Interesting point from Bruce Thompson at Urban Milwaukee.
For the past two decades, there has been an influential faction, including the Milwaukee teachers’ union (MTEA) and some school board members, that blames MPS’s problems on the availability of charter schools and vouchers for private schools. According to the MTEA and its close ally the Working Families Party, the solution to declining MPS enrollment is to prevent parents from choosing to send their children to charter schools or private schools.
Thus, instead of asking how MPS can better serve its customers, the children and their parents living in Milwaukee, the emphasis is on recreating a monopoly by getting rid of the competition. Ironically, charter schools chartered by MPS are among the most successful, if the state’s school report cards are used as a measure. This is particularly true if one looks at schools with a high percentage of students in poverty.
Partly this reflects the MPS competitive advantage, its ability to offer its empty space to a charter school. However, growing hostility towards charters on the board has made charter school administrators begin to wonder if they should consider switching to another charter authorizer.
Consider what happened to Wendell Harris, the only incumbent running for reelection in April election for school board. Four years ago, Harris ran and won with the support of the MTEA. This year the union is opposing his re-election. His crime? After visiting Carmen and deciding it was a very good school, he voted in favor of its sharing space in Pulaski High School. Essentially, his crime was putting the interest of the students ahead of that of MPS.
The next table lists the candidates for school board in the upcoming election. I think it is safe to say that those in the left-hand column have convinced the MTEA and the Working Families Party that they won’t make Harris’ heresy of approving a charter school application just because it does a good job of educating students.
To put this in perspective, conventional MPS schools currently serve around 56 percent of the Milwaukee children whose education is publicly supported, while 39 percent are in independent charter schools or private schools through the choice program. In order to get the Working Families/MTEA endorsement, the candidates in the left-hand column are committed to trying to disrupt the education of 39 percent of Milwaukee’s students.