Details Emerge on GOP MPS Turnaround Plan

Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele would name a commissioner to oversee the turnover of up to five struggling Milwaukee Public Schools per year to operators of public charter or private voucher schools with better records of success, according to details of a proposal by Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) and Rep. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield).

Details of their “Opportunity Schools” plan include:

  • The commissioner would operate independently of and have parallel authority to the MPS Board but would have broad freedom from state and local laws and rules, save for those regarding health and safety, non-discrimination and special education services.
  • Eligible schools would come from the 55 MPS schools that receive “fails to meet expectations” ratings on their state report cards. The commissioner would analyze the schools and select up to three in 2015-16 for a change in governance. After that, up to five schools could be added each year.
  • The commissioner would be tasked with turning around the schools through direct management or through soliciting offers from charter or private voucher school operators to manage the schools. The commissioner would also manage partnerships for school wraparound services that help support children in non-school hours.
  • Per-pupil payments for children in the Opportunity Zone schools to come from funding that would otherwise flow to MPS.
  • Staff at the public schools run by new operators would have to re-apply for their jobs and, if hired, would waive their right to be represented by a union. The plan suggests that staff would not have to have state teaching licenses, but would get a special license to teach in schools under the authority of the commissioner. Staff would have to pass criminal background checks.

Sen. Darling said she and Rep. Kooyenga are seeking feedback to improve their plan, but that it’s aimed at implementing new changes that the Milwaukee School Board has historically blocked.

Rep. Kooyenga said there are enough votes in the GOP-controlled state Legislature to approve the plan. He said they haven’t decided whether it would be its own bill, or more likely be folded into the state budget. The former would mean it would get a public hearing; the latter means it could be wrapped into last-minute changes without as much opportunity for debate.

WASB Delegate Assembly Resolutions that apply in this debate are as follows:

1.01 Preserving Powers
The WASB supports retaining and preserving the power and duty of locally elected school boards to oversee public education. (2001-2)(2010-1)

1.01 (b) Recovery School Districts
The WASB opposes the creation in Wisconsin of a recovery school district or a similar state-level authority designed to take over and attempt to improve the performance of low-performing public schools. (2014-11)

1.02 (a) Accountability
The WASB supports accountability and public disclosure of school district compliance with state educational goals for student achievement. The WASB supports a compliance procedure which provides for the school district development of a plan to correct any deficiencies in student performance. The WASB opposes legislation which may result in the removal of an elected school board and/or usurping of responsibility and authority for the operations of the school district. (1989-7)(1995-9)

Read More:  Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story