Governor Jim Doyle and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett are finding little support, for a major changed in how the Milwaukee Public Schools would be governed. In fact, a coalition of some eighteen groups has coalesced around opposition to mayoral control of the state’s largest school district. Bob Peterson is an MPS teacher. member of the Educators’ Network for Social Justice, and a coalition convener who doesn’t think the city’s mayor need to take on the added responsibility.
“The fact of the matter is, there’s many issues that a mayor has to deal with; crime, economic development, the roads and so on,” says Peterson. “What we think this would mean is the schools would be second fiddle.” The Coalition to Stop the MPS Takeover is calling on Barrett to withdraw his proposal, which has attracted zero support among Milwaukee state lawmakers. Peterson says it’s not that MPS doesn’t have problems.
“People, universally I think, say that there’s a lot to be improved in the Milwaukee Public Schools, but Mayor Barrett and Governor Doyle have offered nothing except change of governance,” Peterson says. “It’s sort of a silver bullet reform that is hollow.”
“Part of the whole impetus for this proposed takeover, is an attempt by the state and the governor, to get federal stimulus monies to improve Milwaukee Public Schools,” notes Peterson. “We’re suggesting that one way to spend any such money in the future would be to invest in programs that really promote parent involvement, parent education.”
Peterson says U.S. Secretary of Education Arnie Duncan is not insisting on the change at MPS as a prerequisite for Wisconsin to get the federal. “He has stated point blank that this is not a criteria. This is not a criteria for us being eligible for Race to the Top money.”