Testimony before the Wisconsin Joint Finance Committee
Milwaukee, Wisconsin • March 20, 2015
Bob Peterson, President of the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association
I have taught 10 and 11 year-old children for 30 years in MPS.
When I taught at La Escuela Fratney in Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood I had the opportunity to see the power of Chapter 220. White students from Mequon and Whitefish Bay used 220 to take advantage of our school’s two-way bilingual program as their parents wanted their children to learn two languages with student of many races. Over the years, I’ve heard from those parents and students what a valuable experience it was in their lives.
Of course, that is a side benefit of the program. The power of the program is that it provides. African-American children the right to access educational opportunities in the suburbs, something that was out of reach for most families given the Milwaukee regions’ hyper segregation.
Today metropolitan Milwaukee is #1 in the nation in black/white residential segregation and # 1 in residential segregation based on poverty.
Is it not odd that when the State Legislature has gone out of its way to expand taxpayer funded private school options throughout the state, the one “choice” program on the chopping block is the only one that reduces racial isolation and segregation?
Ending Chapter 220 when expanding vouchers and charters is at best hypocritical and at worst racist.
In addition, the funds provided to MPS for Chapter 220 are significant and without those, MPS would be face a serious fiscal crisis with dire consequences for the students.
Instead of ending Chapter 220 increase support for public education, the foundation of our democracy.
Public school systems in our communities are the only institutions have the have the capacity, commitment and legal obligations to serve all students. While it may be seductive to expand taxpayer-funded private schools through vouchers and charters for the few, the result is to limit and degrade the choice for the many.
Vouchers and privately run charters drain money from public schools and do not serve all children. They serve fewer students with special needs, fewer English Language learners and regularly push back to public schools the hardest to educate children.
History will be the judge. Will the 2015 Wisconsin State Legislature continue to undermine Wisconsin public schools through funneling millions to private schools or will you recognize the necessity to support public schools as the corner stone of our democracy?