Thursday, September 3, 2015

Gov. Abele? Nope, Not So Much According To Him

Remember when everyone freaked out because Milwaukee Co. Exec. Chris Abele hired former DPW Chairperson Mike Tate to do some consulting work? Then a few days later a staffer from the DPW decided to work for Abele in the Exec.'s office and the internet freaked out because they thought he was planning a quasi-coup to run for Governor in 2018?

Well, the AP's Scott Bauer squashed that today.

First, there is his article HERE:
MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Democratic Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele said Thursday he "definitely" will not be running for governor in 2018, putting to bed rumors that he was considering mounting a bid after hiring a prominent party official.
Mark this one down...

While I thought chatter of him running over the last few weeks was over-hyped, his name has kind of always been out there in the lower-tier Democratic mix of people who may jump on. While three years is a long time, this is a hard one to walk back.
Abele told The Associated Press he felt compelled to deny speculation he might run so it wouldn't impair his ability to work with both Democrats and Republicans in Milwaukee. Abele also is running for a second term as county executive next year.
This is the part that's annoying... It's not that you work together, it's that you don't assert your Democratic side authority. Be a damn Democrat and assert yourself on DEMOCRATIC principles every now and again.
"I am definitely not running for governor," said Abele, 48. "Not that I ever made any noise about it, but others have." 
Talk of Abele possibly preparing for a gubernatorial run has spiked since he hired former state Democratic Party chairman Mike Tate on Aug. 24 and followed that up by hiring the party's communications director Melissa Baldauff. 
Abele said he hired Tate as a political consultant because he had known him for years and Baldauff came highly recommended. Baldauff, who had worked for the state party for two years, will take a similar job with Abele.
The way that is written it sure sounds like Tate secured a job for Baldauff. As I wrote HERE, nothing against her in the least, this is likely a very positive step for her. But the way that's written, it just sounds bad.
Abele succeeded Scott Walker as county executive in 2011. Walker, the Republican governor now running for president, is up for re-election as governor in 2018. Walker has not said whether he will seek a third term should his presidential aspirations fizzle. 
Which it looks like they are, but the conventional wisdom is that he's either going to cash in on Wall St. or be appointed ambassador to someplace like Iceland.
Abele is up for re-election in April. State Sen. Chris Larson, a Democrat and former Milwaukee County board member, has said he is considering running against him. 
Abele joked when asked whether he could change his mind about a gubernatorial run. 
"In the same way I suppose I could become an astronaut or hit the winning shot for the Bucks it's possible," he said, laughing. And, just for good measure, he further joked that the only way he would consider a run is "if the capital is moved to Milwaukee."
So, I'm taking that as a "no."

Then, there is THIS from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. It pretty much sums up the AP article, but does add a quote:
"I didn't get in (to politics) to just focus on what the next step is," said Abele, who was elected county executive in 2011 after Republican Scott Walker left the post to become governor. 
Abele said he hopes Democrats nominate a candidate who is pragmatic and can work across party lines.
I hope the Democrats can nominate a person who STOPS THE BLEEDING!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Local Control My Foot

There has been much ado down in Racine with their school board lately.

First, there is the fact that they have a clause in their teacher handbook that says they should at least consult with the union about compensation and language in the handbook.

Then, there is the issue of vacancies on the Racine School Board and how certain board members want to push a radical agenda over the summer when a quorum is present, but not all board members that are representative of the community.

It's further complicated, because one seat on the board is vacant, one seat that the conservative side would LOVE to secure to push their agenda.

So, enter State Sen. Van Wanggaard and some lackeys in the Assembly to introduce SB 244 and AB 325:
This bill allows the school board president of a common, union high, or unified
school district to appoint a person to fill a vacancy on the school board if the
remaining school board members fail to fill the vacancy within 60 days.
 
Under current law, if a vacancy occurs on a school board of a common, union
high, or unified school district, the remaining school board members appoint a
person to fill the vacancy. This bill allows the school board president of one of these
school districts to appoint a person to fill a vacancy on the school board if the
remaining school board members do not fill the vacancy within 60 days of the date
on which the vacancy first occurs. A school board member appointed to fill a vacancy,
whether by remaining school board members or by a school board president, serves
until his or her successor is elected and takes office.
Remember, Republicans are all about local control! So long as you do what they want.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

The New School Year Begins

It's my last Sunday of solace.

My last Sunday without worrying what we're all going to accomplish in my classes as a high school teacher in the coming week, month, year.

It's also likely my last Sunday without having to complete grad school homework on either introductory topics related to public administration or budgeting and finance too.

Last week was only a taste of what I'm going to be experiencing this school year. Between wrapping up my summer work as a union organizer and readying my newly moved classroom, it's always a whirlwind. There truly is no rest for the weary. However, it was by all measures, a great week.

Last Thursday was the first day MPS teachers and support staff had to officially report to to work. That happened with an astounding rally at the UWM Panther Arena downtown. (Being a history buff and Supertramp bootleg recording fan, I'll always refer to it as the MECCA.) It was a phenomenal experience! Would I have maybe liked some more time in my classroom? Yes, but never have I ever seen all of my colleagues from across the district in one spot.

We in MPS are truly all in this together, and that was the message our leader Dr. Darienne Driver wanted to make sure everyone knew. Well that, and a new slogan that truly encompasses what we need to be - MPS PROUD.

That's probably no better embodied than through this student's amazing speech. Seriously folks, as my friend Jay Bullock said online Thursday, "This kid for Governor. My checkbook awaits."



There were tons of moments like this one though. It was also a chance for me to see and reconnect with people I haven't seen since my first year in MPS. That's the funny thing about MPS, because so many people move around, for various sundry reasons, there are people you see daily 190 or more times over the course of a year. Then one day they're gone, off to some other school. This was a great chance to see those people, meet new people.

There was also this very powerful moment where MTEA President Kim Schroeder presented an "I Love my Public School" T-shirt to Superintendent Driver.

The happiness on everyones face was just a great way to bring that inner-feeling of happiness to the surface for everyone who's involved in working for the students of MPS.

This was a wonderful, wonderful event. I could link you to Alan Borsuk's Journal-Sentinel article that splashes some water on the pomp and circumstance, but I'm not going to do that. We know the challenges we face, we know the threats we face in MPS.

We know... We know all too well.

I'm taking this opening gala for the positive it was. To reinvigorate the mind, the body, the soul is so very, very important when it comes to education. It's why taking a nice break over summer is so necessary, both for teachers and students.

I don't care what anyone says, any time, any place, anywhere. Teachers are in it for the kids. The ones who aren't are pushed aside. They're pushed aside by their colleagues, by the union, by the district. We don't have time for people who aren't in it for the right reason, we just don't.

Time for year four with MPS to begin. I couldn't be happier to be where I am right now.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

What A Tangled Web We Weave - Chris Abele Edition

A few days ago, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's Dan Bice had a story that former Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chairperson Mike Tate was hired by Milwaukee Co. Exec. Chris Abele for some limited term work as a consultant. Then today, there was THIS story, which notes how DPW staffer Melissa Baldauff is moving in to replace Abele's current spokesperson who is moving up in the world.

Needless to say, these moves have set off a firestorm in progressive online groups and blogs. Many people are making comments about Abele and Tate as so-called "corporate Democrats" organizing in Milwaukee as a way to both stave off a possible Abele challenger in 2016 and make way for a statewide run in 2018. Interesting theory...

I'm no Chris Abele fan, not by a long shot. However, I have to give a tip of the cap towards Tate and Baldauff for getting good work and advancing their own careers.

I've thrown plenty of stones at Mike Tate on this site over the years, and while I think there were some bad decisions he made as party chair, I don't think his entire tenure should be characterized as such that every election outcome was based SOLELY on some decision he made. In 2010 there was a wave year which overtook the entire nation that nobody could've stopped. In 2011, we saw the State Senate recall victories and Democratic control, but the 2012 elections were held under newly redistricted maps, which are still choking Democrats to this day. 2014 wasn't much better for many of the same reasons, not the least of which was another national conservative wave that blindsided lots of us.

It's not entirely fair to blame Tate for such violent national waves. The benefit of hindsight is 20/20.

However, to somehow think that Mike Tate is going to stay out of politics, or doesn't have the right to offer his consultation advice for a fee now that he is done as party chair, is absurd. The man has to earn a living, and if he can draw a check from Chris Abele wanting his services, that's where he'll be. That's smart business, and in the post Citizens United world that's also how election campaigns work.

We as liberals may not like it, but the sooner we admit that we live under Citizens United's rules (or lack there-of) the better off we'll be to actually win and work towards overturning them.

As for Melissa Baldauff, she's just a simple staffer, who clearly sees a different and likely better opportunity. I can't imagine being the communications person for the DPW has very stable hours or glory beyond being the name on fundraising e-mails.

I must admit though, the timing of this announcement, a few months after the election of Martha Laning as Chairperson and a few days after the announcement of Executive Director Jake Hajdu leaving, does give me pause and wonder what's happening down in Madison at the "home office."

I may disagree up and down with many of Abele's policies and positions, and been very happy with his lack of communications gravitas up until now. However, I can spot a smart career move when I see it, so what's maybe not good for me as a liberal blogger in Milwaukee is probably a good thing for the office of County Exec. overall. Baldauff's move is smart, and likely strengthening a weakness of Abele's.

And that's one thing that I think some people may have a hard time understanding about my own two cents worth of analysis on this.

I don't think Chris Abele is somehow a bad person, or even not a Democrat. The man pays dues and donates a ton of money to the party. (Check the finance reports people.) He's got a card.

No, my problem with Abele is that when you hold one of the most powerful positions in one of the two epicenters of Democratic politics in Wisconsin, YOU NEED TO BE A TEAM PLAYER. Abele's good on many, many issues except the one that Milwaukee MUST be the leader on - Labor. Chris Abele is an abysmal failure on labor issues and carrying a Democratic message.

Abele and his supporters play this off as him somehow straddling this fine-line middle ground, which by in large is FRUSTRATINGLY true. But when you're the County Executive of Milwaukee, that's NOT what you should be doing. Your job is NOT to cast off labor, but to work with them! Show the rest of the state how to work together with them! Madison is the college-liberal artsy side, we are the working class bread and butter side of the party. You don't have to cave in to them, you don't need to bow at their feet, but you shouldn't be beating them down like a Republican.

Chris Abele is an abysmal failure as a Democrat in my eyes because he doesn't understand that.

If you want to make changes to the Co. Board, you don't go about donating to Republican Rep. Joe Sanfelippo and have him eviscerate them through state level legislation while building your own power. That's NOT being a team player. If you're a labor Democrat, you realize that board members are working people with family supporting jobs and you'd know how to use them to your advantage, not see the need to break them at the knees. (Oh, and building the Democratic bench...)

The list goes on. If you want to restructure the way union contracts are done in the wake of 2011 Act 10 and save money, you don't publicly go against every union you have. Just look at the bus strike for example. I saw a lot of right-wing blowback, as would be expected. But the residents themselves? They're on the drivers side, even with their terribly unpolished messaging. You didn't see huge blowback from those in the city of Milwaukee. In fact, you even had people like Gerard Randall coming out in support of their decision because they wanted to go to the table and the county turned them down.

There's a reason why Abele and the county was forced to sit down with the arbitration officer, which is still happening and sounds like will be resolved in short order. The three day strike worked.

Abele is an okay Democratic candidate to put up in other parts of Wisconsin, just not Milwaukee. If you're going to be a good Democrat in Milwaukee, you should be a team player and someone the party trots out at every turn as the face of the party. And we all know that's not happening right now for good reason.

So, you know what?  Let Abele run for governor in 2018. Here's what hilarious, he'll never make it out of the primary.

The richest pots of Democratic votes in Wisconsin? Milwaukee and Dane County, two places that are in no way considered fertile Abele territory. Plus, with Republicans very, very likely engaged in their own competitive primary at the same time, there's little reason to think that Republican cross-over voting will be a threat towards Democrats.

If someone like Outagamie Co. Executive Tom Nelson runs, what traction will Chris Abele have in the Fox Valley? How will the "Milwaukee Democrat" stick play in Eau Claire or La Crosse, especially if someone like Sen. Jen Schilling or Sen. Kathleen Vineohout runs? The pathway that Abele has used in Milwaukee doesn't exist statewide, because there will be a competitive primary on the Republican side, which Abele hasn't really faced in Milwaukee.

So, everyone who's freaking out online about Mike Tate getting paid for a few weeks of consulting advice and having one experienced Democratic communications staffer switch jobs from the state party to Milwaukee should just cool it. I'm no Abele fan, but from where I sit it's pretty clear that people are making smart moves for themselves right now, and what happens in 2015 behind the scenes is going to make an incredibly minimal impact on any statewide run in 2018.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Some Teaching Data From Public Policy Forum

The Public Policy Forum is putting out a report tomorrow about teaching and teachers in the pre and post 2011 Act 10 Wisconsin world.

You can read about it from the Journal-Sentinel HERE:
Over a five-year period that included the near-elimination of collective bargaining in Wisconsin's public schools, the teacher workforce in metro Milwaukee is smaller, less experienced and still largely white, according to a new report. 
I'm shocked!
The metro region also lost 700 teachers during that time, but that trend was most pronounced in Milwaukee Public Schools, which lost a total of 730, the report said.
Those are the key takeaways of a teacher workforce analysis to be published Wednes
day by the Public Policy Forum. The report surveys key characteristics of public school teachers in the 53 school districts within Milwaukee, Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington counties, between the years of 2009-'10 and 2013-'14, the most recent year available. 
Again, I'm shocked... I mean, not that the major losses in funding over that time have anything to do with that.
"This is giving us a valuable pre-Act 10 and post-Act 10 snapshot," said Rob Henken, president of the Public Policy Forum. 
Act 10 was the controversial legislation signed by Gov. Scott Walker in 2011 that all but eliminated collective bargaining for most public workers and sparked widespread protests. 
Ugh...

It severely curtailed what unions could bargain for, which is only for raises up to the cost of living consumer price index. It means that unions now may only use the legal "meet and confer" process instead of bargaining when discussing issues outside of base pay.
But some predicted consequences of the law — like widespread teacher mobility — did not materialize in the data. 
Hmmm, interesting, but what also is important here is WHERE the data is coming from. It's coming from the richest school districts, aside from Milwaukee, in the state. Go outside the WOW counties and it's a whole different world! CRAZY WORLD... Just ask the good people in Fond du Lac.
The report shows that only about 7% of teachers in the metro region moved to a different district over the years studied, despite anecdotes from district administrators that suggest otherwise. 
Again, look at the geography.
It became easier for teachers to move between districts after Act 10, because new employee handbooks did not offer the same incentives as collective bargaining agreements to stay with one district until retirement. 
"We didn't see widespread evidence of districts poaching teachers" from other districts, said Joe Yeado, senior researcher of the new study. "Even when we looked at (teachers in hard-to-staff subjects), there wasn't an outsize impact of teachers jumping from one field to another." 
You didn't find poaching between high performing districts because there wasn't a need to. Go outside that and there's lots and lots and lots of movement. Plenty of people are moving in the state, but it's not around suburban Milwaukee.
The analysis showed no real change in the average age of the region's public school teachers over the past five years. But teacher experience declined in the region.
This is directly related to the lessening of the profession of education. I'm more and more amazed at the mid-career people who are picking up teaching as a second profession. That can be both good and bad at times in my opinion, because many people just aren't aware of how vastly different schools are from their years there.
"That suggests that districts are hiring teachers who are not necessarily younger, but are less experienced," Yeado said. "They're not necessarily hiring new college graduates to fill these vacancies, but older teachers with less teaching experience." 
Mostly because those numbers of graduates has severely declined too.
That drop in experience did not occur among MPS teachers, where the average years of experience remained at 12 over the time studied. Suburban districts such as Maple Dale-Indian Hill, Muskego-Norway, New Berlin and Pewaukee saw a decline in experience over the time studied. 
New Berlin has been a revolving door from what I hear. As for us in MPS, we have a strong handbook, salary schedule that has been devised, and strong union that advocates for members. Experienced educators are seeing that MPS is not anywhere near as bad as people make it out to be and as en employer is superior to much of the "good old boys" clubs forming in the suburbs.
And while the students educated in the four-county metro area became more diverse before and after Act 10, the teacher workforce across metro Milwaukee remained 89% white. 
That's an issue, and sadly one that I contribute to.

We're looking hard at our school to fill vacancies with teachers with similar cultural backgrounds to our students. It's a challenge to say the least.
Yeado noted that 16 of the 53 districts analyzed have no minority teachers. In 34 districts, whites make up 98% or more of the teaching workforce. 
That's a sad statistic in 2015.
MPS has the highest degree of racial diversity; about 29% of teachers are racial minorities. 
That's still incredibly low in my opinion.
The data analyzed by the forum comes from the state Department of Public Instruction. Private schools are not covered in the report because the data is not publicly available. 
The report is the first in a three-part series, according to Henken. The second report will analyze principals, assistant principals and superintendents in the metro area, and the third report will analyze the teacher workforce pipeline, he said.
I eagerly await further reports...

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Walker's Shifting Positions

We knew it would happen. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has changed his stance yet again on immigration policy. And for that, we thank the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza's tweeting skills:

Friday, August 21, 2015

Bruce Murphy Nails It On The Head

As the teacher shortage grows, how will state leaders respond? Based on the last four years of policymaking, you can expect more proposals – with no study of the possible consequences — to reduce standards for the profession.
I couldn't say it any better myself. Bruce Murphy examines why there's a new teacher shortage in Wisconsin, and it's simple - THE PROFESSION IS UNDER ATTACK!

You can read the whole thing on Urban Milwaukee HERE, but I'll repost it below:
Across the state there are reports of growing problems for school districts trying to fill vacant teaching positions and universities trying to attracting education majors. The La Crosse School District needs to fill 23 different positions, “but the district said that’s proving to be difficult because the number of applicants continues to drop each year,” News800.com in LaCrosse reports. 
But that isn’t the only district coming up empty, the story noted. “I have received increased e-mails and communications from superintendents and principals about openings,” Marcie Wycoff-Horn, director of the college of education at UW-La Crosse, told the TV station. As of early August the education job website WECAN had listings for more than 2,000 teaching jobs, “a number experts say is high for this close to the school year,” Madison TV channel 3000 reported. 
Four times this summer, the Waukesha School District had to post the same opening for a high school position teaching biology and chemistry, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. The West Allis-West Milwaukee School District experienced “shallow or nonexistent” pools of candidates for teaching jobs in family and consumer services, physics and chemistry, district officials told the paper. 
Diana Hess, professor of curriculum and instruction at UW-Madison, told Wisconsin Public Radio there is a teacher shortage across the state in both urban and rural school districts. “Even though we don’t know the exact figures… we are hearing from school districts that this late in the summer, they still have vacancies that they haven’t filled, and that’s really unusual,” she said. 
Percy Brown, director of equity and student achievement at Middleton High School in Dane County, told Madison radio station WKOW the school is “struggling” to fill its business education positions — “and the reason for that is – why would someone want to be a teacher and make $35,000 a year, when they can go into the private sector and make $55,000.” 
Officials from the Yorkville, Whitewater and Elkhorn school districts say they are having trouble finding substitute teachers, and officials in the Fond du Lac, North Fond du Lac, Rosendale-Brandon, and Green Lake school districts face the problemas well. 
The problem is likely get worse because the number of teachers that needs to be replaced is getting bigger. “We’ve seen a reduction in teacher salaries and because of that you’ve seen more and more early retirements, but because of the attack on the profession, it’s not as attractive to want to become a teacher,” Brown said. 
The Spooner school district saw 25 percent of its faculty retire, resign, or not have their contract renewed this year, and the Madison and Milwaukee districts are also losing high numbers of teachers, as Paul Doro reported for Urban Milwaukee. Experts say there will be a huge number of openings to fill in the coming years because 22 percent of the state’s current teaching base is aged 55 or older. 
Meanwhile, the supply of new teachers is shrinking, providing fewer new teaching applicants. At UW-Oshkosh, which has one of the state’s largest teacher training programs, the number of students majoring in education has declined by 25 percent over a four year period. 
UW-Milwaukee’s School of Education has seen a 23 percent decrease in enrollment in a five-year period from more than 3,000 in 2010 to a little more than 2,300 in 2015, as Jeremy Page, assistant dean of student services in the School of Education, told Urban Milwaukee. Marquette’s College of Education has decreased steadily, from 445 students in 2010 to 385 in 2014, the JS reported. 
UW-Stevens Point has seen an 18 percent decline in students are studying to become teachers. “In fall 2010 we had about 1,409 students, now we have about 1,150 students,” the university’s head of education Patricia Caro told WAOW.com, the ABC affiliate in North Central Wisconsin. 
Why the sudden decline in the supply of teachers? Steve Salerno, associate superintendent of human resources for the La Crosse School District, told News800.com that until 2011 the district had virtually no issues trying to fill an open position, but since then, trying to find a teacher or even a teaching assistant has been been difficult. “At the height of Act 10 we began to see fewer and fewer people entering into the profession,” he said. 
Brown blamed the reduction in compensation for teachers: “because of that you’ve seen more and more early retirements,” yet “because of the attack on the profession, it’s not as attractive to want to become a teacher,” he told WKOW. Caro, too, pointed to Act 10 as a key reason for the decline of teaching majors. 
The reduction in compensation and security for teachers resulting from Act 10 comes at a time when recent college graduates are facing record student loan debt. The improvement in the economy also means more private sector jobs are available. 
Meanwhile, the criticisms directed at teachers may send a message to young people that teaching is not a valued or respected profession in Wisconsin. 
What’s remarkable about this whole situation is that no one pushing for Act 10 and arguing that teachers earned too much ever presented any evidence to support this point. Indeed, Act 10 was simply the first step in a series of un-studied policy changes launched by Gov. Scott Walker and Republican legislators. 
No one had any idea gubernatorial candidate Scott Walker intended to propose Act 10. Walker had signaled he’d want greater contributions to pension and health insurance for state workers only, and never mentioned wanting this from teachers or municipal workers. In fact, his aide Ryan Murray wrote a deputy sheriff to assure him that “Scott’s plan (to require higher pension contributions) will apply to active state employees only” and “not to….teachers and local government employees.”

And when Walker justified Act 10, he repeatedly said the state’s taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for better benefits for public employees than they themselves received. Not once did Walker point to a study of comparable jobs to suggest teachers were overpaid compared to other white collar workers in this state or nationally.
 
The reality is that Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson had imposed state limits on school spending and teachers union arbitrations to steadily reduce teacher salaries. In the late 1980s, Wisconsin spent 47 percent more than the average state in per-pupil expenditures and average teacher salaries here ranked among the top 10 states. By 2007-08, Wisconsin had dropped to nearly the national median in school spending, and Wisconsin average teacher salary ranked 23rd nationally, at 93 percent of the average pay nationally. 
So it would hardly be surprising if the significant reduction in compensation for teachers passed in 2011, along with the end of their collective bargaining rights and a reduction in the stature and prestige of the job, might reduce the supply of teachers. Add to that the increase in voucher schools, which means more cheap schools with much lower salaries replacing public schools, and there are many reasons that students might see teaching as a less attractive option in Wisconsin. 
In Indiana, where the number of people obtaining a teaching license fell by more than 50 percent since 2010, critics of the state’s policies have blamed the growth of private school vouchers and widespread bashing of public school teachers by Hoosier elected officials. Indiana also passed a law reducing collective bargaining rights. Two legislators there have asked for a study of why the teacher shortage of teachers has arisen. 
But Wisconsin, where the Wisconsin Idea once married academic research to public policy, now prefers government by whim. Walker and Republican legislators clearly see that school districts are having problems attracting teachers, but their solution is to simply lower standards for the profession. 
A proposed budget item would have allowed anyone with a bachelor’s degree to be hired and licensed to teach sixth- through 12th-grade English, math, social studies or science, and would have allowed any person with relevant experience — even a high school dropout — to teach in any other non-core academic subject in those grades. The final budget cut the first item but allowed the reduction in standards for teachers of non-core subjects. 
As the teacher shortage grows, how will state leaders respond? Based on the last four years of policymaking, you can expect more proposals – with no study of the possible consequences — to reduce standards for the profession.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Dan Adams, Chris Larson, And Stealth Campaigns?

Dan Adams, one time Assembly Candidate and token quasi-Democrat on the Charlie Sykes Sunday TV show had an interesting Tweet today:
What's funny is, I don't remember Sen. Larson ever saying that he won't run... In fact, if you're someone considering challenging a sitting County Executive, I'd think sitting in the back row of a budget hearing and passive-aggressively tweeting about what their perceived shortcomings are would be the exact type of thing you'd do. Especially if you're trying to build an online presence with your followers.

We can debate til the cows come home about the chances Sen. Larson would have against Co. Exec. Abele in an April election. But until he officially says he passes, there's every chance he'll run.

Well, not if you believe Adams. Yesterday, he posted this tweet:
Apparently we know where Dan Adams stands on the matter, so thank heavens for that. Not that anyone who thinks they'd have a snowball's chance in being elected to the Assembly on Milwaukee's east with stances like this should be even taken seriously...

Milwaukee Co. Exec. Chris Abele's Budget Hearings - MPS Takeover Edition

Milwaukee Co. Executive Chris Abele held his second of two budget town hall meetings today. If you missed the fact that they were even scheduled, you're not alone. The media barely even covered them being announced, and yes, they were only announced last week, so if you wanted to try and get to it with a job in the way, good luck.

One group that did manage to show up were advocates for the Milwaukee Public Schools, and pressuring Exec. Abele to throw off his role as czar appointer for the MPS Takeover district.

You can read the write-up from the Journal-Sentinel HERE:
A town hall meeting Wednesday set up to receive comments on Milwaukee County's 2016 budget instead was dominated by Milwaukee Public Schools teachers and retired teachers critical of County Executive Chris Abele's role as overseer of a small number of failing schools.
I see what you did there Journal-Sentinel, you framed the school takeover as being a "small thing" by saying "small number of schools." Sorry guys, it may be one school this year, but the long-term effects of this program are entirely designed to make him oversee a very, very large number of schools, if not the entirety of MPS.
Abele was given authority to appoint the commissioner of a special district made up of poorly performing MPS schools under an Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program approved as part of the state budget.

Gov. Scott Walker signed the two-year state budget on July 12. The legislation directs Abele to appoint a commissioner within 120 days of the signing.
Ahh, that's right, we are coming up on that date ever more. So, who's the options there Gov. Walker, Mayor Barrett, and Exec. Abele?
Retired MPS teacher Joan Christopherson urged Abele "to stand up to Gov. Walker and say no" to appointing the commissioner and forming the separate district. She spoke at Wednesday's meeting inside the Mitchell Park Pavilion.
I like the cut of her jib...
The program will take several schools from the control of the Milwaukee School Board and put them under the control of Abele and the commissioner he appoints, or directly under MPS Superintendent Darienne Driver, if she agrees to use the authority. Republican legislators said their intent was to turn those schools into public charter schools or private nonparochial voucher schools.
SIGH...

OKAY, let's go through this again.

The law gives Abele the authority to appoint a commissioner to control schools that are taken away form the MPS School Board. The bill also give PARALLEL AUTHORITY to the MPS Superintendent. This isn't an "OR" proposition such that Abele can give the schools to Dr. Driver and the commissioner. This is an "ALSO" proposition where Abele AND Driver can both take schools.

But I digress...
"Let the elected public School Board do its job," Christopherson urged Abele. The teachers union is opposed to the program and has vowed to fight it.
Huh, interesting choice of keeping sentences together, but true and true.
Other teachers and retired teachers told Abele that he should have refused to participate in the program, while several speakers described the program as a step toward a take over of public schools by private companies and private schools.
Which he should've, and which the program is.
Abele did not respond to critics of the opportunity schools program.

He has said he would not partner with private voucher schools, under the program.
That is at least one smart thing...
"We are still assessing the new law," Abele said later Wednesday. "I am optimistic about the opportunity to have a successful program that puts students first and minimizes any negative fiscal impact on Milwaukee Public Schools."
WRONG ANSWER ABELE...

If you think that answer is somehow supposed to sooth the fears of people who are worried, it's the wrong damn answer.

Assessing the new law? Smart... You should've just said that. Say that and GET OUT.

But no, you need to say you're "optimistic" about your new found authority. Okay, minimizing fiscal impacts to MPS is nice, but YOU SHOULDN'T EVEN WANT TO INFLICT A FISCAL IMPACT!

GAHHHHHH....

THIS, THIS right here is why many Democrats in Milwaukee cannot flipping stand Chris Abele. The man just doesn't get how to be a team player. He doesn't get how to not play right into Republican's hands by saying things that are so vague they give credence to Republican arguments.

I have ZERO sympathy for the man being the target of the teachers union's actions this fall. He could've just stayed quiet, tried to voice displeasure with the proposal in subtle ways, but nope.

More and more he's putting himself out there as the person who's excited and happy to have this new-found power, so when he becomes the person who's attacked, I won't be sympathetic. He could avoid this, or at least minimize the tone those voicing displeasure would have. He's choosing not to.

There's a reason the phrases "Boss Abele" ring true for many in this city. More and more, power is being condensed under one person and office, and it is not good for democracy. I don't think Chris Abele wants to set out and destroy MPS, I legitimately don't. But the more and more he talks about it, the more it seems evidently clear that he doesn't realize how many moving parts are working and how his words are so very, very important.

John Kasich, Meet Scott Walker

So, Ohio Governor John Kasich made some rather interesting comments today. Form Talking Points Memo:
He then suggested that teachers' unions contribute to educators' worries. 
"I’ll tell you what the unions do, unfortunately too much of the time. There’s a constant negative comment, ‘They’re going to take your benefits, they’re going to take your pay,'" Kasich said. "So if I were, not president, but if I were king in America, I would abolish all teachers' lounges, where they sit together and worry about, 'Woe is us.'
There is even video:



Umm, Republican's aren't out to take my job? Take my benefits? Cut my pay?

Hey, meet Scott Walker, his biennium budget, and the Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program, where he explicitly fires teachers, takes their job, takes their benefits, cuts the pay for new teachers, and does every single damn thing you say Republicans aren't.

Kasich, you're wrong. This isn't union's crying wolf, this isn't them trying to protect bad teachers, it's the very damn reason why there are teacher shortages all over for the start of the school year. It's not a lie, it's the reality we live with in 2015.

Sigh... I guess I need to find a lounge to vent in. (I mean, those 25 minute lunches are just stellar complaining time.)

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The New Battleground - School Boards

Kudos to those Racine Unified School Board members who failed to show up, thus purposefully denying a quorum, at Monday's school board meeting. School boards for a long time in Wisconsin have been little groups that gathered scant attention because votes were typically unanimous and simply those of keeping the district running.

Not anymore.

In the wake of 2011 Act 10, school boards are the only places where teachers can actually have a voice in their jobs and consequently, advocate for their students. Apparently, some people on the Racine board seem to think that a codified system of talking and discussing is just too much and want to see long-winded meetings and disagreement more often. 

From the Racine Journal-Times:
RACINE — Two Racine Unified school board members refused to attend a board meeting Monday in a move that delayed votes on a controversial change to the employee handbook and several other issues. 
The board members, Dennis Wiser and Julie McKenna, skipped the meeting to prevent a quorum, saying in a statement they were unhappy with how the proposed handbook change has moved forward.
School Board President Melvin Hargrove, however, said the absences hurt the board as it could not take action on several other pressing matters just before the start of the school year. 
Absences followed union call 
The Racine Education Association had called on Wiser and McKenna to skip the meeting so the board could not legally meet. The union has vocally opposed the proposed handbook change, which would sharply curtail the part union representatives currently have in developing handbook changes. 
Two other board members — Mike Frontier and Don Nielsen, both of whom previously voted against handbook changes — were on vacation and unable to attend the meeting. That left the board with just four members, one short of a quorum.
Wiser and McKenna said in a statement Monday afternoon the handbook proposal did not follow the proper procedure, saying it should first be reviewed by the Governance Committee.
In addition to the process, Wiser said in an interview he has problems with the language of the proposal. The plan would eliminate the handbook committee, instead requiring the district to get feedback from employees in a less structured way and give recommendations on handbook changes directly to the school board. 
Wiser, who sided with the unions in voting against changing the handbook May 18, said the latest proposal doesn’t address other problems with the handbook. He and McKenna said in their statement that not attending the meeting gives officials more time to come up with a better solution “in a cooperative fashion. 
“My bottom line is there is a dispute over the handbook, and if we don’t come up with a good solution, the dispute won’t go away,” Wiser said.
While attending a groundbreaking Monday at Olympia Brown Elementary School, McKenna declined to comment beyond the statement, saying: “We sent a press release, leave it as that.” McKenna also voted against handbook changes May 18 as a part of a 5-4 vote that left the handbook unchanged. 
The section officials want to alter requires any handbook changes to go through a committee that includes union representatives. School officials contend the section is likely illegal under Act 10, which effectively ended collective bargaining for most public employees. 
Union leaders argue the process is compliant with state law and promotes an environment of collaboration among district employees. 
Several votes delayed 
A previously scheduled public hearing on the proposed district budget went on as scheduled during Monday’s meeting at the Administration Services Campus, 3109 Mount Pleasant St. 
After the roughly 60-minute hearing, Hargrove apologized to an audience of about 30 “for the board’s inability to see to the business of the district.” 
He later said in an interview the no-shows make things difficult for the board. Among several items in a packed agenda, the board was scheduled to establish a committee to draw up School Board districts and approve new hires for the upcoming school year.
A special meeting may be called before the first day of school on Sept. 1, Hargrove said. Otherwise, the board’s next regularly scheduled meeting is Sept. 28. 
“It’s not only about (the handbook),” Hargrove said. “That’s what disappointed me, is because everyone became so singularly focused that they forgot that you have teachers that didn’t get hired, a committee didn’t get chosen … it’s about still moving forward the business of the district.” 
Superintendent Lolli Haws said in a statement she is also concerned about the timing, saying “the lack of actions this evening will directly impact our teachers, our students and our community.” 
Wiser said he considered attending the meeting and skipping just the handbook section, but worried he would be “trapped” into voting on the handbook. 
Hargrove, meanwhile, noted the union’s call to Wiser and McKenna and said the board is “elected to represent the Racine community, not the interest of one group.” 
Naomi Baden, director of the Racine Education UniServe Council for the district’s teacher and educational assistant unions, said Wiser and McKenna did not respond to their request and made their decisions independently. The issue should have never been on the agenda in the first place with two members already absent, she said. 
“It’s to the advantage of people like Hargrove to paint people like Wiser and McKenna as being in the pockets of the union. That couldn’t be farther from the truth,” Baden said. “They make independent decisions based on their conscience. They happen to have conscience, as opposed to some of these board members.”

The National Press Is Meeting Scott Walker... Err... Sort-Of

THIS story from Politico is mighty interesting, especially in light of many criticisms those on the left in Wisconsin have had of our statewide media and their lack of pressing Gov. Walker on major policy statements he's made as Governor. 
The Scott Walker campaign is quickly building a reputation as the most press-averse group in the Republican field. 
On Tuesday, Walker's policy team held a press call with reporters to discuss the Wisconsin governor's health care plan, as well as his intention to repeal and replace Obamacare. But when reporters tried to submit a question, they were greeted by a press aide who demanded to know what question each reporter intended to ask. 
"Was on Gov. Walker health plan press call. First time as a reporter I've ever had my questions pre-screened before I could ask them," Stephanie Armour, The Wall Street Journal's health care policy reporter, tweeted after the call. 
"On Scott Walker's health care policy call, reporter questions are being screened," her colleague Reid Epstein wrote.
That's not the hallmark of a candidate who's "ready for primetime." In fact, it's someone who's being shielded from the press as a way of controlling their image, something that doesn't work in the era of Donald Trump finding any available camera and speaking his version of truth to power.

In the end of the article there is this:
It goes without saying that Walker has held his share of press interviews and media scrums, but campaign reporters have noted the cautious attitude among his team -- which is especially notable given the governor's reputation in the Madison Statehouse, where he was known as a press hound who relished the attention of reporters.
Ahh, but WHY? Why was he a press-hound?

Is it because he could always correct any message he put out by running to the Charlie Sykes' of the world?

We saw it time and time again. Walker miss-steps, paper writes about it. However, RightWisconsin.com or some other conservative publication pushes back with their own blog posting. By the time the next morning comes around, Walker or someone is on with Sykes, or Belling, or McKenna, and setting their own narrative. Then, RightWisconsin.com writes about the appearance on the radio, the TV stations for the noon and afternoon newscasts, have Walker's rebuttal and he has the last word on the matter.

The press gave passes to the Governor because they needed access to him for stories. The national press? They give two _________, which means they are more than willing to state their displeasure. We knew this would happen at some point, and it looks like the stories are finally being written.

Look, Walker's not going anywhere in the Presidential race. In fact, he's probably going to go back up as the Iowa Caucuses approach. But at this point, it's painfully clear that his rise in Wisconsin was predicated on being an opportunist and growing as a bigger and bigger fish in a relatively calm water pond.

Out in the ocean that is Presidential politics, it's a different world...

Monday, August 17, 2015

Scott Walker's Iowa Message

Sometimes, a picture is worth a 1000 words...

The news today about Gov. Walker adopting a wholly looney policy of ending birthright citizenship is big, but I think this picture is much more telling:

Friday, August 14, 2015

MPS Takeover District News

Before she leaves for a fellowship to cover voucher schools at Columbia in New York, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's Erin Richards published two stories today about the Milwaukee Public Schools and new rules they are having to follow in the aftermath of the 2015-17 Biennium Budget.

The first article can be found HERE and focuses on MPS's having to submit a list of it's surplus property to the City and state. 
Because of a new Republican-led state law forcing Milwaukee Public Schools to sell its empty buildings, the district has submitted a fresh inventory of its facilities to the state, county and city for review.
State because... Well, the legislature just likes harassing DPI these days. County, because Co. Exec. Chris Abele gets to pick the commissioner who potentially could be the overseer of some of those resources, and the City because they are the ones who actually have control of MPS's buildings. (That's a whole other budgetary nightmare that was bestowed upon MPS.)
By mid-October, according to the new legislation, buildings designated as vacant or surplus will be on the market exclusively for public charter school and private school operators to submit letters of interest.

The law is part of the Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program that will put County Executive Chris Abele — and a commissioner he appoints — in charge of some of the district's lowest-performing schools.
Much more on that in the second article.
The language on school buildings calls for the Milwaukee Common Council to designate a person to sell MPS buildings that are surplus, underutilized or vacant to other educational operators.

Abele said in a recent interview that he has no immediate interest in diving into the facilities provisions.
That's news...

Why hasn't that been publicized more? Or if it was, how the heck did I miss it?!
Suburban Republican lawmakers Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) and Rep. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield), who created the low-performing schools plan, also want independent school operators to have more access to underused public buildings.

The Wisconsin Institute of Law & Liberty, a conservative law firm that has criticized the district's handling of its buildings, says MPS has turned down legitimate letters of interest from viable school operators.

The firm released a report last week explaining how the sales process of eligible district buildings would work.
The biggest work of fiction I have EVER seen, and the ultimate rebuttal to any conservative who claims they TRUST the free market.

The plantation mentality that is discussed in that "report" almost advocates for the opposite of what John Oliver talked about on Last Week Tonight about how the U.S. Congress controls Washington DC. Because the state gives so much money to MPS, they argue that they should get more control over MPS than other districts. They also play some jedi mind tricks and throw in a dash of voodoo to try and explain why it's okay for them to force MPS to sell their assets.
But district officials resist the characterization that they've been hoarding empty property.
Especially in recent years.
The administration has become more active in recent years repurposing, selling or leasing its underutilized buildings. Historically it didn't want to sell those facilities to competing school operators that might attract students — and therefore, funding — from MPS.

MPS spokesman Tony Tagliavia said Thursday that the district had previously identified 10 of its buildings as surplus and transferred them to the city.
They have also been realigning their assets and analyzing their practices after the horrid years of Sup. Andrekopoulos where buildings were condensed, closed, and damage to the district in many ways is only now being undone. (Just ask middle school teachers...)
He indicated the fresh inventory, filed by a deadline of Friday, still reflects that. The buildings listed are: Carleton, Centro Del Nino, Dover, Frederick Douglass, Garfield, Isaac Coggs, Milwaukee School of Entrepreneurship, Thirty-Seventh Street, Phillis Wheatley and Wisconsin Ave.
Not a small number, but also many that are in various states of condition ranging from rehab-worthy to almost condemned.
He also said the law firm's facts are incorrect and the district is using facilities to expand its successful programs, such as Spanish Immersion School, which will create a second campus in the old 88th Street School that the Wisconsin Institute of Law & Liberty cites as underused.
The WILL is nothing more than a laundering organization for conservatives in Wisconsin to have their dirty work aired in public without their name being officially attached to it. Let's keep that in mind ANYTIME you read their drivel and give it some shred of credence or expect it's facts to be up to snuff.

The second article  of the day from the MJS is considerably more dense, and includes information on the MPS Takeover district, which Co. Executive Abele must begin implementing. That article can be found HERE.
The state budget signed by Gov. Scott Walker last month gave Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele broad authority to oversee a special district in Milwaukee for the city's most troubled public schools. 
Well, it gives Abele that authority by forcing him to appoint a commissioner to oversee a new district that's predicated on removing local control from the residents of the CITY of Milwaukee.
So, what happens now? 
Abele must soon appoint a commissioner to oversee the Milwaukee schools selected for new management. But there's no money to pay the commissioner, no engagement yet of the philanthropic community — or parents — in the project, and little talk of who will staff the schools selected for treatment, if not the employees in them already. 
You know, all those pesky little details that were never included in the omnibus motion that bestowed this atrocity upon MPS in May. (Mind you, they were purposefully not included because this whole system is just designed to inject more congestion in the MPS school scene.)
Abele, a lifelong Democrat, said he's committed to giving the Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program developed by Republican lawmakers and passed as part of the state budget a good-faith effort.
Being a paid Democrat and embodying those ideals are two VERY different things. He's been light-years ahead on LGBTQ rights and always adamantly supportive of the arts.

It's just those darn working people and labor issues he just doesn't seem to grasp or understand very well.
"What got passed is nowhere near the optimum, but it's not the finish line, it's the starting line," Abele said in his first interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about his new role in the city's education scene. 
Where was this interview?! I looked on the Journal-Sentinel's timeline and didn't see it. This would've been fantastic to witness!

I'm EXTREMELY curious what he means by this only being the starting line. Is that good? Is that bad? Is this the start of something big where he can condense even more control into his office? Is this the starting point and he's going to actually play a little game of chicken with the Republican legislators who gave him this authority that he didn't really want?

The concept that this is only the starting line is very, very fascinating.
The program is designed to take some of the district's lowest-performing schools from the control of the Milwaukee School Board and put them under the control of Abele and the commissioner he selects, or directly under MPS Superintendent Darienne Driver, if she chooses to use that authority. 

Which does not seem overly likely at this time. In her first year on the job, the working relationship between the school board and Dr. Driver seems to be mostly smooth. There have been a few times I've noticed ruffled feathers when discussions and proposals have come up to the board, but overall they are small points in a very large system that everyone agrees needs improvements and wants to see.

The reality is that this entire notion is born out of a perception that suburban Republican legislators have of an MPS that existed 15 years ago and is not the one of today. They are co-opting that perception for them, and their school choice voucher supporter's pocketbooks.
The intent of Republican lawmakers who wrote the plan is to turn those schools into public charter schools or private nonparochial voucher schools, and to add wraparound health and social services, which they believe can be bolstered by the county executive's connections. 
Wraparound services that are in absolutely no way paid for by this bill. MPS is already providing many levels of wrap-around service though agreements with agencies like United Way, but sadly, much of what is really need goes unfilled. Health care services, mental health services, JOBS, JOBS, JOBS are expensive and not practically provided in many instances.
Co-authored by state Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) and Rep. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield), the program puts Abele, who is up for election next year, in an unusual position. 
An EXTREMELY awkward position, which is one reason why many Democrats wonder why he's even spoken out at all about this proposal. Even remotely looking like he supports the proposal means he'll feel the wrath of groups like the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association (of which I'm a proud member), and their allied community groups. Aside from those groups, the possibility of having to pay county funds that aren't allocated or even considered towards a school czar that simply oversees inner-city Milwaukee schools could tick off those conservatives in the suburbs, Abele's primary base of support.

Abele is in a very, very awkward position to say the least.
Some conservatives who applaud reducing the power of the School Board might find Abele more sympathetic to the district and its unionized teachers than they would have hoped. And some Democrats believe Abele should have refused to accept the new role. 
Finding Abele sympathetic towards any union would be laughable, until you realize that it's not really him being sympathetic towards our union, but really towards the kids and their communities. The teachers are merely the scape-goat conduit that is going to be the whipping-boy.

As we always are.

However...
The teachers union hates the plan, and is exploring all options to fight it. 
"Everything is on the table," said Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association President Kim Schroeder. 
And believe me, everything means just about as close to everything as you can without stepping over the line. Teachers are irate that legislators in Madison are making decisions about their students, their community, and their jobs without ever once speaking to them, coming into their schools, or having even the most remote conversation with the families and students who are in these schools.

We have seen what happens in cities like New Orleans when this road is started down, and we know that it can't happen here.
But Abele said he is optimistic about the possibilities. And he laid out some broad, initial priorities in an interview last week: No partnering with private voucher schools. No taking over MPS high schools. No unnecessary fighting over empty school facilities. 
Damn nation, WHERE IS THIS FULL INTERVIEW?!?!?!

Those are MAJOR things for students, families, teachers, principals, MPS officials, Milwaukee residents, and County taxpayers to know!

Let's go through those one at a time.

- No partnering with private schools

Huge... Absolutely huge. One of the major features of just how ill-conceived this program was is how it could potentially integrate private schools into a public district. Remember, this isn't a private school taking vouchers, this would've allowed the czar to turn over a public school to a private entity and given them authority to run it. Would that new school be public? Private? Nobody's really sure, which is why hearing Co. Exec. Abele say this is welcomed news from anyone who knows anything about education.

- No taking over MPS high schools.

This is a no-brainer, because turning around a high school is nothing short of working miracles. That's not saying that making achievement gains in a building, or reversing course can't happen, but there are many conditions that MPS and Milwaukee don't have which make that work exceedingly difficult. Namely, we aren't a closed system. Students already have such a vast array of choices, that almost 40% of MPS freshman were not in MPS last year. That is either because they came from a voucher or charter school that only goes though 8th grade, their open enrollment to a suburban district could not be carried over towards high school because it was over-crowded, or that student moved to Milwaukee to start high school, typically form someplace down south.

Turning around a high school building in an open system with so much choice as Milwaukee has usually involves removing the students and student population that are in that building. It's a sad fact and reality. Plus, the obstacles of students having jobs, their own kids many times, taking care of younger siblings (or grandparents), and lower reading and math scores, mean that moving the needle on tests to measure growth are costly and difficult.

This does not mean you may not see changes towards MPS's high schools in the next few years. This year MPS is launching a new organizational effort of how the high schools work together within MPS's central office. It is work that I have personally been engaged in over this summer, and can tell you first hand is probably one of the larger POSITIVE systemic changes that have been made in memory for MPS. Is this work an outgrowth of the takeover threat? No. It's the work born out of having a superintendent who knows what she's doing, has buy-in from community members, teachers, and the board.

- No unnecessary fighting over empty school buildings

I'm still working though what he's going for with this one.

That could mean that he's not even going to make any plays towards taking over buildings period. How that works, I'm not entirely sure, but the word "unnecessary" is very important here. What I likely think it means is that he's not going to use his bully-pulpit interject himself into the affairs of what the WILL is talking about in the first article. MPS has plans for some of it's old buildings, so I believe it could mean that he is just going to look at buildings that aren't part of MPS's plans now.

However, one thing I find mighty interesting is that he never exclusively takes off the table him taking over currently occupied buildings and only taking vacant ones, something that does fulfill the state requirements.
He believes the commissioner should be someone with a Milwaukee connection, ideally someone who has spent time in the classroom. And he intends to work closely with Driver, with whom he now has a standing weekly meeting. 
HMMMMMMMMMMMMM...

I think my colleague and friend Jay Bullock down at Bay View HS may be trying to advocate for such a position.

Also, did I read that right, Driver and Abele have a standing weekly meeting?

That makes sense and is good policy, but just very, very interesting to learn. Especially considering that one of the members of the MPS School Board, Claire Zautke, works directly with Abele. I've only met Abele a handful of times, but worked closely with Dir. Zautke and Sup. Driver, and would feel more than comfortable voguing for their professionalism and dedication to kids in Milwaukee and MPS overall.

Personally for me at this point, the more people who are MPS advocates that are in on these discussions, the better. I'll never agree with any school board member 100% of the time on policy issues, nor will I always agree with what the Superintendent recommends for policy issues either. But the pragmatist in me knows who my friends are in this fight, and that total agreement on every decision thought the history of existence isn't a precondition towards a working relationship or friendship.
"We've got some really competent people who want to do the right thing, and I choose to see the whole circumstances and choose to be excited about it," Abele said, adding that he has good relationships with Darling and Kooyenga as well as Driver and Michael Bonds, the president of the Milwaukee School Board. 
And there's where Abele and I differ in our pragmatism. He seems to want to play nice with everyone, even though one group is hell-bent on destroying the other through no fault of their own. You can't say you "choose to be excited about it" and expect the teachers to somehow think you're on their side. If there's one thing Abele is atrocious at, it's messaging, and realizing that just because you say you're a lifelong Democrat, and say you have a weekly meeting with the person who runs our district, doesn't really jive with your words of being "excited" about the circumstances.

Do I think Chris Abele wants to destroy MPS? No. But do I think he fully grasps the power of this legislation and how he's being the puppet to begin that process? No, not really, and statements like being "excited" don't help lessen my fears.
Bonds said he believes the same practices could have been implemented without the legislation, but that it's law now, and he'll focus on how to comply with it. 
The Milwaukee city attorney's office will provide the School Board its analysis and advice on the matter at a special meeting this month.
Better believe I'll be there...
Next steps

Specifically, Abele must appoint a commissioner within 120 days of the state budget being signed, with input from Walker and Mayor Tom Barrett. 
EVERYONE is curious what their recommendations are. Especially because we know Walker detests MPS and Barrett in 2009 tried to take them over himself.
The commissioner — and Driver, if she likes — may choose to restructure between one and three Milwaukee city schools in 2016-'17 and 2017-'18, then up to five schools a year after that. 
Upon re-reading the statutes, I guess I'm having a hard time figuring out if he is REQUIRED to take schools after the first year or not. I believe so, but others have questioned me on it, so it will be interesting to see what the final official word on that is come this time next year.
Speculation about potential candidates for commissioner has included several local names, including Bill Hughes, the former Greendale superintendent who is now managing director of leadership at the nonprofit Schools that Can and a leadership director at Alverno College; Patricia Hoben, executive director of Carmen Schools of Science & Technology, an MPS charter high school with two campuses; and Ricardo Diaz, executive director of the United Community Center and its independent charter school, Bruce Guadalupe. 
Wow, a lot to digest there.

First, Patricia Hoben should be 100% completely disqualified.

She runs two schools who would have an active interest in expanding their programming down to the K-8 level where Abele says he would keep the efforts, and it would look like an absolute quid-pro-quo.  The same could be said for Ricardo Diaz, who's school is also high performing, but again, both are endemic of why charter schools can be more successful than mainstream schools like the one I teach in - they can be exclusionary. They can kick kids out, they can enforce rules we can't.

The words and names have been flying around high and fast in circles around here too. Could Abele just appoint himself and save the money? What about Driver? Or Dir. Zautke? Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett is another possibility, or a former school board member like Jeff Spence or Megan Holamn? Holman actually has experience with schools beyond her time with the board, but she is presently running an aldermanic race, so that may not make sense either.

The questions abound.
Should Abele consider an outsider with experience in school turnarounds, he might look to the Academy for Urban School Leadership, a nonprofit that manages 32 low-performing schools in Chicago Public Schools. AUSL's managing director of elementary schools, Jarvis Sanford, started his career at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. 
Again though, a person who has a vested interest in having that job so they can direct their own schools into the program.
By mid-October, the Department of Public Instruction is to provide a list of the Milwaukee public schools with the lowest report card scores, the "fails to meet expectations" rating, for potential inclusion in the program. 
At last count, just over 50 met that criteria. 
One is Auer Avenue Elementary, near W. Burleigh and N. 20th streets on the north side. A likely pick for the program, Auer's proficiency in reading and math has plunged over the past four years. Almost all of the 250 pupils are poor and black, and 45% of them were suspended in 2012-'13, the most recent year for which data is available.
And one school that the group Schools and Communities United targeted earlier this summer as a prime example of how inner-city schools have been destroyed over the last fifteen years by budget cuts, the en-mass expansion of voucher and independent charter schools.  It was one of the so-called 90/90/90 schools that have been systematically devastated and show how the expansion of vouchers and charters has directly impacted MPS schools.
Impact on MPS

Abele said he'd like to minimize the negative fiscal impact on MPS as the new program moves forward. That's code for keeping the students in the MPS system. Charter schools that open under the oversight of the commissioner or Driver would be considered MPS charter schools, meaning the state dollars for those students would stay within the district. 
Hmmm, interesting.

So, is he thinking of appointing Driver as the Commissioner?

And even if he does, that really doesn't mean that those schools would be considered MPS charter schools. In fact, reading the state statue, I'm fairly certain that no matter if she's the commissioner or not, schools in that program wouldn't be considered MPS schools, so they wouldn't count for MPS pupil payments.
The program can collect 3% of the per-pupil payments that flow to schools that become part of the program, to fund the cost of the commissioner's salary and staff fees. 
But there are other practical difficulties. 
Like, BIG practical differences.
Who in the philanthropic community is going to step up to fund the start-up costs of the commissioner's salary, staff and any additional resources for schools before per-pupil payments begin to flow? If grant funding is a better source, who is going to write for it? Is there a plan to work with parents in the schools that would be taken over? 
Let me answer those for you... The philanthropic community? I'm not sure, but MPS has been doing a heck of a lot of work in the last six months with them. The MMAC maybe? Who'll write for the grants? The commissioner, or whomever from the charter group gets the go-ahead to run a school, but writing those grants is different from even finding if the grants exist.

As for working with parents? HA! If you go down the road of having a separate charter group come in, they won't have to keep those students. They are still MPS students, meaning that the district will have to inform them that their school is closing and that the new school will likely have to re-enroll everyone (that they want). The vast majority of students with special needs know that means finding a new school, because the utter lack of support for disabilities at many of these charter schools is appalling.
What charter-school operators have the wherewithal to take on turning around the district's toughest, most impoverished schools — places where improvement efforts have been historically thwarted by high student mobility, disenfranchised parents and teacher burnout? 
Nobody, because if they did they would be working miracles at their own schools, and presently, by in large, they aren't. They realize that the efforts MPS has put in are very likely exactly what anyone would do to try and combat the affects of poverty, high student mobility, disenfranchised parents, and constant staff churn.
Where are the principals and teachers experienced at working in school turnarounds going to come from? If you keep the same staff that are teaching in the persistently low-performing schools right now, and simply change the management, what inside the building will practically change? 
Ha, well, that cuts both ways. Sometimes, good staffs have horrible management that run them into the ground. Other times, bad staffs kill good management. Or, there can be decent management and staff who both know the challenges they face but aren't able to overcome. It can be external or internal as to why.

Keeping teachers can practically change what happens in a building. So can keeping principals and changing staff. But let's be honest here, the way charter schools practically change what happens inside buildings is by changing the students. That's how it works in Milwaukee, because EVERYONE is in the same race for trying to get the best and brightest kids.
"It's important to have a pipeline of teachers and school leaders who are going to be able to do this work in a sustainable way," said Chris Barbic, the outgoing head of Tennesee's state-run Achievement School District, in an interview with Chalkbeat Tennessee. 
Oh really? Because THAT'S EASY THESE DAYS!  States all over the country are showing that they have shortages in highly trained and qualified teachers because this entire system is predicated on destroying what attracts people to the profession - sustainability and a professional salary with benefits.
The ASD was created in 2011 to turnaround the 5% of Tennesee's schools that were the lowest performing, mostly in Memphis and now also in Nashville. Wisconsin Republicans and area business leaders explored the program as a model for Milwaukee.
That and New Orleans. Yep, THIS New Orleans.
Long-term plans for program

Darling stressed there would be a research component to track the progress of schools that become part of the program, but she was vague on who would conduct it. The commissioner or Driver could revoke a management contract for a school in the program within the first two years if things weren't improving, she said. 
Research component? Really? Now that's somehow in this? It's a science experiment? I bet Sen. Darling wants WILL to conduct it too...

Oh, and there's one thing about that whole "revoke" clause...
Schools would not exit the program unless they can meet expectations on their state report card. And they would only be controlled again by the Milwaukee School Board if the entire district significantly improved its performance record.
OHHHH, right, so they can be removed from that program, but can't actually become MPS schools again.
Otherwise, improved schools would be transferred for good to the charter school manager, or the governing body of a private school.
This program was designed to destroy MPS. It's just that simple. This is designed to give public assets in schools away to private entities like charter management organizations or private schools. It's JUST THAT SIMPLE.

Now the article, yes at the end I know, goes through some basic house-keeping:
Opportunity Schools and Partnership Plan

What is it? The Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program is a zone of schools within Milwaukee Public Schools to be controlled by County Executive Chris Abele. The Republican-created program became law as part of the 2015-'17 state budget. 
What will it do? Change the management structure of some lowest-performing schools in MPS by turning them over to charter-school operators. The schools may also be turned over to private-school operators, as long as they don't teach religion. 
Why is it necessary? Republican lawmakers believe removing some schools from the control of the Milwaukee School Board will spur long-needed changes, which could lead to higher achievement. They also say the schools will get more social service supports. 
It's not necessary number one. Number two, there's nothing that says these schools will get more social service supports, that's just a wing and a prayer.
What do critics say? The teachers union opposes removing the democratically elected School Board from the picture and allowing nonprofits or private companies to take over. It also criticizes white, suburban lawmakers dictating what should happen to urban schools serving poor students of color. 
Damn right it's plantation mentality of the worst kind.
What do supporters say? More dramatic reforms should have happened by now.
Huh, it must be nice to throw stones from the sidelines and not actually buck-up and jump into the classroom like me. Must be real, real nice...
What happens next? Abele has to appoint a schools commissioner. One to three schools could be selected for new management in 2016-'17 and 2017-'18. After that, up to five schools annually could join the program.
And in the mean time, we hold our breaths the whole entirety of MPS doesn't come crashing down.