Milwaukee Public Schools
Press Release

Statement from Milwaukee Board of School Directors President Michael Bonds and MPS Superintendent Darienne Driver regarding the Kooyenga/Darling proposal

Both Bonds and MPS Superintendent Darienne Driver expressed skepticism that the so-called "turnaround district" will do anything to improve outcomes for students.

By - May 11th, 2015 04:28 pm

MILWAUKEE (May 11, 2015) – Today, Milwaukee Board of School Directors President Michael Bonds called a plan released by Wisconsin Republicans Dale Kooyenga and Alberta Darling to turn over the Milwaukee Public Schools‘ (MPS) lowest performing schools to Milwaukee County “seriously flawed” and said it will do “nothing for educational reform.”

Both Bonds and MPS Superintendent Darienne Driver expressed skepticism that the so-called “turnaround district” will do anything to improve outcomes for students, and voiced concern that the plan solely focuses on MPS as opposed to including schools across all sectors in the City of Milwaukee that need to improve student achievement.

“This plan removes decision-making from the democratically-elected school board and newly-appointed MPS superintendent, Dr. Darienne Driver,” stated President Bonds. “This comes at a time when MPS is making significant progress in the areas of financial stability, academics and community outreach.”

“This plan seems to focus more on closing public schools and reopening them as private or charter schools instead of focusing on improving achievement and the challenges our students face,” said Superintendent Driver.

“The state has done this once before when it created the voucher program,” Bonds added. “That’s the state’s first ‘turnaround district’ and after 20 years it remains an academic failure for students. According to a Public Policy Forum report in December 2014, the voucher schools are the lowest-performing sector of schools in Milwaukee.”

In communities where recovery districts have been tried, they have not yielded the results that students deserve and communities were promised. In New Orleans, nearly every school was taken over, but only four of those schools are above state average. There have been lawsuits and court settlements after failures with special education. Michigan may now be on the hook for millions of dollars of the Detroit school district’s debt after schools were taken away there.

“The Kooyenga/Darling plan provides indefinite oversight to a non-educator, the Milwaukee County executive, at a time when Milwaukee County is facing significant problems of its own. A Public Policy Forum report showed that MPS is in better financial condition than Milwaukee County,” stated Bonds.

Bonds also expressed concern the plan would allow for MPS schools and facilities to be turned over to voucher schools and charter schools. Schools with substantial improvement plans – driven by local community input – could be forced to scrap those plans and start from square one with a charter or private school operator that isn’t required to have local ties.

“I do believe in accountability for our schools,” stated Superintendent Driver. “We have a responsibility to provide a strong public education, but our schools and students need the support of all of our stakeholders to be successful. Our students are counting on it.”

About Milwaukee Public Schools

Milwaukee Public Schools is committed to accelerating student achievement, building positive relationships between youth and adults and cultivating leadership at all levels. The district’s commitment to improvement continues to show results:

  • More MPS students are meeting reading standards
  • The MPS Class of 2014 earned $31 million in scholarships, up $7 million; and
  • MPS is home to 4 of the state’s top 15 high schools according to U.S. News and World Report

Learn more about MPS by visiting our website. More MPS news is available at

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10 thoughts on “Statement from Milwaukee Board of School Directors President Michael Bonds and MPS Superintendent Darienne Driver regarding the Kooyenga/Darling proposal”

  1. Alene Bidwell says:

    The fact remains that you cannot make a kid go to a religious school that is not of their parents choosing. The way these stories have been told is that the law would force kids into a religion they don’t belong to, if any at all. You cannot do that. That takes away their freedom of religion rights.

    They also have to come up with some accountability procedures for voucher schools. All schools must be accountable to the taxpayer if they are getting taxpayer money.

    I think school districts that become too big to effectively manage all their schools should be broken up into multiple districts. Better yet, give the principal of each school the authority to run the school, like it used to be 100+ years ago.

    Lastly, work with families to improve learning for kids who have difficulty. And, do it with success in mind. Don’t give up on them no matter how much they fight learning. Getting a good education begins in the home, not the school.

  2. PMD says:

    Abele says he didn’t lobby for this and didn’t even know all the details of the proposal before being contacted by the media. He also says he isn’t a fan of voucher schools or the voucher school program and pledges to work closely with Driver if this goes through. Any way to know if any of that’s true? Why give him oversight of this if he isn’t fully on board? Why allow voucher schools to be part of this as opposed to strictly charter schools? Not sure this is a solid plan.

  3. Alene Bidwell says:

    The fact that Abele didn’t know about this and isn’t a fan of voucher schools doesn’t matter to the people who wrote the bill. They are governing just as Walker is. They tell you how it’s going to be and you do not get any input into it whatsoever. It’s too bad if you don’t like it. You have to do it anyway. That’s the Republican attitude that Walker promotes because that’s what Walker does with every decision he makes. He tells them how it’s going to be and there is no discussion about it.

  4. PMD says:

    Yes the fact that they are putting someone who’s not really on board with it in charge doesn’t make it seem like the plan is truly about improving low-performing public schools in Milwaukee.

  5. Barb- West Bend says:

    Taxpayer money used to finance religious schools goes against our Founding Fathers desire to have separation of Church and State, and that has served us well over the years; keeping government out of church business and churches out of taxpayers’ pockets. Improve Public Schools…don’t work to destroy them. The proposal to give money to Religious schools is shocking. Will we be funding madrasahs? Evangelical Schools? Greek Orthodox Schools? Catholic Schools? Jehovah Witness schools? Church of the Later Day Saints schools? The school of Scientology? What religions will we be financing? As charitable organizations the properties of religious schools are tax exempt, yet they require city services. Religious Institutions give little accounting for income or spending. They usually don’t open their books to outside groups for audit. So, how will we know how taxpayers’ money is being spent? This proposal to fund religious schools is a lose/lose for taxpayers, and our Wisconsin Public Schools.

    So, why is it considered a good idea to finance religious schools with taxpayers’ money?

    Republicans claim to be fiscal conservatives, but the actions of this Republican legislature has brought us nothing but a disastrous financial mess.

    Legislators…put on your thinking caps.

  6. AG says:

    In the interview I heard this morning Abele was on board and talked about his responsibility to the parents of the schools that would fall under this new rule. Even if philosophically he isn’t a fan of voucher schools, doesn’t mean he won’t do his best to help these MPS schools.

    Frankly, most of the system is so bad I’m up for trying anything.

  7. PMD says:

    And by doing his best to help MPS, hopefully he’ll ignore voucher schools as they are the lowest-performing sector of schools in Milwaukee.

  8. AG says:

    Come on PMD, you know that’s a biased extrapolation on the data. 3 main factors for voucher schools performing lower are 1. Voucher students are all low to moderate income and when compared to MPS students of same income levels they perform better, 2. A higher percent of voucher students were transient in the previous years when compared to MPS students, and 3. Fewer voucher students take the tests that compare them to their peers.

    Aren’t voucher schools going to be held to the same testing and proficiency standards as other schools starting next school year? I agree there should be transparency and similar standards for all types of schools. That can’t happen soon enough.

  9. PMD says:

    Many voucher schools are teaching creationism and other nonsense, so I’m a little skeptical when it comes to the rigorousness of their academics.

  10. PMD says:

    And yeah I get it AG, most of MPS is in bad shape, but I don’t think that automatically means we should embrace anything that someone proposes.

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