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A Big Victory for MPS and Public School Advocates

Issue of the Week

Oct. 18, 2016
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Proving its doubters wrong, the Milwaukee Public Schools’ latest report card makes it ineligible for a takeover under a Republican-backed law that would have allowed Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele to privatize at least one low-performing school this year. 

It’s a huge victory for MPS and the many public school advocates—including Schools and Communities United, the teachers’ union and MPS parents—who pushed back on the takeover

MPS had been targeted for a takeover via the Abele-controlled Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program (OSPP), inserted into the state budget last year by Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) and Rep. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield). The OSPP had no legislative hearings, was the subject of zero official forums in Milwaukee, lacked adequate funding and wasn’t requested by anyone in Milwaukee who truly understands the challenges urban schools face. Rather, the OSPP takeover was imposed on MPS by suburban lawmakers and agreed to by a county executive who lacks a college degree and has no experience in education policy. It was simply a way to privatize public assets and deprive Milwaukeeans—primarily black and brown Milwaukeeans—the right to vote for school representatives.

The public schools advocates pressed Abele and his OSPP czar, Demond Means, to be more transparent about their plans. Means quit in frustration, the MPS board and Superintendent Darienne Driver crafted an alternative plan, and Abele failed to follow through.

Last week, the state announced MPS’ test scores improved enough to make the district ineligible for a takeover. Kooyenga has grumbled that MPS’ scores only improved because the standard changed, but we think the new standard is more accurate, since it takes into account student poverty rates and students with disabilities, which can have big impacts on student performance.

We applaud MPS and public school advocates for pushing back on the OSPP takeover. Yes, MPS has challenges. But forced takeovers and privatization haven’t worked elsewhere and Milwaukee’s OSPP would have failed as well. We’re bracing for what the anti-public education legislators, along with their ally, County Executive Chris Abele, have in store for MPS in the next legislative session, but for now the threat posed by the OSPP has passed, thanks to the good work of those who believe in public schools.

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