In the state budget passed this year in Wisconsin was a provision that essentially legalized the theft of public schools from their local communities. The Kooyenga-Darling
heist proposal stated that,
select MPS schools with failing grades would become independent charter schools that do not employ unionized teachers or answer to the Milwaukee School Board.
Instead, those schools would be overseen by a new local board that would entertain proposals from charter-school operators and award five-year contracts to operators that present the most compelling plans, according to the proposal.
Within months, some Milwaukee parents, children, and teachers found themselves in “failing schools” that were now considered an “Opportunity.” These failing schools had the opportunity to be taken over by County Executive Chris Abele. Abele would “name a commissioner with parallel authority to Milwaukee Public Schools.” Also, teachers and staff,
Demond Means—superintendent of the Mequon-Theinsville district— was appointed commissioner by Abele. However, after a short time, it became obvious that the communities in which these failing schools were located had a problem being considered an “opportunity.” They realized quickly that Abele was going to use Means to implement the Kooyenga-Darling legislation and begin the privatization of their community schools.
From the beginning Abele and Means were met with skepticism. An uncooperative group of teachers, parents and students resisted the privatization of their public schools This promoted Abele and Means to issue a statement asking for local support and reminding the resistance,
You have clearly expressed your displeasure with this legislation and we have said from the beginning that this legislation is not how we would have approached a turnaround effort. We did not seek this legislation nor did we have any input into its drafting. However, as elected officials, we take an oath to uphold the law.
And then yesterday came the stunning news that Dr. Demond Means was voluntarily resigning as commissioner.
I made a promise when I volunteered for this position that I would not impose anything on Milwaukee Public Schools,” Means said in a statement Wednesday.
“It is now clear to me that as implementation of the law moves forward, the environment is not conducive to collaborative partnerships — something essential for positive things to happen in Milwaukee.
Now what? What will County Executive Abele do now? Will he continue to “uphold the law?” Or will he muster the courage needed to express solidarity with the parents, teachers, and children and execute his duty as a citizen to peacefully disobey an unjust and unethical law? Will he denounce a law that is founded on discriminatory assumptions about communities of color and animated disdain for people in poverty?
Or will he simply reappoint a new commissioner and “uphold” a law born out of privilege and contempt for our brothers and sisters that remain strangled by systemic racism and crushing poverty?