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Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2012

Issue of the Week: National Voucher Group Meddles in Milwaukee Democratic Primaries

Plus: Hero of the Week

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It's happened before and it's happening again.

The American Federation for Children (AFC)—a Washington, D.C.-based pro-school-privatization group funded by some of the wealthiest Republican activists in the country—is supporting some Milwaukee candidates in the Democratic primaries.

This year, AFC is spending thousands of dollars on independent expenditures in support of candidates Elizabeth Coggs in Senate District 6, Millie Coby in Assembly District 10, Jason Fields in Assembly District 11, Fields' brother Jarett Fields in Assembly District 18, and Tracey Dent in Assembly District 17.

National pro-voucher groups typically dump money into races late in the game to skirt campaign-finance reporting deadlines so that all of their post-deadline spending doesn't show up on observers' radars. Thus far, AFC has spent more than $12,000 on these five Democrats, and more could be on its way before the Aug. 14 primary election.

Democrats for Education Reform, which was one of the strongest supporters of the failed mayoral takeover of the Milwaukee Public Schools, has also indicated support for Coggs, Jason and Jarett Fields, Coby and Rep. Josh Zepnick.

Closer to home, school voucher architect Howard Fuller's Fund for Parent Choice conduit gave $500 each to Coggs and Coby on Aug. 2, according to a report filed with the Government Accountability Board.

Voucher schools have been contentious in Milwaukee for years, and they've been supported by pro-privatization Republicans and Democrats who don't mind benefiting from the deep pockets of right-wing voucher supporters like the Walton family of Wal-Mart Stores and Betsy DeVos, the former chair of the Michigan Republican Party and the wife of the billionaire Amway heir Dick DeVos.

We've said it before and we're saying it again: According to all of the valid studies measuring their success, vouchers are a failed experiment in privatization at the expense of Milwaukee's poorer children. Yet Republicans and some Democrats continue to push them in the state Legislature. Study after study has shown that voucher school students perform no better than their peers in Milwaukee Public Schools, so we have a hard time believing that candidates support privatization schemes because voucher schools are superior to MPS. Unfortunately, we think that pro-voucher candidates are in it for the money, not to build a better Milwaukee.

Heroes of the Week: Kids Matter Inc. Volunteers

Since 2000, Kids Matter Inc. (1850 N. Dr. Martin Luther King Drive) has provided services for abused and neglected children affected by crime in efforts to improve their mental and emotional well-being. Members of this nonprofit take time to help children deal with tough questions like "Why me?" and work hard to raise money and bring in donations. Some incredible volunteers include three Girl Scouts who designed a multifaceted project to aid foster youth and a woman who helped a child born cocaine positive cope with the death of his mother at the age of 6 and enrolled him back in school.

Susan Conwell, Kids Matter executive director, says, "I firmly believe that we have the best volunteers in Milwaukee. They take on some of the hardest situations a kid could face and walk along beside them."

Currently, Kids Matter is in need of school supplies such as protractors, scientific calculators, pocket folders, spiral notebooks (70 count or more) and basic flash drives. The organization also encourages community members to host drives for Fostering Hope packages and is always looking for child-specific holiday gift donations. For more information about Kids Matter or donating, visit www.kidsmatterinc.org.