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Mar 6, 201306:47 PMBlaska's Bring It!

with David Blaska

Madison Urban League head calls out Manski and Mertz for dishonest school board campaign

Madison Urban League head calls out Manski and Mertz for dishonest school board campaign

(page 1 of 2)

Kaleem Caire, president of the Urban League of Greater Madison, is speaking out against the campaign of deception waged against people of color and others who support doing something now about Madison’s yawning achievement gap instead of blaming Gov. Scott Walker.

In a statement issued this week, Caire writes, “As the 2013 Madison school board race continues, we (the Urban League) are deeply concerned about the negative politics, dishonesty and inaccurate discussions that have shaped the campaign. ... We are concerned about how Madison Prep has become a red herring ....”

Walker had not even been sworn in as governor when the Urban League proposed establishing a charter school, Madison Preparatory Academy, to address an achievement gap in which barely half of black and Hispanic children graduate from high school in the Madison public schools.

Caire mentioned as the two worst offenders in this campaign of dishonesty T.J. Mertz, candidate for School Board seat #5, and Green Party activist Ben Manski.

Manski’s wife, Sarah, jumped into the seat #5 race hoping to squeeze out an already announced candidate, Latina immigrant Ananda Mirilli. Sarah Manski’s candidacy was apparently encouraged by both Mayor Paul Soglin, who gave her a glowing campaign testimonial, and teachers union boss John Matthews, to whom Soglin referred Sarah Manski. On Dec. 30, Ben Manski blasted an email containing this outright distortion of minority candidate Ananda Mirilli’s position:

One of Sarah’s opponents in this 3-way race is a supporter of using public tax dollars to fund private schools. She was recruited by the former head of a Bradley Foundation-funded group that promotes the corporate takeover of public education.

Ms. Mirilli denied to Blaska’s Bring It! last week that she supported vouchers for private schools. She has been a supporter of Madison Prep, which, as a charter school, is a public school. Two days after winning the primary, and squeezing out third-place finisher Mirilli, Sarah Manski withdrew from the race, although her name will remain on the ballot for the April 2 general election.

Ben Manski’s reference to “head of a Bradley Foundation-funded group” is taken as a swipe at   Caire. Both Manskis, by the way, report to John Nichols in his role as president of the George Soros-funded Liberty Tree Foundation. Nichols has defended the Manskis’ role in the school board mess.

Kaleem Caire: ‘We should all worry about the future of our schools’

Caire wrote, in a memo dated Feb. 4:

We [Urban League] were categorically painted as an anti-union conservative outfit who proposed a flawed school model that divided Madison and threatened to join the Scott Walker effort to eliminate unions. We were made to be the great dividers (not the achievement gap itself) and me, “an Angry Black Man.”

The question of all the candidates has been largely narrowed to, “Did you support Madison Prep or did you not?”…as if something was horribly wrong with our charter school proposal, and as though that is the most important issue facing our school children and schools.

Lost in the debate were the reasons we proposed the school in the first place – because so many children of color were failing in our schools and there was no effective strategy in place to address it  ... two of the people behind the attacks on [Urban League of Greater Madison] were Ben Manski and TJ Mertz. They were uniquely aligned in their opposition to Madison Prep.

John Matthews even weighed in on video with his comments against us, but at least he ... didn’t call us union haters or teacher bashers. He knew better. ... 

If all it takes to win a seat on the school board now is opposition to charter schools, rather than being someone who possesses unique experiences and qualifications to serve our now majority non-white and low-income student body and increasingly challenged schools, we should all worry about the future of our children and public schools.

Read Caire’s memo in its entirety here.

It is clear to Blaska’s Bring It! that the underachieving minority students in the Madison district are being used as pawns in the Left’s ongoing jihad against Republican Gov. Scott Walker. Ironically, they are only helping make his case for more school choice, not less.

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Mar 8, 2013 05:37 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

Blaska: You want proof that Caire has cut down teachers. Look at Madison.com article Dec 9, 2011 Caire rips school district over Madison Prep opposition. There is a quote in this article from Caire himself. Typical tea party, wants proof yet stands up and lies themselves. When has Mertz been dishonest? Are you going to deny that Caire has been playing major roles in organizations that were associated with ALEC? Or that Caire spoke at a number of ALEC sponsored conferences? Or that a number of board members who are on Madison Prep board, support vouchers, have a history of their own or through their children of attending private schools, or even that one who worked at the UW, is involved in an organization that says UW favors minorities and sued the UW for it. It is interesting that tea party members like you have no problem with tax payer money being sent to a school which would be paying for uniforms, not have any say on who is on the board or what the school does, and trying to tear communities apart on areas where they feel the community has a weakness. Just because you and Connor have media outlets, doesn't mean you are at all giving any proof or clear picture of what is really happening.

Mar 8, 2013 05:59 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

Not to mention that Terrence Wall was on the original board who stated Smart Growth Madison, an organization which is against affordable housing.

Caire, picks his board, and if he picks people who are against the exact children who this school is suppose to be geared for, yes, Madison will be against this school.

Mar 8, 2013 08:05 am
 Posted by  coolkevs

Get a life dude or dudette - ALEC - are you kidding me? Do what I did - talk to Kaleem Caire - he is not a conservative by any stretch of the imagination. Go rent "Waiting for Superman" instead of trolling the leftist webpages - I believe that movie is by someone who is far from conservative. We are failing our kids here in Madison - 48% of African Americans graduation rate in this idyllic city! That is an epic fail! I would also suggest you visit the ALEC webpage and see where they support graduating 48% of African Americans. You would be better finding conspiracy theories that are true here in Madison than in ALEC la-la-la land that you seem to inhabit.

Mar 10, 2013 04:49 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

Isn't it great that in the WSJ today they talk about AVID/TOPS and Boys and Girls Club which has 100% graduation rate which has been helping with the achievement gap? Looks like Kaleem Caire is a sore loser because the Boys and Girls Club program has shown it works and is growing without taking tax payer money out of the current school system which Madison Prep was going to do. Exactly how many black, how many white and how many of the other minority groups did not graduate that year? And how many graduated maybe not in June, but in Aug or Dec or the following year? Why don't you give a complete picture rather than just say one percentage amount?

Mar 11, 2013 08:46 am
 Posted by  David Blaska

Logan, Logan, Logan. (sigh) Does Avid/Tops "take money out of the school district"? No, because it is IN the school district. Just as Madison Prep would have been. Sheesh!

Mar 14, 2013 06:07 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

See you don't get Madison Prep. Madison Prep was asking for a specific amount of money per child from the district not flexible like every other child be. Every other child's money is thrown in a pot, some of the students are under the average while others are over the average cost. And would Madison Prep take students who were unable to do their specific curriculum? No because it was going to be run and taught by people who don't have education degrees and no knowledge/experience in how to teach students who had other learning styles.

But you show how you don't understand education.

By the way, YOU stated that Mertz was dishonest, with no evidence, and even when the first post questioned you on it, you ignored it. Typical Tea Party, states lies and then ignores when someone questions them.

Mar 27, 2013 07:31 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

As the 2013 Madison school board race continues, we (the Urban League) are deeply concerned about the negative politics, dishonesty and inaccurate discussions that have shaped the campaign. ... We are concerned about how Madison Prep has become a red herring

Red Herring? Insulting. Taking money from taxpayers, and more incredulously, taking money away from the MOST vulnerable students in our schools is not a red herring. It is a valid concern. The elected board has the power to make this decision.... so, if they support charters and I don't, I will not vote or them. Brown, Black, White, Green.

And, yes, something was wrong with the proposal. Terribly. It was designed to cherry pick kids, build a resume and line pockets.

THANK YOU TJ MERTZ for standing in front of the board and asking the difficult questions! That was courageous.

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About This Blog

Raised on a farm near Sun Prairie, David Blaska is a recovering liberal who spent 18 years in daily newspapers, including 12 at The Capital Times in Madison as a reporter and editor. He served Gov. Tommy Thompson as acting press secretary in 1998 and is a veteran and survivor of 19 years in state government. He served 12 years on the Dane County Board of Supervisors. From December 2007 to November 2011 he wrote the consistently popular "Blaska's Blog" for Isthmus online's "The Daily Page" until, he says, the intolerant liberals ran him off. He blogs from Madison.

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