School board member says Madison schools can’t compete

Poor, aggrieved Madison is under attack. Those nefarious Republicans in the legislature have a “Scheme to Stick Charter Schools in Madison.” In Madison — cosseted, blue-fist-of-anger Madison!

So says Ed Hughes, past president and veteran member of the Madison Metro School Board, who offers a Letterman-like “Top Ten Reasons To Be Wary of the Republican Scheme.”

Ed Hughes

The legislative “scheme” would create an office, under the direction of the UW System president, to evaluate and oversee charter school applications in Madison and Milwaukee. As with vouchers to purely private schools, the state shared revenue follows the student. The public school district saves money because it does not have to educate that student, but it still collects the same property taxes.

I like Ed; I’m not picking on him — I’m arguing the case for reform, for competition, for trusting parents to make the best decisions for their kids.

It is a worthy debate, for there is little doubt that the full school board, its superintendent, its teachers union, the Democratic Party, Mayor Soglin, and probably the majority of Madisonians share Ed’s sentiments. For the festive rest of us, the white lab coats at the Blaska Policy Research Werkes have developed an alternative Top Ten, dedicated to the late Larry “Bud” Melman.

1) Attack the motives of your adversaries. “What’s tougher is buying into [the] interpretation that the Joint Finance Committee Republicans are the good guys here, struggling mightily to do what’s right for our kids,” Ed Hughes says. “My much different interpretation is that the Joint Finance proposal is simply another cynical attack on our neighborhood public schools and is motivated both by animus for Madison and by an unseemly obsession with privatizing public education, particularly in the urban areas of our state.”

Unseemly! Particularly in urban Milwaukee, where the public school district as a whole has received a failing grade from the Department of Public Instruction, and in Madison, with a yawning chasm between black and white student achievement.

2) Nobody asked our permission. Ed complains that nobody consulted MMSD about its “strategies for enhancing student achievement, promising practices, charter school philosophy, or anything else.” Um, sometimes results speak louder than pretty words on paper, Ed.

3) Its a conspiracy! Hughes peddles the conspiracy theory that the sponsors are “taking direction from charter school lobbyists.” Could be, can’t say. But we do know the Doyle administration took direction from the teachers union. As do certain school boards. (Cough, cough.)

4) Conjure hobgoblins greedy profiteers! Like liberal-progressive-socialists everywhere, Hughes frets that for-profit companies will operate some of the new charter schools. We can only hope! If Apple Computers operates schools in Madison they WILL make a profit, because they’ll deliver a great product.

5) Resort to partisanship. Nothing like insulting the party in power AND the UW president. Hughes maligns UW System President Ray Cross, suggesting that the educator is more interested “in keeping Republicans in the legislature happy” than in providing more educational opportunities.



6) Play the race card. Most egregiously, Ed asks, “When was the last time Republicans in the legislature staked out a controversial position in favor of providing genuine help to disadvantaged African-American youth?”

The answer, of course, is this week with the charter legislation. And last week with the Darling-Kapanga Milwaukee recovery plan.

Here, the Squire of the Stately Manor asks an impertinent question: When was the last time MMSD bucked the teachers union to approve a school aimed at minority achievement?

7) Back at ya! What has Madison done for black kids? Fewer than half of Madison’s black students graduate; Hispanic students don’t fare much better. Black students lag white students by 7.4 points (18 to 25) on the ACT test; Hispanic students are 4.8 points behind. More than one in four black Madison high school students are chronically absent — a rate 3.5 times higher than for Madison’s white high school students, and almost twice the rate for black high school students in other Dane County schools, according to the DPI.

8) You had your chance and you whiffed. In point of fact, Hughes and company had a chance to start an MMSD charter school to address black underachievement. The opportunity was handed to them by educator Kaleem Caire and Madison Urban League. It had huge community support, including the business community and the eventual Democratic gubernatorial candidate. Instead, they whiffed. Just as John Matthews of MTI is co-author of Act 10, the Madison School Board co-wrote the charter expansion.

MMSD is not a bad school district. But it is too resistant to the winds of educational change due to its fealty to the teachers union.

9) Parents cant be trusted, only us experts know what is best. Tellingly, Hughes forecasts that 7,000 students eventually would flee Madison’s public schools, which would be 25% of the district’s enrollment. Now, why would they leave if they were satisfied with the public school product?

Siding with Hughes is Mark No Last Name, who chides Your Humble Squire: “Do I really need to explain capitalism and marketing? You don’t think people are enticed to choose products because of slick advertising?”

Yeah, Mark. People are so stupid they need experts like Mark and Ed to make decisions for them. Can’t trust people to sift and winnow for themselves. Might not choose MMSD.

10) Like you guys know what youre doing. This is a school district that took the discipline out

of its disciplinary policy. Too many kids of color were being suspended and expelled. After passing up a discipline-oriented Madison Prep charter school, the school board committed the soft racism of low expectations by dumbing down its behavior policy. The result? A Lord of the Flies breakdown in social order, veteran teachers quitting in frustration, and the racial disparity STILL exists! (“Madison liberals making the case for school choice.”)

Now Madison’s public schools are spending $1.9 million on discipline. One point nine million dollars buys a lot of hickory switches. That’s $70 per student!

You think parents haven’t noticed?

Thanks, President Obama #1!

A hidden provision of Obamacare is forcing the Wisconsin Department of Employee Trust Funds to make some big changes to state employee health insurance benefits starting in 2016. The federal law will hit employers who offer high-priced health plans with a 40% “Cadillac tax” starting in 2018. In order to avoid that, ETF is switching to higher deductible plans and is doubling out-of-pocket costs. — MacIver News Service.

Thanks, President Obama #2!

George W. Bush is more popular than Barack Obama. According to a new CNN poll, 52% disapprove of Obama and 45% approve. Meanwhile, 52% of adults had a favorable impression of George W. Bush, 43% unfavorable.

Thanks, President Obama #3!

The Obama administration’s Justice Department is investigating over 20 police departments, yet is ignoring what can only be described as a nationwide crime wave. Murder rates up 13% in New York City, up 17% in Chicago, 25% in Los Angeles, 52% in Atlanta, and 52% in Houston.

But wait, there’s more: murder in Milwaukee is up 103% — 41 homicides through May compared to 27 last year.

And Baltimore? One hundred nineteen homicides through the first five months in a city the same population as Milwaukee. Are Baltimore police just a little bit slower to respond? (You take this one, Bill. Bill?) Are its street criminals emboldened just a bit? — CNN: “Is a new crime wave on horizon?

Speaking of which, the Squire welcomes Maryland Democrat Martin O’Baltimore to the presidential fray. Hillary “The Foundation” Clinton, Martin O’Baltimore, and a Vermont socialist. What a field!

Thanks, President Obama!

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