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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Issue of the Week: Walker’s Charter School Scheme

Plus: Hero of the Week

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In his biennial state budget, Gov. Scott Walker is proposing to set up an unelected, unaccountable charter school board that could establish local charter school boards around the state; these schools would be funded with taxpayer dollars. Republicans attempted to do this in the previous legislative session, but had to abandon the plan because it didn’t quite adhere to the state constitution. Walker has refined his idea a bit, but the core vision is the same. He wants a board made up of political appointees to have the power to set up chartering agencies in the communities that qualify for the voucher program. These chartering agencies—also made up of unelected appointees—could then authorize charter schools in their community. In essence, Walker wants to set up charter school districts that would become rivals of the traditional public school districts in places like Milwaukee, Racine, Waukesha and Madison. But the charter school districts, of course, wouldn’t have to deal with voters, taxpayers or democracy. They would just receive state funds.

Milwaukee already has a number of chartering agencies, including the Milwaukee Public Schools, the Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC), UW-Milwaukee and the city itself. The quality of these charter schools varies greatly, as does public oversight. But in most if not all of these chartering entities, there is a role for the public.

As we understand it, Walker’s vision for the new charter school agencies isn’t so open. The new schools would be more like private schools than public schools—private schools that rely on taxpayer dollars, of course. The local chartering agencies would have to be nonprofit entities, but would they be required to allow the public to raise their concerns about school operations and curriculum? Could the public oust a charter board member, just like the public can vote for or against public school board members? And do the local communities that would play host to these agencies have any say in establishing them in the first place?

Walker’s charter school board idea doesn’t belong in the state budget, since it has nothing to do with state finances. It deserves an up and down vote in the Legislature as a stand-alone bill—and it deserves to be debated and vetted thoroughly in public. We have a suspicion that once the voters hear more about these unaccountable school districts that could spend taxpayer dollars, they won’t be so enthusiastic about the governor’s latest school scheme. 

Heroes of the Week
: Brain Injury Awareness Month and Acres of Hope and Aspirations


Prevention is the only true cure of brain injury, an often-called “silent epidemic” that alters or takes a life every 19 seconds. March is Brain Injury Awareness Month and educating children as well as adults about how they can protect themselves is critical to preventing brain injuries, especially for those participating in sports and recreational activities. But for those who have suffered a brain injury, the nonprofit Acres of Hope and Aspirations (W147 S7138 Durham Place, Muskego) runs a rehabilitation facility that offers vocational rehab, day treatment, short- and long-term stays, respite care, assisted and supported living and much more. Creatures of Rehab and Gardens of Hope are the two programs used to help clients and their families work through the difficulties that come with sustaining a brain injury. More than 60 animals are a part of the Creatures of Rehab program and roam freely inside the therapeutic environments of Gardens of Hope. These programs foster a “nurture by nature” healing process and allow animals (some of which also have disabilities) and clients to create unique, therapeutic relationships in a hope-filled, supportive atmosphere. The organization also strives to educate as many young people as possible about preventing brain injuries.

Donations are always needed and a wish list is available on Acres of Hope and Aspirations’ website. In addition, volunteer opportunities and community service hours are available year round. To learn more about the organization, brain injuries, volunteering and donating, or to schedule a school or community Creatures of Rehab educational event, visit acresofhopeandaspirations.org, email acreshope@yahoo.com or call 414-422-4882.

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