By Michael Bonds
President, Milwaukee Board of School Directors
The Wisconsin Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee is taking testimony across the state on the impact of Governor Scott Walker’s proposed budget.
In hearings that last for up to ten hours, legislators are hearing little support for the Governor’s proposal and lots of concern.
Among the loudest voices are parents, educators and students concerned about the Governor’s cuts to K-12 education.
On the heels of his historic cuts to schools in his FY14-15 biennial budget, the Governor has once again made devastating cuts to K-12 education.
Schools throughout Wisconsin stand to lose $150 per student or up to $127 million statewide the first year of the budget.
Milwaukee Public Schools could lose up to $23 million, including $12 million in cuts to state aid and another $11 million lost due to a frozen revenue limit that gives the district no ability to account for inflationary increases.
The speakers at the Joint Finance Committee meeting on March 20 at Alverno College included MPS parents and educators. One of the first to speak was MPS Superintendent Dr. Darienne Driver.
In her remarks, Dr. Driver reminded legislators that school districts across Wisconsin were joining together in opposition to the proposed budget.
She also asked legislators to find a way to return to the bi-partisan tradition of providing sustainable and predictable funding for all public schools. She asked legislators to join with us in investing in schools – allowing programs that are improving outcomes to continue – and investing in children.
I couldn’t agree more with Dr. Driver’s statement that failing to find a way to work together to provide adequate funding for Wisconsin’s public schools ultimately fails our children and our communities. While the legislature continues to hear feedback on and consider the Governor’s proposed budget, there are still other efforts underway that would further undermine public schools in Milwaukee.
State Senator Alberta Darling and State Representative Dale Kooyenga have introduced a plan that would create a recovery district in Milwaukee.
Comprised of the district’s lowest performing schools, some of which are making significant progress under the district’s Commitment Schools’ effort, this effort would further dilute resources to the neediest schools and students.
The Milwaukee Board of School Directors is bringing in three of the country’s leading authorities on recovery districts to Milwaukee this week.
These experts lived through the creation of the Louisiana Recovery School District after Hurricane Katrina and their experiences provide warning to the idea that recovery districts are simple solutions to complex educational and social problems.
The three featured experts are:
• Dr. Kristen Buras, an Associate Professor in the Department of Education Policy Studies at Georgia State University in Atlanta.
She is considered a leading expert on urban charter schools, has studied education reform in New Orleans for the past decade, and has been active around issues of racial and economic inequity in the city’s public education system for more than two decades;
• Mrs. Karren Harper Roya works as an education advocate in New Orleans.
She is a member of the New Orleans Education Equity Roundtable and the Coalition for Community Schools; and
• Dr. Raynard Sanders has over thirty-five years of experience in teaching, educational administration, and economic and community development.
His most recent work has been around educational equality.
These experts will offer two opportunities to learn from their experiences.
Workshops on The Power of Parent Advocacy, Equity and Access and Race and Urban Spaces will be Thursday, March 26 at 4:30 p.m. at MPS’ Milwaukee High School of the Arts, 2300 W. Highland Avenue.
Experts will also participate in a community wide panel discussion on Friday, March 27 at 6 p.m. at Parklawn Assembly of God, 3725 N. Sherman Boulevard.
Both events are free and open to the public. It’s a unique opportunity to learn from – and hopefully avoid repeating – the mistakes of New Orleans.