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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

What the Hagen loss means for me, MPS, and Milwaukee Taxpayers

As promised . . .

Most simply: If Hagen had won, I am convinced we would have a settled contract within a month. Every day that the MPS administration pretends it doesn't see us and the money-saving health plan we have on the table, taxpayers lose $35,000. That's one Educational Assistant. Every day.

And, sure, Goldberg wants to save taxpayers money, too, by dismantling our health plan; what he and the blind fools calling the shots neglect is that the MPS proposal not only saves money today by voluntarily instituting our first-ever premium share; our plan--which includes Health and Productivity Management--guarantees continued savings above and beyond even the district's proposal. And no, this isn't some "wellness" voodoo, either. HPM is empirically proven to have long-term benefits to employee health and corresponding cost savings.

So that's the immediate result: Continued deadlock while our contract is arbitrated. And remember, the contract under arbitration expires June 30!

Further down the line, we will see more money going into our superintendent's "small schools" initiative. Someday when I have six hours to document the failings of the plan, I will. I'll do just one now: My school has one--exactly one--teacher licensed to teach physics for 1500 students. Since physics is an elective, that's not a problem. But let's say our school "multiplexes" or breaks up into small schools. Which school gets that physics teacher? Which school gets the one licensed computer science teacher we have? The one licensed speech and theatre teacher? The one me (cuz, you know, I would be so in demand). And then are the other 1200 students in the four other schools just SOL, or will the district pay for teachers to start adding licenses so we can leagally--remember NCLB's "highly qualified teacher" provision--teach a full complement of classes? Okay, two: School mobility is incredibly high now; despite what they say about a student feeling like she "belongs" more at a small school, a wider selection to choose from means even more students will take advantage of MPS's lenient transfer policy to game the system. This is true: My school requires 25 credits for graduation while other schools require 22 or 18. Guess what happens to our seniors?

As the "small schools" initiative grows, Goldberg's former colleagues at the Technical Assistance and Leadership Center (TALC)--voucher advocates, all--will start getting taxpayer money to do their thing once that Gates money runs out. (Goldberg at least got his share of Bill Gates's money before he quit TALC to run for school board.) So we'll have a board that will refuse to offer compensation packages that make teaching classes of 42 more palatable while funnelling money to people looking to undermine the Milwaukee Public Schools.

Left unchecked, these changes will result in just two or three types of teachers left in Milwaukee: the young ones building experience before they transfer to the suburbs, the old ones waiting for their number to come up so they can retire, and, literally, the dim ones who don't have the skills to escape. This will, of course, feed the cycle of more parents trying to save their kids through voucher schools, which will further decimate the public schools, leading to more vouchers, and so on until the fundamentalist preachers and market deists have won. Worst-case scenario? Sure. But around MPS, we have a philosophy: If you want to survive, you have to figure that the worst-case scenario is the best you can hope for.

I love what I do, but I will not do it under the kind of conditions that will be coming. And if I quit, Joe Dannecker had better get ready for a whooping when his seat is up in 2007.

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