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Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2010

Issue of the Week: Losing Local Control of MPS

Plus Hero and Jerk of the Week

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The state Senate Education Committee held a rare public meeting in Milwaukee on Tuesday to listen to testimony from legislators and Milwaukee residents about proposals to change the governance of the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS). And it’s a good thing they did travel to Milwaukee, since, as one member of the committee noted, none of them is from the state’s largest urban area. Not even the suburbs, either. Indeed: The senators who will loom large over the future of MPS are from Racine, Fond du Lac, Poplar, Waunakee, Green Bay, Ripon and West Bend. Not to take anything away from these esteemed outstate legislators, but the nuts and bolts of fixing the problems of sprawling, urban, diverse MPS—where 10% of the state’s students are enrolled—must seem pretty foreign to them.

That means that these legislators are relying on the advice of Milwaukee leaders and residents—and they’re deeply divided. It also means that MPS reform—no matter how it turns out—is in the hands of state lawmakers, not Milwaukee voters, or MPS parents, or even City Hall. Nope. Like the school choice program, the future of education in Milwaukee will be decided by non-Milwaukeeans.

Again, we applaud the Senate Education Committee for coming to Milwaukee to listen. We’re counting on them to represent the best interests of the state’s largest city—not elite businesspeople or politicians who want to advance their careers.

Hero of the Week

Lona Long Velasco

Just around the corner from Walker’s Point Center for the Arts (WPCA), in the midst of a historic immigrant, working-class neighborhood, lives WPCA’s board president, Lona Long Velasco. Velasco, a passionate champion for arts and culture, has put her heart and soul into the work of this local art institution and the community. As a longtime board member and current president, Velasco has successfully led WPCA in its expansion of arts education and exhibition programs. Her leadership has resulted in increased exposure to arts education for underserved youth and community recognition of the value of the arts in our lives. Too often we fail to recognize the people who sacrifice their time to lead the nonprofit organizations that are so vital to sustaining Milwaukee’s quality of life. A hero affects people and creates change; Lona Long Velasco is truly a hero to our community.

Jerk of the Week

Congressman Paul Ryan

Since Paul Ryan is a likable fellow, it is hard to call him a jerk. It is, however, totally appropriate to call him the Hypocrite of the Week. Ryan has been a strong and very vocal critic of the 2009 federal stimulus package that many honest conservatives now admit helped prevent the Great Recession of 2008 and 2009 from declining into another Great Depression. The stimulus package was designed to create jobs and get the average person working again. Basically, it was designed to help “Main Street.”

Ryan criticized the stimulus as being ineffective and adding to the federal deficit. So now we have Ryan as a hypocrite twice over. First, he supported the bank bailout monies, known as TARP, which rescued major Wall Street banks and, yes, added to the same federal deficit. Now, after criticizing the stimulus package for the past year and voting against it, Ryan is lining up to try to secure $547,000 for a public works project in his district. Our question is simple: Why can’t Paul Ryan be a little more honest with his constituents and a lot less political?

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