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Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2009

Expresso

Issue of the Week, Hero and Jerk of the Week

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Issue of the Week

City of Milwaukee-Operated Schools vs. Milwaukee Public Schools

Everyone agrees that MPS needs reform. But what kind of reform will best serve the educational needs of the students? The business community, the governor and the mayor are pushing for mayoral control of the schools, claiming that student performance would improve if the mayor were in charge. But is that claim true? To find an unbiased answer, state Rep. Tamara Grigsby requested an analysis of the five charter schools under the control of the city of Milwaukee. The highly respected nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau found that over the past three years, only 49.6% of students in the five city charter schools scored proficient or advanced in reading, while 59% of MPS students performed that well. In math only 32% of the city charter school students scored proficient or advanced, compared to 45% for MPS students. Obviously, student reform is much more complicated than this simplistic notion that a city takeover of the schools will improve outcomes. In fact, the objective results show just the opposite.

Hero of the Week

Jeff P. White

Along with everyone who values the First Amendment, the Shepherd Express staff mourns the loss of Jeff P. White, who passed away Oct. 20 following a protracted battle with pancreatic cancer. White was a lifelong champion of free speech, and knew the irreplaceable value of the independent free press. White, a professional journalist, wrote for many magazines and newspapers. When a large East Side pharmacy chain banned the Shepherd Express at the whim of a new corporate policy, White led a successful protest to get the Shepherd back on the racks—despite the fact that White never wrote for or contacted the Shepherd Express. We salute White’s tireless efforts on behalf of the First Amendment and the local free press, and extend our condolences to his family.

Jerk of the Week

MPS Board Member Bruce Thompson

After reading Bruce Thompson’s MPS takeover op-ed in Sunday’s Journal Sentinel, we’re not sure what the point was supposed to be. But we’re sure that Thompson isn’t a credible source of information on school reform. To be sure, he’s had his hand in many dubious reform efforts that have had a disastrous effect on the district he’s supposed to serve. Thompson is a voucher-friendly, pro-business, conservative gadfly who was board president when the $175 million Neighborhood Schools Initiative boondoggle was launched in 2000. More recently, Thompson co-founded Advocates for Student Achievement, an MMAC- and Bradley Foundation-friendly “reform” group currently under investigation by the district attorney’s office for allegedly breaking campaign finance laws this past spring. The group was supposed to deliver a Thompson-friendly majority on the board. But when that failed and Michael Bonds was elected board president in April, the conservative business community’s attempts to take over MPS ramped up. So when Thompson says a takeover proposal “deserves a serious debate” and criticizes members of the MPS board for fighting the takeover, remember who’s pulling Thompson’s strings. It ain’t the voters.