Sound Familiar?

Wisconsin School Superintendent Tony Evers is asking Gov. Scott Walker to veto education measures in a new budget that he says “are just bad for children in public schools.”  (Walker is expected to soon join the growing number of candidates for president in the Republican primary.  He has not been a friend of public education while governor.)

Here’s what Evers said in a memo to Walker a few days ago.  This deals with only one aspect of the budget.  And for those of us in Alabama, some of this has a very familiar ring to it, which simply means that while our legislative leadership loves to tout “Alabama values,” their blueprint for our public schools is not designed by folks who know the difference between Bridgeport and Bayou La Batre.

Recommend for Full Veto

  1. Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program

The budget bill provides for a take-over of so called “failing schools” in the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) district. This is a proposal with significant implications for students and families within MPS that has had absolutely no public debate whatsoever. The plan removes the ability of the families with students in MPS and the larger Milwaukee community to work within a democratic structure, with their elected board members, to address and resolve the issues and concerns they may have for their students in their schools. Every other district in the state enjoys that privilege – this proposal would rob the MPS community of that right. Instead, the authority to make decisions on closing and reorganizing schools in MPS will be placed in the hands of a single individual who will not have to answer to the MPS community.

The speed with which this proposal has moved through the Legislature has prevented a thorough review of the details of this proposal, let alone a healthy public debate about the ideas contained within the proposal. The proposal was made available to the public one day prior to be taken up and passed within the budget bill within two days. This is not the way to create sound public policy.

Initial review of the proposal reveals several concerns about implementation and policy; a more thorough review will undoubtedly uncover more areas of concern. While I could fill pages with the problems that the Department sees with this proposal, my request to you to veto this provision stems from the larger and very serious concerns I’ve outlined – there has been no opportunity for the public, particularly for the MPS community, to have their voices heard on this proposal, a proposal that takes away local control of a community of one of their most important priorities – their children’s education. Further, in vesting authority in a Commissioner to oversee the takeover of public schools in MPS, the proposal transfers responsibility over education from the Office of the State Superintendent, which is a violation of the state constitution.

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