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.”

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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:


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.”


Teachers react strongly to insult by Rep. Kooyenga

In a Milwaukee forum on education last week, State Rep. Dale Kooyenga insulted teachers everywhere when he suggested they don’t work long enough or hard enough. Specifically, during a discussion of challenges facing Milwaukee Public Schools, he said, the solution might be to say to teachers, “Listen, we’re in a tight spot, we’re all going to get here at seven a.m. and we’re not leaving till five p.m. You need to do that sometimes.”

Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association Executive Director Lauren Baker, sitting next to Kooyenga, quickly stopped him from going on and said, “We do that every day and then we take work home with us at five p.m. (and we work on weekends). So let’s go easy on that one, OK?”

The video clip generated enormous reaction on both the WEAC Facebook and the MTEA Facebook page, with more than 100 comments on each. Here are just a few of the comments:

Not all the comments were as polite as the ones listed above. Read all the comments on Facebook, and add your comment:

Read more about educator workload:

Workload – WEAC

Resources related to Teacher and ESP Overload Overload epidemic?!? Feeling overloaded? Long days, growing challenges Fighting the stress of teaching to the test NEA Survey: Nearly Half Of Teachers Consider Leaving Profession Due to Standardized Testing This video focuses on the impact of growing teacher workload in Milwaukee Public Schools and the role Milwaukee Teachers’ …

Milwaukee election shines national spotlight on state school takeovers

In this story from EdVotes.org, Félix Pérez highlights how the Milwaukee community is coming together to support their public schools, including political action activities such as working to help elect State Senator Chris Larson as County Executive.

Milwaukee parents, residents, educators, students and community groups are organized, vocal and persistent when it comes to derailing the effort by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and his friends in the state legislature to take over their community schools. Just last week they staged more than a hundred school walk-ins; they have testified at hearings; they have coordinated multiple rallies, written letters, placed phone calls and collected petition signatures.

So last week’s outcome in the primary election for Milwaukee County Executive came as welcome news. Chris Larson, despite being outspent 20-1 and trailing incumbent Chris Abele by 13 points three weeks before the primary, advanced to the April 5 general election against Abele. Larson, who bested Abele by 708 votes out of more than 95,000 votes cast, opposes the state school takeover law. Abele, a multimillionaire who contributed $1.75 million to his campaign compared with slightly less than $100,000 raised by Larson, supports the law.

“The schools aren’t failing our communities. The leaders are failing our schools,” said Larson at a school walk-in the morning after his primary election victory. The takeover law, said Larson, is “designed to hurt our schools. It is not designed to try and make them succeed.”

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Milwaukee election shines national spotlight on state school takeovers

Tags: Chris Larson, community schools, state school takeovers by Félix Pérez; image: candidate Chris Larson addresses school walk-in participants Milwaukee parents, residents, educators, students and community groups are organized, vocal and persistent when it comes to derailing the effort by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and his friends in the state legislature to take over their community schools.

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


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.