FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 27, 2009

Contact: Senator Taylor (608)266-5810

Senator Plale (608)266-7505

Representative Fields (608)266-3756


Milwaukee Leaders Announce Broad Reforms to Milwaukee Public Schools


Senators Taylor and Plale and Representative Fields join Governor Doyle to announce legislation to turn around failing schools and improve accountability.

Milwaukee, WI – State Senators Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee) and Jeff Plale (D-South Milwaukee) and Representative Jason Fields (D-Milwaukee) joined Governor Jim Doyle and other key Milwaukee leaders on Tuesday to unveil a package of school reforms that will prepare Wisconsin for the US Department of Education’s Race to the Top competition. These reforms include legislation to dramatically reshape the governance structure of the Milwaukee Public Schools. This legislation will create mayoral accountability giving Milwaukee’s Mayor the ability and responsibility to select the most qualified, effective educators and school leaders at every level-from the teacher in the classroom to the Superintendent of Schools.

“The time for real reform has come,” said Senator Taylor. “Milwaukee’s public schools can and must be turned around, not just to improve Wisconsin’s Race to the Top prospects, but more importantly, for our kids, our city and our state. Mayoral accountability is the kind of catalyst that can spark real change.”

The package laid out at Milwaukee’s Destiny High School, authorizes Milwaukee’s Mayor to appoint the MPS superintendent and move or remove principals to match the needs of individual schools. In addition, it grants the MPS Superintendent the ability to draft both academic and fiscal policies for the District. The elected schools board is maintained. The Board will have review powers over the policies created by the Superintendent, as well as other duties.

“We recognize that this has been a difficult process for our community,” added Representative Fields. “I have no delusion that this is a silver bullet, but its time to roll up our sleeves and move forward. This issue is too important to get mired down in the same tired politics we have all grown accustomed to. This proposal lays the groundwork for a stronger more accountable MPS, staffed by the most talented education professionals available in every classroom, in every school.”

Mayoral accountability has resulted in gains in student achievement in other cities. In New York City, where Mayor Bloomberg was given control of the schools in 2002, the percentage of students performing at or above a proficient level on New York’s state assessment increased from 42% in 2000 to 54% in 2005 in 4th grade language arts and from 46% to 78% in 4th grade math over the same time period. Similar improvement was seen at the 8th grade level. In Chicago, where Daley took over the schools in 1995, the number of students at or above the national average on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills in reading and math increased by nearly 20% in ten years.

“I am pleased to stand with my colleagues today as we move this debate forward,” added Senator Plale. “This is the beginning of a journey not the end, and I am committed to working with my colleagues and the community to rebuild a district that serves the academic needs of students and parents, and revitalizes this city for its residents and employers.”

All three legislators noted that this proposal was a first step in the legislative process. The legislation will have to move through committees in both houses and then be voted on in the Senate and the Assembly. 

“We took a critical first step today, but our work is just beginning,” concluded Taylor. “Mayoral accountability is not the last step in improving our public schools…it is the first step and there is more work to do. I thank my colleagues for their commitment to getting this done, and getting it done right.”