Friday, August 14, 2009

City Takeover Of Schools A Huge Step Politically

The proposal by both Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Governor Jim Doyle to put the Milwaukee Public Schools under the control of the Mayor and Common Council would be a policy shift of historic proportions.

It is too early to know if the plan can be implemented, or if it would demonstrably improve educational outcomes in the city, but there are too many problems with the status quo to rule out the proposal's possibilities.

This issue will dominate local politics around here for the foreseeable future, and it is noteworthy that it allies the two senior elected Democrats in the state who ran against each other for Governor in 2002 - - Barrett and Doyle - - and then puts these two leaders against many in the MPS system and their supporters - - mostly Democrats - - against Doyle and Barrett.

I'm not one to bash MPS. I have friends and a daughter-in-law who work at MPS and they are among the hardest-working and most professionally-dedicated people I know.

But there is no denying that education is crucial to the success of the city and everyone who lives and works here, and fundamental change is needed in the way education at every level is managed in Milwaukee.

I give Barrett and Doyle credit for being willing to step into what will be rough waters, and I hope everyone can stay focused on the big picture and away from narrow or tangential issues.


PurpleAvenger said...

sorry, Jim. I agree with you a lot - but NOT on this one. I'm an MPS parent -actually, a happy MPS parent - and while there may be many problems with the current system, but neither Barrett nor Doyle has given any indication whatsoever that they have the skills or resources to improve MPS - and a lot of indication that they just want to slash the MPS budget. Which, despite the hullabaloo over the alleged admin excesses, is grossly inadequate.

Rewriting state law to guarantee adequate funding for all schools and all children, as the state constitution requires and as other states have done, would make much more sense, and be more fair and democratic.

jpk said...

Overall I support a takeover, but skeptical it will change anything much.

According to a recent study of municipal takeovers, mayoral commitment is the centerpiece of success. Even then test scores don't dramatically improve.

Evidence of Barrett's lack of commitment: his takeover of the county jobs initiative hasn't resulted in much.

Also: Barrett tucked tail and ran after he first proposed a takeover.

Institutional consolidation can be a good thing, but only under strong leadership. For example, Milw city govt switching to a cabinet system under Norquist.

Do you guys have confindence that Barrett can pull it off?

Anonymous said...

MPS as it is managed and run today is un-fixable.

MPS does have hard working, dedicated, professional people working in it. And they deserve better, because MPS as an organization has none of those qualities.

Can Barrett & Doyle improve upon it? I have my doubts and want to ask - what took them so long?

Anonymous said...

PurpleAvenger said . . .

"Rewriting state law to guarantee adequate funding"

My god, the last problem with MPS is lack of funding. How that money is spent, make that wasted, is.

enoughalready said...

Interesting. I thought Mayor Barrett had said he was not interested in a city takeover of MPS (despite his earlier push to do just that). Well, at least the Common Council is involved in the current plans.

At a minimum, I would hope reforms include cutting the bloated school administration as well as better accountablity for spending and better cost controls in general.

James Rowen said...

I think there will be careful consideration on all sides of the issue/issues.

Anonymous said...

Just what MPS needs...more bureaucracy and politicians! I personally think that's one of the biggest problems with the current model--the fate of the schools is dependent on a school board filled with politicians rather than educators and experts in the field. Schools (and the problems they face) are a reflection of the communities that they are a part perhaps Barrett should focus on doing a better job running the city, and leave education to the professionals!

Anonymous said...

Real courageous of Jim Doyle to make this proposal and then announce a few days later he is not running for a 3rd term.

Guess this is why he wasn't concerned with offending his loyal benefactors in the Teacher's Union.

In addition to being the liar and crook we already knew him to be, Doyle is a coward.

Anon Jim

James Rowen said...

To Anon Jim: You can't be serious - - calling someone a coward in an anonymous comment!

Anonymous said...

Have no reluctance at all in calling Jim Doyle a coward in an anonymous post.

After all Doyle is an elected official of our state of Wisconsin who is supposed to acting in our interest, not his own like he always does.

I am just an over-taxed resident of this state who prefers to remain anonymous. That and I am too lazy to create an account for posting on your blog.

Btw it was interesting to see that the going rate for the Chief Legal Council job for the Governor of the State of Wisconsin went for only a $350 political donation.

Anon Jim