Several hundred people gathered at MATC in downtown Milwaukee Wednesday night to rally against Gov. Scott Walker’s cuts to public education.
The event coincided with a speech from former Assistant U. S. Education Secretary Diane Ravitch. She’s an outspoken opponent of voucher schools.
The rally served as a warm-up to Friday’s public hearing in Milwaukee on the proposed state budget.
About 400 people attended the event in the MATC auditorium. Milwaukee Teachers’ Union President Bob Peterson fired up the crowd. He criticized Gov. Walker for including in his budget, a $300 million cut for the UW-System and slashing $127 million from K12 public schools.
The budget also includes an expansion of choice, or voucher schools. Peterson called them a 25-year losing proposition for Milwaukee.
“There’s no accountability, there’s lots of fly by night operations and there’s a constant push-up of hard to educate kids back to the public schools. The verdict: the oldest and largest voucher program in the nation is a failure,” Peterson says.
Former Assistant U. S. Education Secretary Diane Ravitch then took the podium. She says Milwaukee has served as the nation’s petri dish for education reform. Ravitch pointed to studies that show voucher schools sometimes perform worse than public schools.
“Our Ruth Coniff, the editor of The Progressive, showed in her article about Milwaukee’s voucher schools that many of them have no curriculum, uncertified teachers and squalid facilities. Many of them should be closed, and they’re not,” Ravitch says.
Ravitch praised Wisconsin for what she called its great system of higher education. She says up until now, the state had been known for its high graduation rates and test scores. She notes other nations don’t have voucher schools, but rather strong public schools.
Gov. Walker has supported vouchers, saying parents know what’s best for their kids and should be able to make the decision.