Chloe Smith
Op Ed

Why I’m Canvassing for MPS

Knocking on strangers doors? I couldn’t help wonder what I’d gotten myself into.

By - Feb 26th, 2020 03:40 pm
MPS' Fernwood Montessori School. Photo courtesy of MPS.

MPS’ Fernwood Montessori School. Photo courtesy of MPS.

I’ve always considered myself pretty outspoken about issues that matter to me. I’ve been to several marches and demonstrations. I’ve voted ever since I was old enough. I donate whenever I can to worthy causes. When I got the chance to volunteer with Vote Yes for MPS, a campaign to provide students of Milwaukee Public Schools with the education they deserve, I jumped at it.

The one thing I’d never done for a cause, though, was canvass. Given that this week is Public Schools Week, this past weekend seemed like the perfect time to try.

If you asked people what their ideal Saturday morning looks like, chances are no one is going to bring up knocking on the doors of strangers to talk about issues in the community—I certainly wouldn’t have. The idea of approaching people like that is a bit intimidating in and of itself, and if you’re shy like me, it can seem downright scary.

So, when I signed up to canvass for Vote Yes for MPS, I couldn’t help but wonder what I’d gotten myself into.

In spite of my nervousness, this past Saturday, I woke up, had my coffee, and headed down to the Bay View Community Center. I sat down with the other volunteers as we introduced ourselves and spoke about why the Vote Yes for MPS referendum mattered to us. I learned that out of the group signed up for the morning shift of canvassing, I was the only one who had never done this kind of volunteering before.

With a bit of training and a clipboard in hand, I was off on my first (solo) journey of canvassing.

I’ll admit that standing on the front porch of the first house, waiting for an answer after ringing the doorbell, was a pretty nerve-wracking minute or so—but the whole process was almost the exact opposite of what I’d expected.

In this age of social media, it’s easy to feel like we’re reaching a lot of people—you share a post on Facebook, you retweet something, and feel like you’ve done your part and shown that you care. Not to say that these things aren’t worth doing or have no impact, but it’s probably never going to feel very personal.

There was something about actually being out in the community that made everything we’re working for with this campaign feel more urgent, and more real.

I got to talk with people who weren’t aware of the referendum about issues that mean a lot to me, and give them the information to make an informed vote on April 7. I spoke with people who had already decided how they’re going to vote on their experiences as parents and teachers of MPS, or what they value as community members.

These conversations helped me realize that this referendum is not merely an issue of numbers on a page—it is an opportunity to make tangible, positive change in our community.

As I walked through a neighborhood on a sunny Saturday morning, passing many kids out riding bikes or playing basketball in their driveways, this point was driven home even further. These kids deserve an enriching, equitable education no matter what their zip code is. I hope the small amount of work I put in on Saturday helped us get closer to that.

To volunteer to speak with community members about the importance of investing in our students, visit

Chloe Smith is a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Graduate Student and a Vote Yes for MPS Volunteer.

More about the Proposed MPS Referendum

Read more about Proposed MPS Referendum here

Categories: Education, Op-Ed, Politics

One thought on “Op Ed: Why I’m Canvassing for MPS”

  1. sbaldwin001 says:

    Just so you know… there are people who feel just as deeply about giving MPS students the education they deserve but who may oppose this referendum. The recent actions of the school board to give pay raises and institute salary increase schedules in the face of looming financial issues might indicate to some that the money raised by the referendum will not be well spent. Also, MPS has the ability to create its own charter schools where lower benefits are combined with incentives like smaller class sizes and arts programs. This has the possibility of alleviating some of the financial issues, and I am certain many teachers would prefer better working conditions rather than more money. Lastly, MPS has some buildings and real estate on its books that could be sold.

    So some may prefer to wait to invest.

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