Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Misfortune of School Choice

By Jeff Simpson

We recently brought you a quick look inside one of Milwaukee's private voucher schools as seen by the great Rebecca Kemble.  

This is of course on the heels of Robin Vos, telling anyone who will listen:

  More school choice is in Wisconsin's future according to an article by Rep. Robin Vos in the Appleton Post-Crescent.  According to Vos, "every Wisconsin parent should also be given the opportunity to enroll their child in the school of their choice" just like we are free to decide where to live, what to wear, what to say, where to go to college, etc.

            Vos says "we should never have implemented a cap [on the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program] and I will work to get rid of it because schools choice works for Wisconsin." 
 The Progressive's new editor-in-chief, Ruth Coniff,  now gives us her perspective of the trip she took with Ms. Kemble.  

I recently went on a tour of Milwaukee voucher schools for an article in The Progressive magazine that left me in a cold sweat.

I saw kids going to school in a crumbling office building and in a corner store. There's a new voucher school opening in an old car dealership, and there are others in rundown factory buildings that have never been properly cleaned up. Students are being sent to such places at taxpayer expense thanks to Wisconsin's expanding Parental Choice Program. The vast majority of the kids in the Milwaukee voucher program are very poor.

What started as an idea that was supposed to expand opportunity for these kids to attend private and parochial schools has turned into a business opportunity for hucksters who set up fly-by-night schools that profit by taking public funds and running cheap, unregulated schools. You have to see for yourself how bad these places are to believe it.

At Milwaukee's "Academy of Excellence" -- the grungy office-building school -- they are teaching the Bob Jones University curriculum. There are posters in the hall that say "God can see your heart, and he knows that it is wicked." I looked in on a middle-school science class full of eighth-grade boys who were learning Creationism.

This is our vision for public school?

What chance do these kids have of ever climbing out of poverty or of connecting with the middle class? We are leaving them so, so far behind.
 (Edit Note: I hope everyone knows what they teach at Bob Jones University!)

 To be fair, NOT everyone gets left behind by voucher/private schools.  Some are doing incredibly well.

Take Ron Packard, K12's former CEO. In 2012, he earned a base salary of $625,000, a "performance" bonus of $584,375, a stock award worth $1.25 million, and stock options worth $1.5 million. But there's more. The company matched 25 percent of his salary for his retirement fund. Now that's a luxurious pension. And who funds this kind of deal? Taxpayers.

Contrast that with a public-school teacher's average salary of about $50,000 and an annual pension of about $40,000.

Kind of explains why Robin Vos wants to keep sending our tax dollars his way, doesn't it? 



  1. How are those great milwaukee public schools workin' fer ya -- oh yeah, there some of the worst in America.

    And WIsconsin's public schools are the worst in America to send an African American child to.

    Why do self-proclaimed progressives support the most racist schools in America?

    Oh yeah... Its that white entitlement thing.

  2. an anonymous troll making a declaration doesnt make it so.

  3. This is shocking. The taxpayer subsidies for privatization of education are attracting hucksters who only want to make a buck. One big clue is K12 and the hucksters who financed it. Convicted junk bond swindler Michael Milken was a major financier of K12.

    The taxpayer bucks flow into K12 - Profits and Questions at Online Charter Schools. The result is Wall Street does better than the students.

  4. Voucher schools have not helped African American students in Milwaukee. Tests shpw Voucher students post gain in math, reading; still lag public schools. "On average, students in Milwaukee's private-school voucher program still performed lower than students in the city's traditional public school system." Right wing propagandists like Anonymous at 10:23 AM and 10:24 AM can spin all they want. It does not change the fact that voucher schools do not improve education of our children.

  5. The reason so many black men are in prison is because of the racist police forces, especially around Milwaukee. The NPR article quoted, "Every black man here that get pulled over right now, there's a standard protocol that the officer asks you: You got a driver's license and are you on probation, that's the automatic thing they ask you. Or it's also when they look your name up and see your charge, they automatically [ask], you got any dope or guns in the car depending on what your case is too. And it's so funny to me, the more you cooperate, it seems the more intimidating the system gets."

    Then there is the uneven enforcement of drug offenses. Whites use drugs every bit as much as blacks, but blacks are more likely to go to jail. As the NPR article said, "About 40 percent of the black men in Milwaukee County get locked up for low-level drug offenses."

    "We need jobs, am I right. Yes. We need training. Yes. And we need education. These men will work, which a lot of them do learn while they are incarcerated. It's just when they come back out here, they don't have nothing out here for them. So you see the mass incarceration rate of them with the high recidivism rate of going back because of what's going on."

    What has Walker and the Republican legislature done to provide jobs, training and education to blacks males in Milwaukee? Warm spit in a cup and dog whistles from right wing media are all that blacks get from Republicans.

  6. everyone acknowledges that there are problems in education that need fixing.

    no one in their right mind thinks that the fix is to allow some huckster to open up a school in a vacant building and become a millionaire.

    except for maybe you and robin vos

  7. Nice try -- there are problems there -- but you entirely fail to address the literacy problem which is corrolated to the school-to-prison pipeline.

    You are willing to institutionalize racism as long as you don't have any skin in the game -- shameful.

    You cannot show that voucher schools all do worse that Milwaukee Public Schools -- in fact, many do best.

    The data that gets cherry-picked to "prove" otherwise is also misleading.

    But as long as you get what you want, you don't give a damn about folks below you on the socio-economic ladder.

    Typical Wisconsin progressive -- graduates of public schools are illiterate?

    African American boys essentially not being taught to read in Wisconsin and especially Milwaukee?

    You don't care -- shameful -- pointing a finger at walker and repugs is not an answer.

  8. simpson -- you have NEVER acknowledged that there are problems in public schools (and are not actually even directly doing it in this reply).


    It doesn't fit your world-view nor definition of "progressive".

    Equitable outcomes? Bah-humbug -- then I wouldn't get want I'm entitled too!

    Your type makes me sick -- go ahead and trash a strawman -- I'm not on Vos' side and nothing in my post suggests I am.

    But you are part of the problem as you mindlessly lie about public schools -- we can't save them if we don't address the worst institutionalized racism in the nation.

    Our public schools are what creates MISSISCONSIN!

    Most teabaggers?

    They went to public schools -- great education, huh?

  9. The problems schools are facing are symptoms of larger problems. Families and communities are struggling with poverty and dead end life style choices. Run down areas don't attract business, entertainment and restaurant investments leaving them out of improvement/investment dollars. No money flowing in equals less real life experiences and fewer options for work, play and learning.

    Raise people out of poverty, create a beautiful community and people will take pride in where they live, work and go to school. Even small towns where schools are in jeopardy get it. They may not have much but they take care of what they have and are proud of what their community can provide. These neighborhoods need to come together like small towns.

    1. exactly and lets not forget as we continually cut money to education we increase high stakes testing and government mandates to schools

    2. Your comments are totally misdirected and miss the bigger point completely. Look into East St. Louis, Chicago, New Jersey New York and Texas. Huge concentrations of minority populations without representation so nothing good is legislated to them except the expectations of higher test scores. No one goes to bat for these communities. Same thing is happening in Milwaukee.

      Read Jonathan Kozol's Savage Inequalities. The research on poverty has been there for years but politicians on both sides have ignored it. His work shines a light on it but people need to act on it and not pretend they can't see it.

  10. Is Robin Vos related to the principal if a well-known Brookfield religious school?