Increased Test Scores Release MPS From Takeover Legislation

kim-banner-copyStatement from MTEA President Kim Schroeder:

Today we welcome an important announcement on the status of the MPS Takeover plan. The Department of Public Instruction and MPS have shared that as a result of improved DPI scores, MPS is no longer at risk of takeover under the current legislation.

The MPS Takeover legislation was one of the greatest threats to public education Milwaukee has ever seen. I applaud every member who worked tirelessly to fight this unjust law through grassroots organizing and direct action. It is because of the dedication and commitment of MTEA members, parents, and community members, that our students are performing against all odds to overcome the effects of failed educational policies.

We know what works in Milwaukee because we are seeing the results of positive, educator-driven initiatives like the Community School model. We see what happens in public schools when parents, communities, students, and educators are empowered to take ownership of their schools to ensure the success of every child. The takeover legislation, which threatened to take away local control, is another example of a failed policy created without the expertise of educators who work in our schools.

Every child in Wisconsin has the right to a publicly funded, equitable, and democratically controlled public school and the MTEA is deeply committed to ensuring every child, regardless of their zip code, has access to the schools they deserve. MTEA members will continue to fight any attempts to threaten the public schools that have the commitment, capacity, and legal responsibility to educate all children.

In solidarity,

Kim-Schroeder-Signature

Kim Schroeder
MTEA President

 

 

Wisconsin Education Association Council President, Ron “Duff” Martin sent a formal letter congratulating MTEA on the news from the Department of Public Instruction.

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Takeover Commissioner Means’ resignation a victory for Milwaukee students and community, MTEA says

The Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association (MTEA) President Kim Schroeder Wednesday released the following statement on the resignation of Chris Abele’s appointed Takeover commissioner, Demond Means:

“Demond Means’ decision to resign from his role as OSPP Takeover commissioner is a victory for parents, students, and community members who have been fighting to keep Milwaukee Public Schools in the hands of a democratically elected school board.

“Public schools are based on local control and local decision making. It is uncertain how any advocate of public education can willingly spearhead a plan that would force a public school district to give up local control.

“We hope that Means’ resignation leads to swift and serious action among state legislators to fully support the students of MPS with adequate funding to provide our students with the resources they deserve, including certified educators, lower class sizes for more one-on-one support, inviting classrooms and well rounded curriculum.

“The Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association remains committed to work towards a solution that honors the right of every child in Milwaukee to have a quality public education, regardless of their zip code. We will continue to resist any attack on our community’s fundamental democratic rights that would remove public institutions from the control of our publicly elected school board.”

Read more:

Demond Means resigns as leader of Milwaukee turnaround district

By of the Demond Means, the Mequon-Thiensville superintendent tapped by Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele to lead a state-mandated school turnaround district, resigned on Wednesday. “Over the last several months, it has become clear to me that efforts to implement the Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program law will become increasingly adversarial at a time when adversity is the last thing our children need,” Means said in a statement.

MPS supporters rally against takeover plan, in support of Community Schools

Supporters of Milwaukee Public Schools rallied outside the Milwaukee County Courthouse Monday to fight the takeover of some MPS schools under a new state law.

“It’s wrong and it’s not going to help education and it’s not going to help education in the city,” Schools and Communities United Co-Chair Ingrid Walker-Henry told WDJT TV, Channel 58. “What would help education is if they actually worked on funding or they gave children what they need like libraries, art, music and gym teachers.”

Walker-Henry said protesters want the state law to be repealed.

“I don’t agree with takeover in any shape or form because it’s taking a voice from the community and I think we can fairly say the community is targeted,” she said.

Schools and Communities United, which organized the rally, said that for over 25 years, Milwaukee has been ground zero for school privatization experiments that have failed our children and siphoned over a billion taxpayer dollars into unaccountable operators. At the rally, they said, “Milwaukee stood up to reject the MPS Takeover plan and demand local control of our public schools.”

The rally took place just a few days after the Milwaukee School Board and administration on Friday rejected a controversial proposal that would have resulted in the takeover of some schools, saying the state-mandated plan was vague, the funding plan unclear and elements conflicted with state law. As an alternative, Superintendent Darienne Driver and MPS School Board President Mark Sain proposed creation of a charter school offering an early childhood program.

Photos from the Schools and Communities United Facebook page:

NoTakeoverRally

Coverage from WISN TV:

MPS supporters rally to fight ‘takeover’ of schools

Milwaukee Public Schools supporters are rallying Monday afternoon in front of the Milwaukee County Courthouse to fight what they are calling a takeover of MPS. The 2 p.m. rally, organized by the group Schools and Communities United, is calling on Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele to back out of the Opportunity Schools Partnership Program.

Coverage from WDJT TV:

Milwaukee County Executive Plans to Meet With School District In Midst of Protest

Students, parents and teachers marched around the Milwaukee County Courthouse Monday (June 20) to send a message that they don’t want anyone outside of the school district to manage their underperforming schools. They chanted “Who’s community, our community” and “This is what democracy looks like.”

 

MPS rejects takeover plan

The Milwaukee School Board and administration Friday rejected a controversial proposal that would have resulted in the takeover of some schools, saying the plan was vague, the funding plan unclear and elements conflicted with state law. The so-called “recovery district” plan was presented to MPS in April by Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele and his appointed commissioner, Demond Means.

As an alternative, Superintendent Darienne Driver and MPS School Board President Mark Sain proposed creation of a charter school offering an early childhood program in the former 35th Street Elementary School.

The Abele-Means plan was an outgrowth of a state law drafted by Republican Sen. Alberta Darling of River Hills and Rep. Dale Kooyenga of Brookfield and passed as part of the 2015-’17 state budget. The law created what’s known as the Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program (OSPP), which critics refer to as the MPS Takeover Plan.

Abele and Means have threatened that rejection of the proposal by MPS could force them to bring in outside operators to run the schools.

In a statement, Driver said MPS has examined the OSPP proposal over the past six weeks and identified the following concerns:

  • The academic and curricular programming lacks detail and clarity.
  • The school funding plan is unclear.
  • The school qualitative reviews outlined in both state law and the OSPP proposal have not been conducted.
  • The request for proposals seeking a school operator was not issued and steps have not been taken to select a school.
  • The OSPP proposal contains elements which contradict the legislation, namely that staff at the OSPP schools will remain employees of the district with little guidance about how this would be compliant with state law.

The statement continued:

Given these concerns, we recently requested a meeting with County Executive Abele and Commissioner Means to discuss an alternative to the OSPP proposal. We know the fundamental needs of our families include greater access to high-quality early childhood education, sustained resources and support, stable school communities, rigorous curriculum led by strong instructional leaders and having a voice in the decisions that impact their children.

With these critical factors in mind, and given that the qualitative analysis as outlined in the OSPP proposal was not completed, selecting a school would be unfair to school communities because they have not had an opportunity to participate in a qualitative review. We have developed an alternative option that will add value and align with the critical work already underway at MPS:

  • Create a high-quality early childhood education program, addressing a community need acknowledged by local leaders and the Speaker’s Task Force on Urban Education.
  • Provide the choice for families to opt-in to OSPP.
  • Locate the program inside the former 35th Street Elementary School, which is well suited to serve our youngest learners; it would share a separate and distinct space in the same building with Assata, an MPS partnership school; this is a model that has been used in the past and allows for improved achievement and better student and family engagement and support at both schools.
  • Next year, as outlined in the OSPP proposal, would be a planning year, with the program opening in the 2017-18 school year.

Improving student outcomes is challenging and much work remains. As a district, we have implemented strategies for school turnaround rooted in collective impact including:

  • Developing intentional, mutually beneficial partnerships.
  • Making data-informed decisions.
  • Implementing research-based programs.
  • Strengthening current infrastructure.
  • Maximizing resources and managing our assets.

Our efforts are yielding results. More students are earning scholarships with a record-breaking $47.8 million awarded this year; more high schools are ranked among the best in the state and nation; and over 100 MPS schools are recognized for promoting positive behaviors by an independent statewide organization. Community engagement is leading to stronger families and a healthier community. With ongoing support from committed community partners, we will continue to see positive results.

MPS is committed to ensuring that all partnerships bring additional value and enhance our current standard of care. In doing this, we must also ensure our school communities are kept intact and we believe our alternative does just that. We are prepared to discuss this alternative with County Executive Abele and Commissioner Means and will continue to keep you informed throughout the process.

Here is a video of the news conference posted by the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association (MTEA):

Why I Resigned from the MPS Takeover Advisory Council

Statement given to the press by MTEA president Kim Schroeder–May 10, 2016

 

County Executive, Chris Abele and Dr. Means invited me to sit on the OSPP Advisory Council. When they first approached me, there was a plan on the table to use an empty MPS building to develop an early childhood program that would be used as a feeder into MPS. I was assured that my participation would be an opportunity to influence the policy and implementation of that plan.

I thought my role was to help develop and improve that plan to move into an empty building in MPS. Instead, Dr. Means brought a proposal the school board that was different than what was ever discussed and without sharing the plan ahead of time with the advisory council.

In addition, Dr. Means’ public statements have been inconsistent at best and I cannot continue to sit on the advisory council that is designed to rubber stamp policies that serve an unjust law and will hurt the children and families of Milwaukee Public Schools–therefore, I am resigning from the OSPP Advisory Council.

MTEA President Resigns from MPS Takeover Advisory Board from MTEA Union on Vimeo.

 

Mequon-Thiensville superintendent appointed as Milwaukee school takeover commissioner

From the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association

StopMPSTakeover_120pxMilwaukee County Executive Chris Abele has appointed Dr. Demond Means, superintendent of Mequon-Thiensville, as school takeover commissioner. Means will continue to serve as Mequon-Thiensville superintendent while also serving part time as commissioner; it is not clear how long Means will serve or how he will be paid.

State legislation requires takeovers – no matter what they say

Abele and Means have both said they will not make decisions that would hurt public schools. But the fact is that the takeover legislation is bad for public education and bad for Milwaukee’s children. Abele and Means cannot change the fact that the takeover legislation, by definition, requires the dismantling of the very public schools that our students depend on.

The takeover will remove local control from the voters of Milwaukee and our elected school board. It is designed to take public schools away from the students who depend on them, turning them into privately run schools that are not required to provide essential services that our children rely on, such as special education and bilingual education.

Parents, educators and community members will keep the pressure on

Abele and Means are under intense public pressure because parents, educators and our community have mounted massive opposition to the takeover. When thousands of parents and educators ”walked in” at  over 100 public schools, we forced elected officials to react.

Our community will follow the actions of Chris Abele and Demond Means closely. Parents and educators in our community will continue to show elected officials locally and statewide that we oppose the takeover because we love our public schools and want them to be vibrant places where all children – not just some – have opportunities to learn and grow.

Milwaukee and Youngstown push back against politically motivated school takeovers

stopthetakeoverofmilps

From EducationVotes.org

By Félix Pérez; image courtesy of stopmpstakeover.com

Separated by 500 miles, educators, parents, and residents in Youngstown, Ohio, and Milwaukee are uniting to stop a common threat: politically motivated laws to take over their community schools, laws that they view as a ruse to further destabilize public schools and open the door to privately-managed, for-profit charter school operators.

Last month, in an unprecedented show of support for Milwaukee public schools, thousands of parents, educators, students and community members gathered outside more than 100 public schools in what were called “walk ins.” One of the schools was Casimir Pulaski High School, which was slated as one of the first takeover targets. After listening to various educators, parents and community leaders gave testimony opposing the merger of Pulaski and a privately managed charter school, the Milwaukee Public Schools’ Committee on Student Achievement and School Innovation voted 4-1 this week not to make a recommendation, instead punting the issue to the full school board.

Kim Schroeder

Kim Schroeder

Elementary school teacher Kim Schroeder said the fight to keep Milwaukee public schools under public control will have to be waged continuously. Schroeder said the key to success against takeovers is community involvement.

“Schools are part of the community. When public schools are attacked, communities are attacked. It’s inspiring to see the level of involvement of parents and the community,” said Schroeder, president of the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association.

The politically motivated takeover of public schools is a growing national concern. In a report released in August, the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools stated, “These state takeovers are happening almost exclusively in African American and Latino schools and districts — in many of the same communities that have experienced decades of underinvestment in their public schools. . . In the past decade, these takeovers have not only removed schools from local authorities, they are increasingly being used to facilitate the permanent transfer of the schools from public to private management.”

Milwaukee’s takeover plan was enacted in July as part of the state budget. The law empowers the Milwaukee county executive to choose a czar next month who would have sole authority over all matters related to take over schools, including curriculum and personnel. The czar, or commissioner, would choose 1-3 schools to convert into privately run charter or voucher schools for the 2016-17 school year. Each subsequent year, up to five schools could be handed over to private operators. Among the concerns parents and community members have about the plan are:

  • It offers no new resources or support for students.
  • Takeover schools are not required to serve special education students or English language learners.
  • It eliminates democratic local control and disenfranchises communities.

In an opinion piece published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Schroeder and six community and religious leaders wrote:

The plan threatens the entire Milwaukee school district — not just the schools identified for takeover. More than 40% of children in Milwaukee already attend privately run charter or voucher schools. When taxpayer money is taken away from public schools to fund privately run charter and voucher schools, public school students lose funding and opportunities. Eventually, the financial burden will become too great for our public school system to bear.

In Youngstown, educators, parents, students and residents see the state takeover law as part of an attempt by Ohio Gov. John Kasich to promote charter schools. The law was passed overnight in secrecy this June without public debate and with the involvement of the state superintendent, whose deputy resigned this summer for illegally doctoring charter school grades,

Youngstown rally

Youngstown school rally; image by Traci L. Cain

The Ohio law authorizes an Academic Distress Commission with five members, three of whom are appointed by State Superintendent Richard Ross. The commission will pick a Chief Executive Officer this year.

Paula Valentini, a lifelong Youngstown resident and elementary teacher for 28 years, said, “The problem with this plan is that it doesn’t involve stakeholders — parents, educators, community members. It empowers a CEO with a business management background to come in and act like a dictator and make sweeping changes. Too many of our kids have instability at home; they don’t need it at school.” Nearly two-thirds of Youngstown children live in poverty.

The CEO will have sole authority over all district operations and not be answerable to voters or the local school board.  State school board member Patricia Bruns, panned the law. “Their idea is to take over the schools, dismantle what’s there, and dole them out to private, for-profit charters.”

Youngstown residents, who have voiced their opposition to the takeover through town hall meetings, rallies, panel discussions and other activities, met with a setback this week. Franklin County Common Pleas Court Judge Jennifer French denied an injunction, allowing the takeover to proceed. The ruling was in response to a lawsuit filed by the Youngstown school district and joined by Ohio Education Association and the Youngstown Education Association.

But Valentini said the community will not be deterred from standing up for its students and schools. “With everything that’s happened, it’s brought us together because we don’t want to see our public schools replaced with private, for-profit charters that have a record of performing miserably. This is about our kids and what’s best for them.”

Valentini said educators and the community, in addition to the lawsuit, will press for a legislative solution. Senator Joe Schiavoni and Representative Michelle Lapore-Hagan announced they would introduce legislation to improve the law. Their legislative proposal is the result of nearly two dozen community meetings this summer.

Your Guide to Fighting MPS School Takeovers

 

The fight continues against the public school takeover plan by Sen. Darling (R-River Hills) and Rep. Kooyenga (R-Brookfield). Although this proposal has now been passed as part of the Wisconsin state budget, MTEA and our community partners will fight each and every proposed school takeover, and we will continue to advocate for public community schools that welcome and serve all children. Here are some things that you can do to help:

  • Sign this STOP THE TAKEOVER OF MPS petition.

 

 

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.

Republican budget is worst of the worst for public schools

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 20, 2015

Republican budget is worst of the worst for public schools

The Joint Committee on Finance budget on education-related items passed in the dead of night is filled with policy items that never had the benefit of a public hearing or debate this session including special needs vouchers, a takeover of Milwaukee Public Schools, and allowing those with minimal qualifications to teach our children.

Statement from WEAC President Betsy Kippers:

“The Republican public education budget, designed by the governor and politicians to pay back voucher lobbyists for campaign cash, represents the worst of the worst for students and Wisconsin Public Schools. At the same time they’re at the front door of the schoolhouse boasting that they’re putting money inside, they’re sneaking money out the back door to subsidize private schools. On top of that, they’re lowering teacher quality to allow someone with only a high school diploma to teach our children. 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.

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