Sisters and Brothers,
As we head into 2017, let us reflect on a year of accomplishments and lessons. 2016 was unlike any other. We overcame unprecedented attacks on our students, our schools, and our profession. We were one of the first school districts in the nation to thwart a public school takeover in what was one of the greatest threats to public education Milwaukee has ever seen.
It is a traumatic experience for a school community to find out they are on a “Takeover List.” Last year, 53 MPS schools were targeted for privatization. With help from our community allies, MTEA members organized colleagues, parents, and students to stand up and fight back through direct action. Not only were all MPS schools targeted left untouched, the sale of an empty MPS building to a military-style voucher school in Riverwest was stopped.
In addition to pushing back privatization efforts, MTEA members won a full day to work in the classroom, and engaged in unprecedented and effective organizing with parents and families to keep early childhood class sizes as low as possible for our youngest learners.
Despite the nationwide push to deprofessionalize teaching, we are pleased to share that in 2016 The Milwaukee Center for Teaching, Learning, and Public Education offered nearly 100 free and low cost teacher-led professional development courses and workshops!
Let’s also not forget our accomplishments organizing for community schools. There are now seven new MPS community schools and the Center for Teaching and Learning was awarded a grant from the NEA to establish a Community School Institute to strengthen the MTEA’s city-wide role in community school development and create a national training hub for other NEA affiliates.
Additionally, members from eleven schools formed MTEA’s first Union Strong Cohort to work together on leadership development to harness the collective power that lives in our schools.
We know 2017 will be a test for our community. MTEA members will need to lead the way as we fight against new takeover schemes and improve our position to strengthen community schools. Our union will face the most organized and well-funded opposition to public education in Wisconsin’s history, but let us take a moment to reflect, recommit, and plan for the future. It is because of the dedication and commitment of MTEA members, parents, and community members that our students are performing against all odds to overcome the effects of failed educational policies. Let’s find strength in all we accomplished in 2016 and know that when we stick together we can achieve the impossible.
We truly believe that 2017 will make us a stronger union.
Kim Schroeder, MTEA President
Amy Mizialko, MTEA Vice-President