MICAH rallies to stop school takeover: "This is a plan that is going to weaken Milwaukee Public Schools"

MILWAUKEE -- Parents, teachers and now clergy in Milwaukee rally against a state proposal that could controvert struggling Milwaukee Public Schools into charter or private schools.

Milwaukee Inner City Congregations Allied for Hope (MICAH) hosted Thursday's protest which included a march to Hopkins-Lloyd School on the city's north side.

Hopkins-Lloyd is one of 55 MPS schools the state grades as 'failing to meet expectations.'

Under the republican-led proposal, that would make it eligible for conversion. Even though the plan could lead to more private schools, MICAH says it's more important that public schools are properly funded.

The shouting and signs make this crowd's demand clear, no takeover of MPS schools.

"We believe MPS being strengthened, rather than weakened, is the way to go. This is a plan that is going to weaken Milwaukee Public Schools," said Joseph Ellwanger, MICAH.

State Senator Alberta Darling co-authored the opportunity schools proposal and bristles at the term 'takeover.'

"We're not talking about all public schools. We're talking about schools that their students are performing at less than 15% proficiency," said Darling.

Under the plan, a commissioner were be appointed by the county executive. That commissioner would operate independently from the school board with the power to assume control of up to five schools in the first year and directly manage them, or solicit offers from charter, private school operators.

"You can't just try to take over a school and expect everything else to be better. You make everything else better and the schools will follow," said Democratic State Representative, Mandela Barnes.

State Representative Mandela Barnes spoke at Thursday's rally. His message reform minded republicans should focus on issues outside of schools, like poverty and crime that affect performance central city classrooms.

"So many times when you look at education, people only look at test scores, they only look at the data but fail to look at the underlying issues and address them seriously," said Mandela.

Darling says lawmakers can address poverty while reforming struggling schools. Those rallying against her plan say republicans should give those schools better resources as opposed to giving them to someone else.

This proposal has already passed the powerful joint finance committee so as of now, it's on the budget lawmakers will eventually vote on.

Representative Barnes says until that vote happens, he will push to amend the plan if not scrap it all together.