Friday, Aug. 21, 2009

MPS Takeover Update

By Lisa Kaiser
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MPS Board President Michael Bonds has sent an open letter to Gov. Jim Doyle, Mayor Tom Barrett, and State Superintendent Tony Evers outlining why a mayoral takeover of the district, which would require a change in state law, is a bad idea.

Some excerpts:

Destroying democracy and disenfranchising thousands of voters:
“Your takeover efforts indicate that you have chose [sic] the prospect of receiving federal funds over respecting people’s constitutional right to elect their own elected officials. I guess it is true that money is the root of all evil.”

Race to the Top Dollars: “Governor Doyle, Superintendent Evers and Mayor Barrett, as you should know, there are no federal requirements in the Race to the Top guidelines that require a mayoral takeover of the locally elected school board. If that were the case, all of Wisconsin’s 426 school boards would have to be taken over by their respective mayors, since the Race to the Top funding is determined by a state-wide application. You are knowingly misleading the public into believing that changing MPS’s governance structure is a requirement for Race to the Top funds.”

And: “Furthermore, there is an unfair assumption that the current MPS Board will prevent MPS from receiving federal Race to the Top funding. Who is to say that the current MPS Board can’t help the state receive the Race to the Top dollars?”

Current MPS Board—Elected Since 2007: “Since the April 2007 elections, two thirds (6 members) of the current 9 board members are newly elected.”

He goes on to state a number of reforms implemented since 2007, in areas of financial accountability, academics and student and staff support. The list is very, very long.

Rallying Around the Board: “Rather than working together, you have chosen to lay the groundwork for major chaos in Milwaukee along class, race and philosophical lines by attempting to take over MPS. If you really want to improve MPS, change the state funding laws so that MPS is not paying for a private school district it does not control. Likewise, you can change the state statutes that penalize school districts for not taxing to the maximum allowed, which results in high and double-digit property tax increases at the local government level.”

Choice and Charter School Students:
“Why have you not sought to hold charter schools and choice schools in Milwaukee accountable or take them over since they are also publicly funded?”

Business Groups & MMAC:
“Mayor Barrett, it appears publicly that you continue to allow some private businesses and MMAC to dictate your policies and thinking. The MMAC does not appear to have the interest of low-income minority people an the general public’s interest as a priority. Instead, their efforts seem to be only on obtaining control over local public dollars.” Bonds then lists a number of MMAC's attempts to take power away from public institutions.

Mayor’s Problems in City Hall:
“The City of Milwaukee has its own fiscal problems,” including a $90 million budget deficit projected for the 2010 budget, a variety of new and increased fees for services, $100 million in cost overruns in recent years, and more than $800 million backlog in capital improvement programs.

Passive Bystanders and Indifferent Leadership: “The future of Wisconsin and its relationship to MPS did not just start in 2009. Why did you decide to get involved with MPS now?... What are your plans? Do they include privatization or bankruptcy, which would negatively impact jobs paying wages to support families in MPS?”

Whoo! That’s a lot, but there’s more in the letter.

UPDATE:


Alderman Tony Zielinski and other opponents of a mayoral takeover will hold a press conference on Monday, Aug. 24, at 1 p.m. in the City Hall Rotunda.

Tonight, however, there's a community meeting at 5:30 at 3725 N. Sherman Blvd., led by MPS Board President Michael Bonds, Rep. Annette "Polly" Williams, AFT-212's Mike Rosen, MPS Board member Terry Falk, Fr. Tom Miller of MICAH and Wendell Harris of NAACP.




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