This appeared as a column in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on July 25, 2021.
It’s the opportunity of a lifetime. It won’t really accomplish anything.
Both opinions are widely held as schools across the country plan for what to do with a huge wave of federal funding intended to boost both students and schools as a result of the pandemic.
“This is an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of children,” Keith Posley, superintendent of Milwaukee Public Schools, said during a Marquette Law School program posted online July 21 on how the money will be used. Posley added, “Our children deserve these funds and even more to make sure they are able to truly get the quality education that they deserve and live that American dream.”
But you need look no farther than the state Capitol in Madison to find opposite views. In late May, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “The amount of federal money that is going to school districts is overwhelming. It’s really kind of obscene in many ways.” The new state budget kept a tight limit on school spending across Wisconsin largely because of Republican opinions of the federal aid. Continue reading “School districts that use pandemic funds wisely may see payoff”
This story about the discussion during a program of the Marquette Law School’s Lubar Center for Public Policy and Civic Education appeared initially in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on May 2, 2021.
Pedro Noguera and Rick Hess talk to many school superintendents and principals around the United States. In general, they don’t find them to be oriented toward the sharp partisan divides that dominate education debate.
“When you talk to people who lead school systems, they are less ideological,” Noguera said. “They focus on practical matters.”
By “practical matters,” Noguera meant the daily things that lead to kids getting good educations, things like good teachers, good learning practices, and school cultures that offer warmth, safety and stability. Those are things he hopes will be given renewed priority as education recovers from the COVID pandemic.
Given the Trump Administration’s denunciations of various Americans and numerous manufactured crises, we might easily overlook its attack on the humanities. For the third consecutive year, the Trump Administration has proposed closing down the National Endowment for the Humanities. It has also proposed major cuts for the National Archives Administration and the complete elimination of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.
The justifications for these kinds of cuts are predictable. The endangered programs are said to be too costly, although the projected savings of only $28 million for National Endowment grants is not even a drop in the bucket compared to military and defense spending. More generally, supporters of the cuts are prepared to echo the public’s growing skepticism about the value of the humanities, particularly because they purportedly do not result in marketable skills.
What we really need, some might insist, is more funding for STEM programs or, at least, a greater commitment to programs that develop roll-up-your-sleeves practical approaches to problem-solving. These are the types of programs, it is claimed, that best prepare people for life and especially for work and employment in the context of the proverbial market economy.
Holding to the side the fact that STEM and skills funding already greatly exceed grants for teaching and research in the humanities, denigrators of the humanities overlook what might be gained from teaching and learning in such disciplines as art, classics, foreign languages, history, literature, music, philosophy, and religion. Each of these disciplines in its own way invites us to reflect on the most fundamental of questions: What does it mean to be human? Continue reading “In Support of the Humanities”
It might come as a surprise to learn that federal law does not require public or private schools to test their drinking water sources for lead or for any other contaminant. Instead, the Safe Drinking Water Act operates by regulating the “public water systems” that deliver water to the schools. Too often, this broad focus on public systems overlooks the potential contamination sources on private (or school) property, such as lead service lines and indoor lead plumbing “fittings”—valves, bends, and the like. This gap in federal law presents an important opportunity for state intervention.
When you say “social-emotional learning,” you’ve said something that prompts wide-ranging and provocative conversations about kindergarten through twelfth grade education.
That was the case Wednesday at a morning-long conference in the Lubar Center of Eckstein titled “What K-12 Students Need: Striking a Balance between Social-Emotional and Academic Learning.” The session included moderated conversations with two nationally-known education commentators and a panel discussion with Wisconsin educators who are working on increasing the success of schools in helping children deal with their personal needs as a step toward improving their success in school in beyond.
There are many clear divisions between the two candidates for Wisconsin superintendent of public instruction when it comes to how each would do the job over the next four years – and a good selection of those differences were visible Tuesday when the two debated at Marquette Law School.
Two-term incumbent Tony Evers and challenger Lowell Holtz, former superintendent of Beloit and Whitnall, will face off in the statewide election on April 4.
The Law School session, a week before election day, brought some heat – the two had sharp words, particularly over an exchange between candidates Lowell Holtz and John Humphries, a third candidate who lost in a February primary. In December, Humphries and Holtz met at a restaurant. It remains murky who said what, but notes from that conversation say they talked about one of them working for the other, should the other win. The “loser” would get a high paying job that would include broad power of several of the state’s largest school districts. In Tuesday’s debate, Evers said the exchange brought Holtz’s integrity into question. Holtz said Evers’ version was false, but did not clarify what went on between Humphries and him.
But there was light as well as heat at Tuesday’s one-hour debate. The race has been regarded by some as a referendum on the use of publicly-funded vouchers to allow students to attend private schools, including religious schools. Indeed, they do differ sharply on this, with Evers generally a critic of vouchers and Holtz a supporter.
“I’m very impatient and I want everything changed overnight. But it doesn’t happen that way.”
How does it happen? I Supt takes time. It takes the involvement of pretty much everyone in the community. It takes a willingness to make changes, but then stick with them so that they can take root and grow.
Those were among the broad and important lessons Darienne Driver, the superintendent of Milwaukee Public Schools, offered at an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program at Marquette Law School on Wednesday. Driver was enthusiastic about progress being made within MPS and about the prospects for success growing. But she was also realistic about MPS’s problems, and about how it will take time before the impact of current initiatives can be judged. Continue reading “Amid Continuing Concerns, MPS Chief Highlights Progress in School Initiatives”
Even in a social media world, I’m still a big backer of the notion that serious, informative, in-person dialogue about major public issues is a good thing. The more contentious and important the subject and the more level-headed the discussion, the better. When it comes to contentiousness and importance, almost nothing in the realm of education policy rivals the subject of private school vouchers for kindergartner through twelfth grade students. Milwaukee was the place where vouchers for low-income, urban students were launched in1990. And, with the election of Donald Trump as president and Trump’s selection of voucher-advocate Betsy DeVos to be secretary of education, vouchers are a hot subject.
All of this is to say that I thought the hour-long session at Marquette Law School on Wednesday was worth listening to, and the opportunity to do that remains, as you can find at the end of this blog item. In a program titled Lessons from a Quarter Century of School Vouchers: One Conversation, Two Points of View, we brought together Scott Jensen, a key figure in the voucher movement in Wisconsin and now an adviser to the American Federation for Children, a school-choice advocacy group headed by DeVos, and Julie Underwood, a professor in the education and law schools at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a long-time advocate for public schools. Continue reading “Two Views, One Conversation: Light Shed on School Vouchers at Law School Program”
Until Tuesday, Dale Kooyenga and Lauren Baker had never met. That alone is an argument for why their discussion before a capacity audience in the Appellate Courtroom of Eckstein Hall was worthwhile.
Kooyenga is a member of the state Assembly, a leader among Republicans pushing for education policies that embrace school choice, and a key figure behind a controversial new law that gives Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele powers to control what happens in some low-success Milwaukee public schools.
Baker is the executive director of the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association, the union that is an influential force in Milwaukee politics and MPS decision making. The union opposes almost all the plans Kooyenga supports.
Vicki Martin was at a national conference of community college leaders and set out to attend a workshop. But she walked into a different session than the one was looking for. That worked out well — it triggered a change in her thinking that may trigger a change in the education and job prospects for large numbers of low-income Milwaukee young adults.
Martin is president of Milwaukee Area Technical College and the session she walked into was about a program called the Tennessee Promise, which offers two years of community and technical college education with no tuition cost for high school graduates in that state.
It seems to be common ground that it will be hard to imagine the United States Supreme Court without the late Justice Antonin Scalia. He was a force also in legal education more directly. That is, he was a teacher, and he taught his theories of constitutional and statutory interpretation with intellect and energy, even outside of his writings in the U.S. Reports.
Justice Scalia visited us at Marquette University Law School on two occasions. The first was in 2001 to deliver our annual Hallows Lecture, where some 500 people were with him in the Weasler Auditorium, while a group of the same size watched a video feed in the Monaghan Ballroom of the Alumni Memorial Union. For me, the more memorable moment in that visit came when the Justice first arrived to campus, where an overflowing group of law students awaited him in Room 307 of Sensenbrenner Hall. The dean at the time, Howard B. Eisenberg, told the students that I would introduce him, because “Without Professor Kearney, there would be no Justice Scalia here.” Even before I could say anything, Justice Scalia brought the house down with this interjection: “I thought that, without Justice Scalia, there would be no Professor Kearney here.”
“So we are fortunate, indeed, that this history-making justice has joined us here today as we make a little history of our own. When Dean Kearney unveiled the plans for this beautiful building two years ago, he famously declared that Eckstein Hall will be ‘noble, bold, harmonious, dramatic, confident, slightly willful, and, in a word, great.’ It certainly is. And with the possible exception of harmonious—Justice Scalia has been known to say that one of his charms is that he likes to tell people what they don’t want to hear—the dean’s description of this distinguished and splendid building might likewise be applied to our distinguished and splendid visitor. So, ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming the noble, bold, dramatic, confident, slightly willful, and, and in a word, great Justice Antonin Scalia.”
There are things to learn from the remarks of Justice Scalia and the other speakers that day, including then-Chief Justice Shirley S. Abrahamson, whether in the recording or the law review account linked above. My own recollection of Justice Scalia has appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and can be found here.
For Maritza Contreras, the Cristo Rey experience began with seeing high school kids in her neighborhood on the way to school all dressed up. She was about nine at the time and the idea of going to school in your best clothes was “the weirdest thing I ever heard of.” But she was attracted to it. She made it her goal to go to Cristo Rey High School, a private school in her Chicago neighborhood where teens were required to work part time in real jobs in real work places and to aim to go to and succeed in college so that they could become adults working in places like the ones where they did their student placements.
For Contreras, Cristo Rey meant being asked for the first time about her college plans. It meant learning a set of skills and expectations that opened avenues for her, including small but important things such as how to shake hands firmly while making eye contact with someone.
And it meant enrolling in Marquette University with major scholarship support, graduating cum laude with a degree in nursing, and setting aside her nursing ambitions “for now” to get involved in helping the community as director of administrative management services for the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Wisconsin.
Cristo Rey has grown also. Starting in 1996 with the school Contreras attended, there are now 30 Christo Rey schools across the country. A local school, Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, opened this fall with 129 ninth graders, almost all of them low-income and benefitting from the state’s private school voucher program. The school is based in a church in West Milwaukee, just south of Miller Park. Continue reading “New Cristo Rey High School Has High Career Aims for Students”