By Ariele Vaccaro
News media have only just begun coverage of the Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program, coined lately as the MPS Takeover Plan.
For Milwaukee retirees and co-chairs of Women Committed to an Informed Community Marva Herndon and Gail Hicks, the subject is hardly new.
In late January, state Senator Alberta Darling (R – South WI) and state Representative Dale Kooyenga (R – Brookfield) released a 25-page proposal called “New Opportunities for Milwaukee”.
As Herndon and Hicks see it, the plan hardly means opportunity for their city.
What’s been called the MPS Takeover Plan is only a fraction of what Darling and Kooyenga’s January plan recommends.
Herndon calls it a roadmap, and from what she can tell, Darling and Kooyenga are nearly halfway to their destination.
Among other propositions in the plan is an elimination of the Chapter 220 program that allows Milwaukee’s minority students to attend school in certain suburbs.
After last week’s Joint Committee on Finance (JFC) meeting, the end of Chapter 220 came even closer.
Darling and Kooyenga’s plan extends beyond education.
Another recommendation, filed under the enigmatic name, “Free Market Zones – Targeted Practices for Challenging Neighborhoods”, recommends that certain regions of Milwaukee repeal their minimum mark-up laws.
Herndon fears that this means large corporate stores that can afford not to mark up the products on their shelves will swing prices so low that small, local businesses won’t be able to compete.
So, more Wal-Mart’s and Targets, and fewer momand- pop stores.
Another proposition suggests making it legal for small businesses to operate out of one’s home.
Yet another offers to jettison the need for state licenses for floor sanders, interior designers, African hair braiders and photographers.
So, while some are fretting solely on the possible handing over of MPS schools to the county, Herndon and Hicks are worried about a little more.
Herndon attended MPS schools, as did her children.
The retired mother and computer programmer is concerned with the possibility of a loss of accountability as the county takes over MPS’s lowest performing schools and transforms them into voucher schools.
“It’s destructive to the community,” said Herndon. “The schools are a hub.”
According to Herndon, MPS schools offer free recreational activities it their students, facilities to the public, and meals for students during the summer months.
It was the prospect of losing long-established polling places that also disturbed Herndon.
Hicks assured that the idea of more schools and more options for parents wasn’t a bad thing.
“At no point have we ever been against choice,” said Hicks.
However, she wonders what slim college prospects students could face in the event that a voucher school cannot supply the credentials that some universities require of their applicant’s high schools.
“Our parents need to understand that,” said Hicks.
Both Herndon and Hicks spoke with Eric Von on The Eric Von Show this past week. The show airs Monday through Friday, from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. on WNOV 860 AM The Voice. Listen to WNOV on TUNE IN on your mobile device or on line at WNOV860.com.