Welcome to the Rethinking Schools Archives and Website

Become a subscriber or online account holder to read this article and hundreds more. Learn more.

Already a subscriber or account holder? Log in here.


Preview of Article:

Milwaukee: Who Won and Why

By Bob Peterson

On both sides, the campaign was dominated by sound bites and glossy advertisements. "There was no serious discussion about education in the election," said Rueben Harpole, a widely respected community activist who works at the Helen Bader Foundation and at the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. "The campaigns didn't speak about how we are going to make sure that our children learn."

The MMAC organized a "Save Our Schools" Coalition focused on ridiculing a proposal to give all high school students a lap-top computer -- an idea put forward by union-supported incumbent Leon Todd. Todd spontaneously laid out his $18 million proposal a few weeks before the elections. Initially it appeared it might work to his advantage. Gardner, for instance, said that he'd support such a proposal only if there was a way "to make sure kids aren't selling them for cocaine." Some in the community were shocked that Gardner would stereotype MPS students in such a way, and predicted that the thinly veiled racism behind his comment would hurt his re-election. It didn't.

MMAC's telephone pollsters and campaign fliers hammered away at the lap-top issue and it came to dominate all five races. Gardner claimed that Taylor supported the proposal, even though she didn't. The MMAC made the same false charge against a union-backed candidate on the predominantly white South Side of Milwaukee, even though he publicly opposed the proposal.

"The lap-top issue trumped everything," said Tammy Johnson of Wisconsin Citizen Action, a group that worked closely with People For the American Way on the campaign. "People viewed it as another example of wasting our tax dollars."

The irony is that a few years earlier, business leaders had praised a similar proposal by the for-profit Edison Project when it was trying to get a foothold in Milwaukee.

To Read the Rest of This Article:

Become a subscriber or online account holder to read this article and hundreds more. Learn more.

Already a subscriber or account holder? Log in here.