When society (and politicians) fail our kids, why, simply blame public school teachers! | WisCommunity

When society (and politicians) fail our kids, why, simply blame public school teachers!

So, send poor urban kids to public schools ill fed, under-nurtured and generally less well equipped to succeed. Then, blame their teachers when those kids only perform about as well as their mostly suburban, private-school counterparts, to whom Republicans would like to send more of them instead, at great public expense. It's like tax subsidies for the oil companies!

Forget the thin patina of GOP rhetoric that school choice helps poor kids get a better education; under the Scott Walker model of schooling, even rich folks will be able to get public money to send their kids to private schools. Because, hey, in the Walker-verse, privatization is always the preferred option. 

Oh, and by the way, as per Walker's "my mind is made up" policies, those private schools and their teachers also will be newly freed from the onerous, test-centric performance evaluations that he would continue to impose on public teachers. Add this to the "no child left behind" nonsense jammed into law by George W. Bush, along with Walker's teacher de-unionization scheme and the simplistic, competitiion-focused "reform" policies of current US Education Secretary Arne Duncan (an Obama appointee), and you have a disastrous recipe, an educational equivalent to defaulting on the national debt. 

Never mind the folly of basing cirriculum, government aids and teacher hiriing on something as fundamentally unfair and narrow as a standardized classroom test. If you're an inner city kid and you've never seen a cow, you're likely to wrongly answer a test question about cows because it doesn't take into account your urban landscape. In education, obviously, one size does not fit all.

Level playing field? More like stacked deck.

But if you live elsewhere in Wisconsin besides the City of Milwaukee, why should you care? After all, school choice has been exclusive to the big city since Tommy Thompson kicked it into existence 20 years ago. For a little while longer, that remains true. However, Walker recently stunned educators by announcing out of the blue, in the middle of budget deilberations, that he wants to extend choice to other Wisconsin public school districts.

School superintendents in Green Bay and elsewhere, already staggered by the roughly billion dollars in aids Walker intends to claw back from pubilc schools statewide, now have something else to worry about.  Their new worry isn't just that they will have to drop art and music and sports and lay off a lot of teachers. It's that their districts may very well fail altogether. Which, if you're only slightly cynical, you might regard as the Republican goal all along.

After all, the Walker scheme basically does this: Take tons of money away from pubilc schools, take tons of kids out of public schools, and limit what new revenues those schools can themselves collect to make up the difference. 

In today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, a great opinion piece by community columist George Wagner -- a retired librarian -- takes state Republicans to task for jumping the shark on school choice schemes. He points out that not only do private voucher schools already get a good deal, paid for out of Milwaukee Public School tax dollars, but that the choice system also puts the public school system in double jeopardy -- even now, before Walker and his enablers push to make the system even more imbalanced:

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A good friend taught first grade in Milwaukee Public Schools for many years. She often told of former choice students who would enroll in her class midway into the school year. Most had been booted out of their choice school - usually for disciplinary reasons - but only after the choice school had deposited the annual state stipend for the whole year.

Thus, MPS was doubly slammed - more disruptive students and not another dime to pay for them. As my friend says, "Choice schools take everybody; they just don't keep everybody."

The choice school spin on these student expulsions is usually, "they didn't fit into our program." But public schools normally don't have the option of forcing kids out unless they exhibit serious violent behavior. They must find a way to deal with all troubled youngsters.

I've never been opposed to choice or charter schools. But when they're compared to public schools, don't we need to take into consideration factors like those mentioned above that make for an uneven playing field?

Read Wagner's entire piece at:


May 17, 2011 - 2:04pm