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Issue of the Week

School-Reform Push Poll Masquerading as Truth

Feb. 4, 2009
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If you’ve donated to the Advocates for Student Achievement (ASA), you should ask for your money back. The pro-voucher “reform” group commissioned a poll on voters’ attitudes before Milwaukee Public Schools board members face voters in April. But the poll, which ASA leaders are presenting as scientific, is anything but scientific. Not only did the respondents confirm the results that ASA was looking for—“voters are looking for major change” and they “overwhelmingly disapprove of the direction of MPS”—but the poll also included sleazy, inaccurate questions about MPS Board President Peter Blewett’s role in the Charlene Hardin travel dust-up (see “Jerk of the Week” for details).

The rest of the “legitimate” section of the poll is full of leading questions and obvious answers (and spelling errors). According to the results, voters want board members who will set aside differences and work together—no kidding. Voters don’t have “a great deal of tax anxiety” but “a large majority want tax dollars spent more efficiently.” Did the ASA expect voters to support wasting tax dollars?

Even worse is the complete absence of questions about MPS Superintendent William Andrekopoulos’ job performance, the school funding formula that penalizes Milwaukee, or anything positive about MPS. What’s more, the questions imply that MPS board members are in control of the voucher program, when it is clearly mandated and managed by the state government (and favored by out-state legislators, not Milwaukee’s representatives).

This dishonest, sloppy, unscientific poll should be junked. But, sadly, pro-voucher, anti-public-education candidates and their supporters in the business community will use the survey as proof that their failed experiment in school privatization is popular among Milwaukee voters. Please don’t fall for it.

Heroes of the Week: The Wisconsin Innocence Project

Robert Lee Stinson is a free man today thanks to the tenacious efforts of the attorneys and law students at the Wisconsin Innocence Project. The lawyers and volunteer forensic odontologists—dentists, in other words—found that the bite marks used as evidence against Stinson could not have been made by him. Now, after 23 years behind bars and five years of work by the Wisconsin Innocence Project, Stinson has been exonerated. He may face a new trial. Let’s hope this one uses reliable evidence.

Jerks of the Week: Advocates for Student Achievement

If you want to target an elected official, you might as well be honest and up front about it. The cowards at the pro-voucher group Advocates for Student Achievement (ASA) commissioned a bogus poll about the Milwaukee Public Schools. ASA released some of the results—but not the ones that dealt with MPS Board President Peter Blewett. In those dodgy questions, the “push poll” asked highly misleading and inaccurate questions about Blewett’s role in the overblown Charlene Hardin travel saga. For example, the questions implied that Blewett approved Hardin’s junket to Philadelphia. For the record, Blewett had nothing to do with Hardin’s trip, and has criticized her actions. So why is the ASA being so secretive about its polling? ASA presents a bland face to the public, but it’s really a front group for the pro-privatization crowd, and while it wants to plant propaganda in the minds of voters, it doesn’t want the public to know that it’s using sleazy tactics to try to defeat Blewett in the April elections.

Quote of the Week

“The largest spending bill in history is going to turn out to be the one in Iraq. If we’re going to talk about spending, I have a problem when we leave out that extraordinarily expensive, damaging war in Iraq, which has caused much more harm than good in my judgment. I don’t understand [the argument] from my conservative friends, building a road, building a school, helping to get health care, that’s wasteful spending.”

—Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), defending President Obama’s spending priorities



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