April 18, 2022

Governor Evers Vetoes Bill to Dismantle Milwaukee Public Schools

Governor Evers Vetoes Bill to Dismantle Milwaukee Public Schools Featured Image

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Governor Tony Evers has vetoed a bill that would have broken apart Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) and shift students into new districts created mostly by politicians. WEAC opposed the Republican-backed measure that was part of a series of bills to expand public funding of private voucher schools and increase lawsuits against schools.

The bill aimed at MPS (SB 963 / AB 966) showed how disconnected lawmakers are from Wisconsin Public Schools. Instead of supporting students, many of whom have tremendous barriers to learning, these lawmakers sought to create a disastrous disruption for families who depend on MPS for education, meals and more.

In our opposition, WEAC said the plan would take away families’ rights to choose the school their children attend and completely missed the point on what families need. “If these lawmakers want to help families, they should be supporting family-sustaining jobs, affordable housing and adequate health care – not advancing baseless public policy and causing more trauma to students,” WEAC President Peggy Wirtz-Olsen said.

Governor Evers agreed. “I am vetoing this bill in its entirety because I object to dissolving MPS without evidence that doing so will provide the measures and support necessary to help kids in the Milwaukee area,” he wrote in his veto message. “This bill’s provisions could weaken city-wide school initiatives that are a strength of MPS, could substantially alter individual school funding, and could result in substantial employee movement both within and potentially out of MPS. Further, this bill fails to assign membership to the proposed Commission to stakeholders that represent teachers, parents, students, or school board members who best understand what students in MPS need.

“Moreover, this bill represents yet another attempt by this Legislature to politicize our schools and an unprecedented intrusion on local control in our public school districts,” he wrote. “At a minimum, such a broad, sweeping plan should be developed in consultation with parents, educators, and administrators of MPS, drafted together with legislators who represent MPS parents, students, and schools, and considered meaningfully by and with input from the greater Milwaukee community. This bill fails on each front.”

Other Vetoes

Parental ‘Bill of Rights’ (AB-963). This bill would have created so-called “Parental Bill of Rights” aimed at creating new pathways to sue school districts over a long list of items. Opponents of the bill, including WEAC, pointed out that schools must be focused on students and not on lawsuits and its passage would create a new legal standard.

In vetoing the bill, the governor said, “As a former science teacher, principal, and state superintendent, I know that parents are the first and best teachers our kids have. We know we can improve our kids’ academic achievement when parents are actively involved in their kids’ lives, including supporting their education. During my time as an educator and administrator, engaging with parents and family members about their kids’ education was invaluable. That is why, as governor, I trust parents, educators, and school boards to work together to do what’s best for our kids.

Unfortunately, this bill is another in a string of legislation aimed not at supporting our parents, our kids, and our schools, and fostering those relationships that improve student outcomes, but at dividing our schools. Politicians on both sides of the aisle have to stop using our kids as political pawns. I am vetoing this bill in its entirety because I object to sowing division in our schools, which only hurts our kids and learning in our classrooms. Now more than ever, especially after these past few years, our focus should be on doing what’s best for our kids, improving school quality, and supporting our classrooms. I continue to urge the Wisconsin State Legislature to make meaningful, sustainable investments in K-12 education so we can ensure our educators, staff, administrators, and school boards can maintain robust communication and collaboration with parents and parent involvement and improve outcomes in our schools. By providing long-term state support for our schools and bolstering staff resources, we can better empower and facilitate parent engagement, which is critically important for our kids’ success.”

Crime Reporting (SB-585). This bill would have required high schools (public, independent charter and voucher) to report statistics on disorderly conduct and certain school other and crimes. The information would have been required to be included on district report cards.

In issuing his veto, Evers laid out several concerns including that the bill would:

  • Mandate additional reporting without additional funding;
  • Lead to inconsistent reporting and difficulty providing like comparisons due to disparate level of resources between public, voucher and privately run charter schools, further complicated by the fact that disorderly conduct is defined at the municipal level and many districts span counties or municipalities; and
  • Exclude law enforcement agencies from the reporting process.