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Feature - A Brief History of Public Education in Wisconsin

Working for You - The Public Education Reinvestment Act (PERA)

Neighbor of the Month - Fred Kessler

Nonprofit of the Month - AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin

Business of the Month - Celesta

Featured Adoptable

Brostoff in the News

Event Calendar

Dear Neighbor, 

As always, thank you for taking the time to read this month's newsletter. As we continue the 2019-20 Legislative Session, I would like to hear what your legislative priorities are. Please reach out to me anytime with your ideas by calling (608) 266-0650 or emailing me at

If you have a suggestion for next month's event calendar, featured neighbor, nonprofit, or business, please visit my submission page here.

Keep up-to-date with ongoing information and developments by following me on Twitter and Facebook and by visiting my website.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve.

In service,
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Jonathan Brostoff
19th Assembly District


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A Brief History of Public Education in Wisconsin

Given the long, proud history of public education in Wisconsin and the ongoing attacks on our public schools, I thought it would be a great idea to spend some time discussing the history of Public Schools in Wisconsin. The earliest types of schools in Wisconsin were established even before Wisconsin became a state, when groups of parents would come together to hire someone to teach their children for several hours a day, several months of the year. The earliest known example of this type of community school comes from all the way back in 1791. Once Wisconsin became a territory in 1836, legislation was passed requiring every township of ten or more families to create and fund a school. As a result, around twelve to fifteen schools teaching about 500 students formed around what would become our state. The first tax-funded school to be created as a result of this legislation was established in Milwaukee in 1836, in the 2nd Ward of the city. Although this Milwaukee school was funded by taxes, it was not technically authorized by the state legislature. The first tax-funded and state-authorized school in Wisconsin started in Kenosha in 1845. So, depending on how we choose to define “public school,” Wisconsin’s first official public school was started in either Kenosha or Milwaukee, but whichever side of that debate you fall on, it’s clear that both of these schools embodied and codified the spirit of the community schools which came before them. The Wisconsin Constitution, adopted in 1848, guaranteed free public district schools for all children aged four to twenty, and paid for by local taxes. As a result, Wisconsin’s first free public school system was introduced in 1849. While the Constitution made education free for all children, many did not attend school for several reasons: family need for help on farms, difficulty with travel, or inadequate schoolhouses and teachers all made obtaining a comprehensive public education much more difficult than it is today. However, in 1879 Wisconsin passed its first compulsory school attendance law and in 1889, the Bennett Law was passed, which required children between the ages of 7 and 14 to attend school at least 12 weeks of the year with a monetary fine for noncompliance. The Bennett Law also required that children be taught in English, which was controversial at the time due to the large immigrant populations which had been teaching in German, Norwegian, and Polish, among other languages. Two years later, the Bennett Law was repealed in favor of a law that dealt strictly with attendance. In Milwaukee County by 1906, there were 81 schools with 152 teachers, over three-fourths of whom were women. Over the next seventy years, the Milwaukee metropolitan area grew in size, greatly expanding its public school system. Unfortunately, as the system expanded it also became increasingly segregated. In 1976, Wisconsin created its first and only integration program, Chapter 220, which encouraged voluntary integration by busing students into and out of the City of Milwaukee. During the active parts of this program (in the late eighties and early nineties), about 6,000 minority students and 1,000 white students participated. Under Republican legislation passed in 2015, this program was shut down, with the claim that voucher schools made it unnecessary. Not only has this proven incorrect, but voucher programs can actually often undermine the goal of racial integration. Despite rhetoric suggesting that voucher schools provide the best opportunities for the most students, programs such as Open Enrollment, created in 1998, allow students to transfer school districts, but without busing services these programs have often proven inaccessible to poor families. Public schools are the backbone of our communities and the Wisconsin Idea itself, and our commitment to high-quality, accessible education for our children has existed since before statehood. While advocates of the failed voucher school experiment might try and dispute this, their 30-year track record is not nearly as convincing as the over-150-year track record of our public schools. For the sake of our children and our state, we must continue to stand up and fight for our public schools!


Neighbor of the Month: Fred Kessler

December’s neighbor of the month is The Honorable Fred Kessler! Fred has been a long-time supporter and representative of our community and our values as both a former State Representative and as a judge. He first served in the Wisconsin State Assembly as the Representative for the 10th Milwaukee County Assembly district in 1960. On the first day of his first term in the Wisconsin legislature, Fred was, at the time, the youngest person ever to serve in the legislature. After another stint in the Legislature from 1965-1971, Fred was appointed a Milwaukee County Court Judge in 1972, and then in 1979 he became a Milwaukee Circuit Court Judge. After years of protecting our community as a judge, Fred returned to the State Assembly, representing the 12th Assembly District from 2005-2019, where he worked diligently once again to uphold the law and ensure that Wisconsin’s laws are fair and just for every citizen. Thank you, Fred, for your years of service, your commitment to our Milwaukee community, and to Wisconsin!

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Nonprofit of the Month: AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin

The nonprofit of the month for January is the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin (ARCW)! The ARCW is a state-wide network of care for people living with HIV and AIDS. ARCW provides access to confidential, comfortable care for patients regardless of their ability to pay. Due to the organization's outstanding commitment to everyone living with HIV, ACRW became the “first HIV medical home approved by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services” and is the “first community-based medical home in Wisconsin approved by the National Committee on Quality Assurance.” The AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin recently combined efforts with two additional AIDS healthcare organizations in the Midwest to create Vivent Health. With comprehensive, integrated prevention, care, and treatment programs, Vivent Health stands for “a world without AIDS and strives to ensure everyone with HIV lives a long and healthy life.” You can learn more about the expert work this organization does at their website, linked here.

Image Credit

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Business of the Month: Celesta

Celesta Restaurant rightfully claims its spot as January’s business of the month! As a globally-minded vegan restaurant, Celesta serves food that they hope “can inspire vegans and non-vegans alike.” After three years of catering events with her vegan-friendly food, Melanie Manuel opened Celesta in June of 2018 right here in the 19th Assembly District! Check out Celesta’s website to learn more about their delicious, awe-inspiring appetizers, dishes and desserts. And If looking at all the mouthwatering pictures leaves you hungry for more, stop by their east side location at 1978 N Farwell Ave!

Working for You: the Public Education Reinvestment Act (PERA) 

 Earlier this month, I reintroduced my Public Education Reinvestment Act (PERA), which would strengthen our state’s public schools and put Wisconsin on the path to ending the failed voucher school experiment that has undermined our state’s education system for too long. PERA would reinstate and expand the former Student Achievement Guarantee in Education (SAGE) program while phasing out Wisconsin’s failed voucher school experiment, ensuring that Wisconsinites’ hard-earned tax dollars earmarked for education go towards providing a high-quality public education to every student in our state who wants one. Years of research have shown that voucher programs siphon significant amounts of money away from public school districts while performing at the same level or worse than traditional public schools, contrary to the promises made by school voucher advocates. Wisconsin's public schools have been under attack for far too long, and I am proud to stand up with this legislation and say "enough" - public dollars should remain in the hands of the public, and every kid in our state deserves access to high-quality public education!

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Meet Baron! Baron is a four year-old, brown and white short-haired Pittie Mix looking for a loving forever home. Neutered and up-to-date on his vaccinations, Baron is ready to find his family. As a goofball with a big heart, Baron is excited to meet you today!

Humane Society


Say hi to Mounds! She is a 3 and a half year-old, black and white domestic shorthair. Though shy at first, Mounds is looking for a loving, patient home with older kids and/or adults to help coax her out of her shell. Visit Mounds today and see what a great addition she is to your family!


 Community Events


Wisconsin Legislative Black Caucus Black History Month Kickoff Press Conference and Film Screening

Date: February 1st, 10am

Description: Join the Wisconsin Legislative Black Caucus as they kick off their celebration of Black History Month with a press conference and screening of the film Six Triple Eight, about the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, the US Army's only all-female, all-African American unit to serve overseas during World War II.

Cost: Free

Location: Black Historical Society, 2620 West Center Street, Milwaukee  


What Does Black History Mean To Me?

Dates: February 4th, 6pm to 7pm

Description: Using the book 100 Amazing Facts about the Negro from Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr, and the 5 Ws (Who, What, Where, When and Why), this program will pull together historic history makers such as Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and Booker T. Washington. Through this program the community can also learn about other less well-known figures including the first Black President of North America, and the woman that helped Madam C. J. Walker get her start.

Cost: Free

Location: Milwaukee Public Library - Washington Park Branch 2121 N. Sherman Blvd., Milwaukee


UWM African American Film Series

Dates: February 6 - March 4th

Description: In its 12th year, this annual series features diversity-focused films that celebrate the continued progress that society has made and honor the visionaries that have inspired the masses

Costs: Free for UWM Students, costs varying for all others

Location: UWM Union Cinema, 2200 E Kenwood Blvd, Milwaukee; Oriental Theater, 2230 N Farwell Ave, Milwaukee


Read About Black History at Milwaukee Public Library - Villard Square

Dates: February 7th, 11am to 4pm

Description: Browse Titles about Black History and engage in book club discussions about the topic

Costs: Free

Location: Milwaukee Public Library Villard Square Branch, 5190 N 35th St, Milwaukee

Milwaukee County Community Black History Month Program

Dates: February 13th 5:30 - 7:00 pm

Description: The Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors invites all community members to attend a special celebration of Black History Month on February 13, 2020 from 5:30pm - 7:00pm at the Wisconsin Black Historical Society. This year’s national theme focuses on African Americans and the Vote. The program will start off with a social mixer from 5:30pm - 6pm and lead into a special program where community members will be recognized for their hard work and dedication. This year, we will be presenting three separate awards and are calling on the community to nominate individuals, organizations, or groups they feel have done exceptional work throughout your neighborhood. Deadline for submissions is 5:00 pm Friday, January 10th, 2020.

Costs: Free

Location: Wisconsin Black Historical Society, 2620 West Center Street, Milwaukee



Free Admission Days

Milwaukee Art Museum

1st Thursday of each month

700 N. Art Museum Drive

Milwaukee Public Museum

1st Thursday of each month

800 W. Wells St.

Betty Brinn Children's Museum

3rd Thursday of each month 5:00 - 8:00 p.m.

929 E. Wisconsin St.

Milwaukee County Zoo

January 5, February 2, March 2, October 5, November 2, and December 7

Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day free with Milwaukee Co. ID

10001 W Bluemound Rd

Mitchell Park Domes

First Thursday of each month with proof of county residence.

524 S. Layton Blvd.

Creative Studios at the Marshall Building

Third Friday of each month.

5:00 – 9:00 p.m.

Click here for more information.



What's Up Wednesday
Brostoff in the News
Legislative Work
Public education is our greatest pathway to opportunity in America. - Michelle Obama