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Sunday, April 19, 2009

I go away for a few days, and the WPRI goes off the deep end

by folkbum

Not that WPRI was that many centimeters away from the edge to begin with. But seriously, consider that on just one day, you get both Christian Schneider blaming Wisconsin's high income tax rate (which is not that high comparatively--I mean, we're not so bad as those liberal havens of Arkansas and Nebraska, thank jeebus!) is to blame for the Packers' dismal season and this piece of drivel from WPRI honcho George Lightbourn.

In that piece, Lightbourn goes ridiculous in a number of different ways. First, he insists that reforms to the Milwaukee Parental Choice (voucher) Program are "onerous enough for the choice schools that they will be forced to opt out of the choice program." You know what regulations he's talking about? These (.pdf):
  • adopting academic standards,
  • scheduling the same number of hours of instruction each year as required in public schools,
  • administering state standardized tests,
  • requiring all teachers and administrators in Choice schools to have a bachelor's degree
  • developing written policies for promoting a student from one grade to another and granting a high school diploma,
  • maintaining student progress records,
  • requiring all participating schools to attain accreditation by August 1st, instead of December 31st, of the school year in which the school first participates in the program, and
  • increasing transparency and disclosure of information about the school to parents and the public.
I'd like Lightbourn to explain exactly which of these are "onerous," and why, if they're so awful, voucher proponents like Howard Fuller support most or all of them. Also, then, if they're so "onerous," why should every public school in the state have to do these (or requirements more strict, like having licensed teachers, not just teachers with a bachelor's degree). And, frankly, if I were a parent and my child attended a school where these things were not already true (with the exception of high-stakes testing), I would be incredibly worried and consider pulling my child out.

So, on top of disparaging these "onerous" requirements that will send voucher schools into a death spiral, Lightbourn also feels the need to dump on MPS:
Why the push to move these children back into Milwaukee Public Schools? [. . .] To make matters more confusing, last week Governor Doyle and Milwaukee Mayor Barrett released a consultant’s report that detailed just how grim fiscal condition of Milwaukee Public Schools is. In releasing the report, the Governor and mayor said, …the unfortunate reality is that academic outcomes throughout MPS remain unacceptably low.” They added, “MPS has serious academic challenges at the same time it is facing a serious long-term financial problem.”
This is rich, considering that the financial problems of MPS are in large part caused by the existence of the very voucher program Lightbourn extols. Even beyond the obvious--the voucher program leaves MPS with a higher concentration of more-difficult students), the very same report that Lightbourn cites credits the voucher program with sucking funds away from MPS through the various funding flaws and contributing to the district's declining enrollment.

I think what makes me most angry about Lightbourn's drivel, though, is the way he couches himself as the Protector Of The Poor And Minorities. "[T]his group of poor, minority parents is being treated quite shabbily," he opens, and he continues to talk about these parents as if he knows them personally: "They are confused as to why the Governor wants to take away their ability to choose." Doyle wants to do no such thing, of course, but that doesn't stop Lightbourn's Green Lantern fantasy. In reality, he can't wait for MPS to fail and dissolve into bits, which is the last thing an already struggling city full of the kinds of people Lightbourn wants to protect really needs.

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