Joint Finance Committee budget continues Republican assault on public education

the red rectangle buttonThe Republican-led Legislature continued its assault against public school students in Wisconsin, with the powerful, budget-writing Joint Finance Committee advancing proposals that drain revenue for public schools by bolstering voucher and charter schools in Wisconsin.

The committee introduced a 30-page motion on education-related topics late Tuesday night, giving Democratic members of the committee 90 minutes to look over the content before bringing it to a full committee vote.

Numerous items had never received a public hearing, meaning parents, educators and students have been denied an opportunity to provide input on the drastic changes that are creating a dueling, state-funded school system in Wisconsin.

Perhaps the biggest financial hit to public schools will come as a result of Republicans lifting the cap on the number of vouchers issued statewide, while simultaneously preventing school districts from levying taxes to replace lost aid. That means public schools will be prevented from raising taxes to fund the educational needs of students who opt to stay in public schools rather than applying for a state-funded voucher.

Republicans also confirmed the fears of many by sliding a proposal by Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, and Rep. Dale Kooyenga, R-Brookfield, into the motion. The proposal would turn “underperforming” Milwaukee public schools into voucher or charter schools. This proposal, which will impact thousands of Milwaukee public school children, never had a public hearing.

“The Republican public education budget, designed by Gov. Scott Walker and politicians to pay back voucher lobbyists for campaign cash, represents the worst of the worst for Wisconsin Public Schools,” said teacher Betsy Kippers, president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council. “At the same time Republicans are at the front door of the schoolhouse boasting that they are putting money inside, they are sneaking money out the back door to subsidize private schools. Citizens will not stand for this assault on public schools.”

The education budget package advanced by the committee does the following:

  • Removes the cap on statewide vouchers and prohibits districts from levying to replace the lost state aid.
  • Creates a special needs voucher program.
  • Allows operators of privately run charters to open new schools under conditions specified by the Legislature.
  • Allows for the takeover of struggling public schools in Milwaukee under the control of an appointed commissioner to convert them to voucher or charter schools while paving the way for similar takeovers in other school districts.
  • Provides for licensure of individuals with minimal qualifications, some with little more than a high school diploma, to teach in our public schools.
  • Eliminates common core standards.
  • Pushes back the non-renewal deadline in odd-numbered years.
  • Requires passing a civics exam to graduate from high school.

Following final action on the state budget by the Joint Finance Committee, the budget bill heads to both houses of the Legislature for approval before heading to the Governor for his consideration.

For more details of the Joint Finance Committee state budget education provisions, click here.

Look for additional analysis distributed through WEAC Communications channels soon and follow state budget developments at weac.org/budget and at twitter.com/weac. You can also sign up for At the Capitol News Alerts at weac.org/subscribe.

Tell your legislators this budget will hurt your local schools: www.weac.org/cyberlobby.

Educators spring into Wave of Action on eve of 50th anniversary of ESEA

From the National Education Association

WaveOfAction_200pxFamilies, students, educators, and communities across the nation are springing into an April Wave of Action to inject their voices into the reauthorization process of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), now more commonly known as No Child Left Behind, with a series of public events, teach-ins, rallies and digital engagements. This campaign coincides with Congress’ Easter recess. Leading the Wave of Action is a new television and digital ad buy that is running in select media markets home to 13 U.S. senators who will play a key role in deciding the future of the law. A cable ad buy also is airing in the Washington, D.C. media market starting the week of April 13, which coincides with the Senate education committee’s expected mark up of their version of ESEA.

“Fifty years after President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the most sweeping education legislation of its time, the future of public education stands at a critical crossroads,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “Today, more than 50 percent of the nation’s public school students now qualify to receive free and reduced-priced meals. Fifteen million children in the United States — 20 percent of all children — live with families whose incomes are below the federal poverty level.”

On April 11, 1965, President Johnson cemented ESEA as a critical cornerstone of his War on Poverty programs, establishing the federal footprint in K-12 public education, and putting in place programs to level the playing field for the most vulnerable students: children living in poverty, students with disabilities and English-language learners.

“Under No Child Left Behind, the focus has shifted away from helping those most in need and moved towards testing, labeling and punishing schools, with no significant closure of achievement or opportunity gaps. Today, we call on all Americans to join us and take action, to speak up, to raise their hands, to reaffirm President Johnson’s ‘fierce commitment to the ideal of education for everyone,’” said Eskelsen García.

The 50th anniversary of ESEA comes as Congress is in earnest considering ways to rewrite the law. In fact, the U.S. Senate education committee is scheduled to begin marking up its version of ESEA on April 14, just a few days after the law’s anniversary. Educators, students, and families are demanding that Congress get ESEA right this time by ushering in a new and improved vision for our nation’s public schools—a vision that promotes opportunity, equity and excellence for all students regardless of the zip code in which they live.

“We will continue to fight until we have a new federal education bill signed into law that focuses on students and includes the voices of educators,” emphasized Eskelsen García. “The only way to achieve that is to make sure that our members and the public are fully engaged. The stakes are high for our students and their future. That’s why we are springing into action again to make sure lawmakers hear directly from educators about what hasn’t worked and what needs to happen in order to get the law right this time.”

In February, NEA launched a successful nationwide campaign, “Get ESEA Right,” to get the public and educators engaged in the ESEA reauthorization process. The campaign included a six-figure ad, titled “Fix ESEA.” NEA cyber advocates have sent nearly 130,000 emails to Congress about ESEA reauthorization. And during just one week in February, NEA members visited 245 House of Representatives and 79 Senate offices.

During the April Wave of Action nationwide campaign, educators are reaching out to parents, community partners, and the general public to raise their voices. They are leafleting parents in public places, attending community forums, hosting teach-ins, and writing letters to the editor or opinion pieces in their local papers, among other proactive actions.

The TV ads (embedded at the top of this post) are running in select media markets in Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia., Illinois, Massachusetts, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Washington state.

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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Wendell Harris for MPS School Board | Build a Progressive Majority on the MPS School Board

wendell harris

Wendell Harris

The MTEA has endorsed Wendell Harris for Milwaukee Public School Board in the 2nd district. Harris is running against Jeff Spence.

Wendell Harris will be a strong voice for MPS in state battles for fair funding and local control. He will likely be the deciding vote on issues related to wages and benefits, working conditions, year round schools, safety, etc.

MTEA members can have a direct impact on this election and ensure that Wendell Harris wins, and we need volunteers. Please sign up to volunteer below.

If you have questions, contact MTEA Vice President Kim Schroeder at 256-6751 or email kimschroeder3036@sbcglobal.net.

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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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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

Community rally to STOP Walker’s budget cuts

Schools and Communities United is organizing a Presidents’ Day action in opposition to Walker’s proposed budget cuts near Scott Walker’s house on Monday, February 16 at 4:30pm.

Students, educators, parents and community members want Walker to fund Wisconsin’s future! We want support for:green light

  • Public schools
  • Public universities
  • Seniorcare
  • Badgercare
  • Support for families in need

We will gather on Monday, February 16 at 4:30pm at Juneau Play Field (on 64th Street just south of Bluemound Rd.) From there, we will march to Scott Walker’s house and picket nearby.

Click here to RSVP to the Facebook event and invite friends.

Click here for a flyer you can print and share with others.

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.

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

Take action now against public school takeovers

stop the takeover

Republican state legislators are promoting bills that will punish and take over many of our poorest, most segregated and under-resourced schools and will affect our entire school system. It is critical for parents, students, educators and community members work together to mount a massive fight to protect and improve our public schools.

Here are some important points you can share with others:
  • Assembly Bill 1 and Senate Bill 1 will weaken accountability at voucher and privately run charter schools, and could result in a large-scale takeover of public schools. Privatized schools would no longer be locally controlled, but would answer to unelected boards in Madison appointed by the Governor and others.
  • Under AB 1, more than half of MPS schools could be turned over to private companies to operate.
  • These bills offer no support to schools or communities that are struggling with high rates of poverty and segregation.
Here is what you can do to help:
  • Sign the petition to STOP the Takeover of Milwaukee Public Schools.
  • Talk with parents, family, and co-workers and share the important points above.
  • Invite parents, colleagues and students to a large community strategy session on February 7 from 9am-12:30pm at MATC downtown. At this event, participants will learn more about the bills being proposed, and attend workshops on subjects such as: special needs vouchers, bilingual education, school safety, community schools, how to mobilize parents and students, and using social media in our fight. Some of the workshops will be conducted bilingually or in Spanish.
  • Click here for a flyer in English and Spanish that you can give to concerned parents and students.
  • Click here to RSVP to attend the February 7 strategy session. Bring a delegation of parents, educators and students from your school community.
  • Click here to contact your legislator and let them know you oppose AB 1 and SB 1. Talking points are also available at this link.

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