Tag Archives: MPS

Lutheran Pastor Speaks Out Against Possible Sale of MPS Building to Lutheran Voucher School

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Lutheran Rev Mark Johnson spoke and surprised many with what we had to say.

Lutheran Rev Mark Johnson spoke and surprised many with what we had to say.

I wrote in my most recent blog about last night’s sham town hall meeting organized by the 15th District Alderman Russell Stamper II on the proposed sale of a Milwaukee Public School building to the Lutheran voucher school St. Marcus. In it I discussed the reasons why the meeting was a sales pitch for St. Marcus and not an honest, neutral discussion about the pros and cons for the neighborhood. That’s what made Rev. Mark Johnson’s trip to the microphone so surprising.

With the entire agenda of the evening being so slanted towards the proponents of the building sale, I literally rolled my eyes when Rev. Mark Johnson, a Lutheran priest was called up to speak about the potential sale. But, what the Rev said surprised everyone in the room and demonstrated several more powerful reasons why the sale of this public building is a bad idea and must be stopped.

Lutheran Priest Speaks Out Against MPS Building Being Sold to Lutheran School from Occupy Riverwest on Vimeo.

Transcript of Rev Mark Johnson’s public testimony:

Good evening! I’m Rev. Mark Johnson. I’ve been a Lutheran pastor in the city for nearly 20 years. I certainly know the neighborhood as a pastor at 35th and Garfield and 17th and Locust and so I do have to say that I’m against the sale of the building for this reason. It’s a public building and as a Lutheran pastor, I clearly get that (alluding to the fact that he would be inclined to usually support a Lutheran School), but I think there’s a clear separation of church and state going on. Because I know from first hand experience, one of your sister schools Superintendent (speaking directly to St. Marcus Superintendent Henry Tyson), where one of my young men went to school who’s father committed suicide and was told, as part of the curriculum, that those who commit suicide are going to hell. You know that was a painful thing, a very painful thing, so I know there is religious education going on there and separation of church and state would say that you don’t give a public building over to that kind of slanted interpretation of the scripture passage.”

Rev Johnson hit on a key argument against the sale to St. Marcus. Should a public building that will be drawing students and resources from the Milwaukee Public Schools be sold to a religious school that holds these as their core beliefs?

The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) was founded in Milwaukee in 1850. Its core beliefs include:
  • Homosexuality is a sin.

  • Living together outside of marriage is a sin.

  • Women are not to hold positions of authority over men.  (The synod’s web page notes: “God gave to the man the unique calling of being a loving head and to his wife the unique calling of being a loving helper to him.”

  • A literal interpretation of the Bible.

  • The theory of evolution is wrong. (In explaining the discrepancy between the scientific view that the earth is 4-5 billion years old and the Biblical timeline of about 6,000 years, the synod’s website notes: “The short answer is that the earth was created with the appearance of age. On the first day everything looked older than it was.”)

  • The Papacy of the Roman Catholic Church is the anti-Christ. (A “Doctrinal Statement on the Anti-Christ” from the WELS website ends with the statement: “Scripture teaches that the Antichrist would be revealed and gives the marks by which the Antichrist is to be recognized (2 Th 2:6,8), and since this prophecy has been clearly fulfilled in the history and development of the Roman Papacy, it is Scripture which reveals that the Papacy is the Antichrist.”

There will be additional upcoming hearings at the MKE Common Council and the MPS School Board as well as another Town Hall meeting next Wednesday, June 11th @ 6:30, at the Northside YMCA (1350 W. North Avenue, Milwaukee, 53205). Come and speak out against this proposed sale.


Alderman Stamper Convenes Sham Town Hall to Sell MPS Building to Private Group

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I just left the so-called Public Town Hall organized by Alderman Russell Stamper II on the proposed sale of a Milwaukee Public School building (former Lee School) to the private, religious charter school, St Marcus. The meeting was hardly a public, neutral discussion as Alderman Stamper asserted throughout. In fact in reality it was a sales pitch for St. Marcus School on behalf of Alderman Stamper with only two days for the public to know about their ability to speak out against it.

Public hearing held Monday at YMCA on proposed MPS building sale to St. Marcus

Public hearing held Monday at YMCA on proposed MPS building sale to St. Marcus

Henry Tyson, Superintendent of St. Marcus School was given a major portion of the evening to give a slideshow presentation selling his school, without anyone being given the ability to present the other side of the sale. Next, several parents were paraded to the microphone to give glowing testimonials of the school. This was then followed by Q & A from the audience. Several speakers against the proposed sale did speak up including School Board Director Larry Miller, who challenged the assessment data Tyson had provided earlier in his slideshow when comparing his school’s students to the MPS district assessment data.

School Board Director Larry Miller Challenges St Marcus Assessment Data from Occupy Riverwest on Vimeo.

Milwaukee educator Amy Mizialko also stepped up to the microphone and immediately took Alderman Stamper to task for calling the Town Hall a public meeting when only two days notice was given. She then proceeded to lay out a strong case against the proposed sale.

Amy Mizialko Stands Up for MPS from Occupy Riverwest on Vimeo.

There will be additional upcoming hearings at the MKE Common Council and the MPS School Board as well as another Town Hall meeting next Wednesday, June 11th @ 6:30, at the Northside YMCA (1350 W. North Avenue, Milwaukee, 53205).

Milwaukee Educators Flood School Board Budget Meeting For Their Students

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Milwaukee, WI - “HERE FOR OUR KIDS” was the lighted message held high in the back of Tuesday night’s Milwaukee Public School Board budget meeting. Countless educators and their supporters stepped to the podium during the public testimony portion of the meeting to make several demands on behalf of their students.

Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association (MTEA) member Cathy Sansone was one of those to speak. Her testimony perhaps best summed up many of the educator’s demands:

Last week, my colleague did what she has done for MPS for fourteen years—she conducted the middle school choir for Music Festival. What does this fact have to do with the MPS budget? On the surface, not much. The choir performed admirably, just like in years past. The people and the leaders of the people were entertained, satisfied, and continue to believe that music still lives in MPS.
What about under the surface? The infrastructure, so to speak, of Music Festival? The infrastructure is crumbling. There is no guarantee that Music Festival will happen ever again—at least for middle school. Here is the data to support my claim:My colleague is near retirement. Is there a protégé or person being groomed to conduct middle school choir? Why not?
The songs for Music Festival are not being taught to students in middle schools. The conductor must teach the songs when the students arrive for rehearsal. That is an additional burden placed on the conductor. Why is that happening?In order to conduct, my colleague requires a substitute so she can rehearse. If the substitutes had health care, there would be more of them available.
Fourteen years ago, the middle school choir contained 1000 students. This year it contained 300 students. Seven hundred students didn’t even know that they could participate. Why is that?
My colleague’s 40 students from LCA had to walk to the arena instead of being bussed as in years past. Why is that?
My colleague’s 40 students from LCA had to stand in line at Subway on Juneau and Van Buren instead of being provided with a meal. Why is that?
So yes, music still lives in MPS—for this year. The infrastructure is not in place to guarantee anything—anything more than yesterday. Our students deserve better.
Why can’t our students be guaranteed the right to participate in Music Festival if they so choose? Our students deserve it.
Why can’t our students have access to a library media specialist every day? Our students deserve it.
Why can’t our students have gym, art, music, dance, drama, home ec, woodshop, metal shop, graphic arts and restorative justice opportunities every day? Our students deserve it.
Why can’t our students have daily access to a guidance counselor for guidance not testing? Our students deserve it.
Why can’t our students have access to computers every day? Our students deserve it.
Why can’t our students have reading and math interventions in groups of 2 or 8, not 20-25? Our students deserve it.
Why can’t our students be in a class size of 15? Our students deserve it.
What our students don’t deserve is our willing participation in racism. When non MPS public school students actually have all of these things but MPS students don’t—it’s racism. Racism exists in many forms and to say our students deserve these things and to still deny them is the biggest form of institutional racism in the country.
This year the 700 middle school students who were not at Music Festival experienced racism. So did their families. Someone decided that these students and families did not deserve to attend.
Milwaukee Public School students deserve better. You are the elected School Board. Fight for what our students deserve. MTEA will fight with you. I as a member of MTEA will fight with you. Fight hard. Make it happen. Now.

It remains to be seen if their demands will be met but one thing is for sure. Milwaukee educators are prepared to use their collective power to step up for their students when the current MPS Administration, School Board, and elected politicians don’t and for that we thank them!

Photo album from the School Board meeting can be found here.

Voucher School Takes Money, Dumps Student

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Voucher schools have long been known to “dump” children with special educational needs and at-risk behaviors, even after accepting taxpayer money to educate those students. The public rarely sees this happen, or is faced with the hardship this creates for children and their families. However, the letter below provides a glimpse into how voucher schools inflate their reputations by ridding themselves of unwanted students.

In contrast, public schools must educate ALL children, including those experiencing academic, behavior, or parental issues. Increasingly, they are also forced to pick up the students expelled by outfits like Mount Olive, without any compensation from the state because the school already cashed the voucher.

This is unfair. It hurts the expelled students and their families, humiliating them and forcing them to change schools. It hurts public schools, both financially and by concentrating the share of at-risk children. Finally, it hurts the public, as taxpayer money is siphoned off for private gain.

A common argument of voucher school proponents is that these schools create competition for public schools, thereby increasing achievement across the board. However, when your “competitior” can skim the cream off the class crop, that’s far from a level playing field. It’s hard to imagine how this type of “competition” would be healthy for anyone.

With their unfair advantages, you’d think that voucher schools would at least appear to be doing better at educating students than public schools. However, often that’s not even the case. The same MPS school that enrolled the student identified in this letter received another student from a different voucher school that same week, which had been closed down because its operators left for Florida to start another voucher school. The closure forced MPS to absorb its 66 students, only one of whom tested “proficient” on the most recent Wisconsin State Concepts and Knowledge Exam (WKCE).

The result for MPS is an overall special needs population of well over 30% and decreasing financial resources. Public school educators do their best to provide quality education for their students, but this becomes more challenging with every passing year. Though voucher school proponents love to talk about “choice” and “achievement,” the real story is that these schools do a serious disservice to students, families, educators, public school districts and state taxpayers.

Despite these glaring problems with the Wisconsin voucher program, legislators in the state capitol continue to look for ways to expand it. It’s time Wisconsin taxpayers stand up and tell them no! How many more students will we let schools like Mount Olive dump before we fix the problem?

Milwaukee Public School Educators Defeat Privatization Attempt

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Milwaukee, WI - Hundreds of Milwaukee Public School (MPS) educators crammed a School Board meeting and an additional overfill room on Thursday night to send a message. A message that was clearly delivered, as the School Board voted (just minutes ago) against considering private charters when addressing school improvement.

Dozens of MPS district schools have been targeted due to “low performing” status. A familiar foe of public education, The Metropolitan Milwaukee Association (MMAC) had proposed turning these schools over to privately run corporations. MPS Administration will now not be able to consider options that privatize the schools. Educators, parents, community members, and supporters testified late into the night on why they opposed the district selecting paths that allow for further privatization of the district and were rewarded for their tireless effort.

More photos from the action can be found here.