Milwaukee parents, educators, students protest against public school takeover

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Bridget Shanahan

MILWAUKEE — Before classes began at schools all throughout the Milwaukee Public Schools district, hundreds gathered to walk in and make their voices heard.

Teachers, parents, community and union members joined forces against a public school takeover: eventually under performing schools within MPS will be run by private entities.

“I think the question needs to be is, ‘why are these schools are labeled under performing?'” said Ingrid Walker-Henry, a mother and MPS teacher. “When you look at it, where they are at, they are in areas of extreme poverty. What have we done as a state to make sure that those areas have jobs, that the parents, the families have suitable housing?”

“I don’t have an opinion one way or another,” said parent Wendy Sobczyk. “I know for a fact though that Milwaukee Public Schools is in trouble and they do need assistance. So if somebody has a better option out there, they should step forward and say that.”

Organizers said there is about 1,000 people that are going to go into 100 different schools today. They’re briefly walking inside, just into the reception area and then walking out. They said there’s no safety concerns, anyone can usually walk into a school as far as they’re about to go.

“I don’t agree with political activism being held on educational campuses,” Sobzyk said. “This is not the place to do it.”

Senator Chris Larson said even though the legislature passed the takeover, there’s still time to turn things around. He said he has support in Madison.

“If we actually had a hearing on this, and actually had a debate, I think you would find bypartisan opposition to taking over any public schools across the state,” he said. “So that’s where we’ll go. It’s a matter of when.”

County Executive Chris Abele plans to appoint a commissioner within the next couple weeks.

Abele said that person will then figure out which school will likely transition into a charter school by next school year. He maintains the transition will help students get a better education.