There was a rally downtown late Tuesday, outside the offices of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce.
Protesters targeted the MMAC because of attention it’s called to a school reform plan.
The business group has highlighted the fact that a few states have removed low-performing public schools from their districts and given them to other entities to run.
The protesters don’t want Milwaukee Public Schools privatized.
Milwaukee School Board member Tatiana Joseph organized Tuesday’s demonstration. She says if the state takes over the district’s struggling schools, it could hire private companies to run them.
“What we know from data we’ve collected from the last 20 years, we know that private schools are not really producing better results than public schools. Private sectors do not provide some services to students like special education, so it doesn’t really serve all of our population,” Joseph says.
Joseph says another concern is that the public would lose oversight of schools it’s funding. Steve Baas of the MMAC insists there is no plan to give low performing MPS schools to private companies.
“We had officials from Louisiana and Tennessee, both states who are doing innovative things with regard to recovery or turnaround districts in their states to come in and talk about what their states are doing in terms of low performing schools,” Baas says.
Yet Baas says he thinks Tennessee’s state-run Achievement School District has merit. The state awards charters to groups with plans to turn around struggling schools. He says Tennessee’s goal is to flip schools in the bottom five percent into the top 25, within five years.
“I think there are some elements in the Achievement School District Model that clearly have some attractiveness here, being able to do some more intensive intervention, to give some additional help, some additional coaching, some additional assistance to schools that are struggling, I think that’s something we really ought to look at,” Baas says.
Baas insists MMAC does not want Wisconsin to privatize Milwaukee’s lowest performing schools, as organizers of Tuesday’s rally contend. Despite his assurances, School Board member Tatiana Joseph says community activists will remain vigilant.
“We want to make sure everybody’s voice is heard and that this is a commitment that we have in the city to provide good education,” Joseph says.
Joseph says Milwaukee can expect more rallies.