A proposal to place Milwaukee’s mayor in charge of the city’s public schools faces an uncertain future in the legislature, now that Wisconsin has failed to make the first cut for federal education dollars. Governor Jim Doyle proposed mayoral control and said it would be key to the state’s successful application for federal Race to the Top money. The governor blamed the failure to adopt mayoral control for the state’s failure to secure any of the first round funding, and urged lawmakers in the state Senate and Assembly to approve the change before the end of their session.
On news that the state will not be a first round recipient of Race to the Top money, state Senator Lena Taylor moved on the Senate floor Thursday, to adjourn a special session to debate Doyle’s proposal. Taylor, author of the mayoral control bill (SB-405), says lawmakers missed the boat. “We have failed the 85,000 kids in the Milwaukee Public Schools system,” Taylor said. “We might as well adjourn, we didn’t do it.” Taylor said she’s still committed to passing mayoral control. “I’m committed. I’ve been committed to a compromise. I’m still committed to come to the table and have those conversations. I don’t think this should be a partisan issue. I think this should be an issue that legislators are about and that no one should be comfortable for us to do status quo.”
Sen. Lena Taylor (4:35 MP3) AUDIO: Senator Lena Taylor (4:35 MP3)
Leaders in the Senate and Assembly were unwilling to push for mayoral control, because not all Milwaukee lawmakers were on board. Representative Tamara Grigsby, an opponent of mayoral control, says it’s time to move on. Wisconsin can apply for a second round of funding in June, and Grigsby says the state needs to stop pursuing mayor control of MPS and find other ways to make its application stronger. “The disappointment is something that I feel just as deeply as anyone else,” said Grigsby. “However, I think it’s a fallacy to continue to tie mayoral control of Milwaukee Public Schools with Race to the Top dollars.” Grigsby is Assembly author of a bill (AB 669) which would give the mayor the power to veto the school board’s choice of superintendent. Like the mayoral control bill, the measure has not made it to the floor in either chamber.
Rep. Tamara Grigsby (4:00 MP3) AUDIO: Rep. Tamara Grigsby (4:00 MP3)
Fifteen states and the District of Columbia were named as finalists for $4.5 billion in Race to the Top money. Grigsby said only four of those applicants have the sort of mayoral control proposed by the governor. Wisconsin can apply for a second round of funding in June, and Grigsby said the state needs to stop pursuing mayor control of MPS and find other ways to make its application stronger. “There are things that we can pursue as opposed to spending or energy on this, when we know that it’s a moot issue.”