On MPS, Adults Turn in Homework Late

Milwaukee leaders deserve failing grade on Partnership Program.

By - Jun 3rd, 2016 01:49 pm
Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele speaking at the press conference unveiling the plan for the museum to acquire O'Donnell Park. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele speaking at the press conference unveiling the plan for the museum to acquire O’Donnell Park. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

In the saga that is the Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program (OSPP), the adults in the room have turned in their homework late.

On May 24, MPS held a closed-door Special Board Meeting to discuss OSPP. In accordance with Demond Means‘ own plan, administrators had until May 25 to announce which school or schools would be the first to participate. That didn’t happen.

On May 26, Means and Chris Abele announced that they would wait to see if MPS leadership would come to the table to work with them on a recovery district before announcing any schools. CBS 58 reported that “communication is stalled” between the parties.

“We’re always wanting to wait until there is some type of sign that we’re making progress,” Means said in a statement. “In regards to the deadlines, I indicated in one of the letters that I sent to MPS that we were going to delay our selection process in hopes we could form work teams and in the hope that we could work together to move forward in this proposal.”

For an interesting thought experiment, consider what would happen if Means, Abele, or any member of MPS’ Board were back in school themselves, perhaps in one of MPS’ failing schools.

“We didn’t put our plan together in time, because we weren’t getting along with our group members, and we couldn’t agree on anything,” they might say. “But we really look forward to collaborating and moving forward on this.”

Even in a thought experiment, such students would likely get a failing grade. But because they’re the adults in the room, they get a free pass at the expense of the children still stuck in schools with leadership that refuses to move away from the status quo.

In an interview with WISN 12’s Mike Gousha, Abele laments that the focus has been less on Milwaukee’s students and more on “personalities, politics, and process.” He’s right, but he’s also participating in that very problem by waiting on MPS hand and foot.

While MPS meets behind closed doors to discuss whether they’ll allow students an opportunity to break from the status quo, those children continue to suffer in a district where just over 15 percent of students read at their grade level. While Abele decries the politics that he himself is playing into, fewer than 60 percent of MPS students graduate high school in four years.

MPS’ students need dramatic change, and they need it now. It’s time for the adults at the table to put aside their differences and turn in their homework.

Ola Lisowski, is a MacIver Institute Research Associate.

Categories: Education, Op-Ed, Politics

8 thoughts on “Op-Ed: On MPS, Adults Turn in Homework Late”

  1. Milwuakee Native says:

    It’s been reported that the plan proposed by Means and Abele would build on the successes of the MPS Community Schools model being implemented in partnership with United Way. Except that OSPP would be expected to improve outcomes with $2,000 LESS per student than MPS. And with no funding to set up new schools and a whole new bureaucracy. And would MacIver and other OSPP proponents ultimately reject this plan for its connection to the MPS ”status quo”?

    OSPP masterminds, Sen. Alberta Darling and Rep. Dale Kooyenga, have not exhibited comprehension about challenges urban schools face or actual successful models or failure rates of takeover districts on which they modeled their legislation. Will they simply give themselves A for effort despite not doing credible research such as published in the Atlantic and elsewhere?


    Perhaps the reason this “homework” has not been turned in is that Darling, Kooyenga and their takeover backers have set up everyone for failure: Means, Abele and MPS students.

    Or is their real goal to create a bigger pipeline for more for-profit education corporations? Maybe MPS leaders are simply trying to behave like responsible adults.

  2. Milwaukee Native says:

    Here’s some detailed research on the outcomes of Takeover School Districts in Louisiana, Michigan and Tennessee.


  3. WashCoRepub says:

    MPS is running the classic “obstruct and delay” playbook. They drag out every step as long as possible, waiting for more union-friendly replacements for Abele, Walker, etc. In the process, they continue to rack up hefty administrative salaries, benefits and pension contributions. The children are merely the pawns in the big adult game, of course.

  4. Marie says:

    WashCoRepub: This parallet OSPP district, once up and running, is likely to rack up hefty, and duplicative, administrative salaries and benefits, etc.

    Alberta Darling recently got the state to create a new bureacracy to charter more schools. Then her chief of staff got a big pay hike to run it for a base salary of about $95,000. Politicians can be masters at playing that adult boondoggle game.

  5. Bruce Thompson says:

    Milwaukee Native
    You have to realize that the organization you link to is heavily supported by education unions, so it has a political agenda, very similar but in the opposite direction to the MacIver Institute. Neither, in my experience, is to be trusted. They both represent adults who are defending adult concerns. The challenge is to find groups supporting good education wherever it is found.

  6. Milwaukee Native says:

    Popular Democracy may be biased toward teacher unions but the other story casting doubts was in the Atlantic.

    I’ve followed the research of Diane Ravitch, a leading historian on education who advocated for charter schools before extensive reasearch showed that their outcomes were, on average, no better and sometimes worse than public schools. I attended parochial schools and felt I got a good education, before vouchers, which may be helping some to survive. But there are plenty of horror stories about fly-by-night voucher schools cashing in on a system easily open to corruption.

    I’ve been interested in experimental education for decades. But I agree with Alan Borsuk’s column in today’s JS. He doubts there will be good outcomes from the contrived set-up the Legislature forced upon MPS. With all the experiments already underway, why not just expand programs already working, like community schools?

    I wonder how much time Alberta Darling spent in MPS schools or speaking with Darienne Driver before Darling decided she knew better than the Harvard-educated superintendent–less than a year into the schools-chief tenure. I worry most about Darling’s and Kooyenga’s politiical agenda–and hubris–as they gamble with students’ lives.

  7. wisconsin conservative digestsin conservative digest says:

    Kids at MPS will never learn till MPS is busted up. The combo the Left, Unions, Barrett and the Vliet st. mob has too much invested in themselves to teach kids to read. Bust it up.

  8. SteveM says:

    We’re fairly accustomed to this in Wisconsin. Still waiting for 250,000 jobs to be turned in.

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us