  • Schools should not be rated with A-F grades
  • Schools should be accountable to locally elected school boards, not unelected boards in Madison such as those proposed in SB 1 and AB 1

MTEA Vice President Kim Schroeder pointed out that school improvement requires support and resources, not just labeling and punishment. He said: “Public school budgets have been cut over a billion dollars in the last three years. The main resource this bill offers is advice. Advice is appreciated, but – and I think I can speak on behalf of the public school students of this state – we would rather have the billion dollars back.”

SB 1 does not sanction schools as strongly as AB 1, but it creates two unelected state boards – one to oversee public and privately run charter schools, and a separate board to oversee voucher schools. The voucher school board is attached to the Department of Administration, while the board that oversees public schools and privately run charter schools is linked to the Department of Education.

SB 1 in its current form does not require A-F letter grades. It also maintains the current law’s requirement that students at public, voucher, and privately run charter schools all take the same test. AB 1, on the other hand, would assign yearly A-F letter grades to all schools, allow voucher and privately run charter schools to take different tests than public schools, and would hand public schools over to private companies if they did not meet DPI expectations.

Substitute Teacher Explains Why “Real World Experience” Isn’t Enough to Teach

Scott Walker just announced that in his budget address he will lower standards for teachers to become licensed in the State of Wisconsin. He claims that once the teachers take a competency exam on the content they are teaching, they are prepared to teach that content to children. Listen to what Milwaukee Public School substitute teacher John Thielmann has to say about that having come into the profession of teaching with plenty of real world experience:

I am a “guest-teacher” (a sub in old-school jargon). I began more than 15 years ago under an emergency permit. I had 40+ years of “life experience.” I got by, watched others, copied techniques, etc. I went back to school, studied, and earned my teaching license. It made a HUGE difference- in classroom management, in understanding lesson plans, in improvising when there weren’t any plans or the plans weren’t working as hoped. In long-term assignments, it made a difference in MY lesson planning and instruction. Being educated and trained in HOW to teach is essential. That conclusion is based on my “life experience” of becoming a teacher.