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Thursday, Feb. 11, 2010

Issue of the Week: Withholding Funds From MPS Is Not a Solution

Plus Hero and Jerk of the Week

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He was largely relegated to the background of the debate over the future of the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS), but state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers made headlines last week by announcing he’d withhold an estimated $175 million from the district based on its failure to meet goals set by President Bush’s No Child Left Behind (NCLB) act. The money Evers would withhold is spent on bridging the gap between low-income students and other MPS students—precisely the same students the superintendent says he’s trying to help.

Evers’ decision was stunning and illogical. He won election less than a year ago by promising to continue to work with MPS to implement its corrective action plan to meet NCLB targets. According to MPS, it’s been doing so without complaints from the state.

What’s more, President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan just announced that they want to make sweeping changes in NCLB—which currently and unfairly penalizes large, diverse urban districts like MPS—because NCLB’s goals are “utopian” and unrealistic. So Evers is trying to withhold funds based on a flawed policy that the president has just announced he’d change. Looks like Evers’ threat came in just under the wire.

Evers’ announcement can only be seen in the context of the recent attempt to create a mayor-led MPS. The attempt failed to win popular support among MPS parents, Milwaukee residents and legislative leaders, but Gov. Jim Doyle, the conservative business community and now the state superintendent refuse to listen. Evers has now declared that he’s willing to drive MPS into the ditch to score a political point. Is that what he was elected to do?

Hero of the Week

Michael Coleman

In his capacity as sensei at Futen Dojo (1338 E. Brady St. and 2234 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.), Michael Coleman encourages his students to uphold the precepts of compassion, sincerity, calmness and dedication to self-improvement. He also employs these principles in another venture, Utopian Fitness, an online fitness club where 50% of membership dues are donated directly to local charities. Coleman, who sits on the advisory board of Utopian Fitness, says that the group hopes to raise $10,000 each for 10 local nonprofits performing positive work in the community.

Among the beneficiaries of the “Get Fit, Give Help” campaign are the Hunger Task Force, youth programs at Walker’s Point Center for the Arts, and the Nia Imani Family Center, which provides job training, shelter, clothing and necessities to homeless or disadvantaged women and their children.

For his efforts to improve the health and self-confidence of area youth, and his endeavors to raise awareness and money for local charities, the Shepherd Express makes Coleman our “Hero of the Week.” Readers who wish to get involved are urged to visit www.getfitgivehelp.com.

Jerk of the Week

Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Scott Walker

After seven-plus years as county executive, Scott Walker has made a total mess out of Milwaukee County finances, so it is no surprise that Walker prefers to spend his time outstate campaigning for a different job. Outside of the Milwaukee area, Walker can spin tales of his great accomplishments, few of which even come close to the truth.

Recently, Walker boasted that he had so many campaign contributors that his supporters crashed the Government Accountability Board’s (GAB) Web site. “We brought the system to a grinding halt,” Walker’s campaign manager crowed.

Err… no. Trying to counteract Walker’s mythmaking, the GAB was forced to put out a statement that the system “did not crash. It was up and running throughout the weekend.” There was a small glitch in generating PDF reports, and that was fixed.

Reality bites, hey?