On June 17th, the Milwaukee County Board Committee and the Milwaukee School Board endorsed resolutions calling for a boycott of Arizona. Larry Miller, author of the resolution, called Arizona's immigration law racist and compared it to the apartheid in Africa. In a statement on his blog, Miller said that as an institution, MPS is obligated to stop the expansion of Arizona's immigration policy.
As a practical concern, some parents at home wonder why the school board is obligated to address illegal immigration when there are obvious systemic problems at MPS. For instance, MPS Student attendance is substantially lower than any other school district in Milwaukee County. Reading scores at MPS are among the lowest in the nation. Graduation rates at MPS below 50%. And just recently, 482 teachers were laid off because the teacher's union wouldn't make concessions on their health care insurance. At what point will the school board take corrective action on any of these important issues?
In a recent study, MPS was deemed the second worst school district in the nation for reading scores in two different grade levels. In 2003 and 2004, the graduation rate at MPS was 46% placing MPS 38th of 50 school districts.
Educational mediocrity isn't MPS' only problem. The violence at MPS is on an upward trend with 127 MPS employees reported being assaulted by students in a single semester. The number of students expelled for bringing drugs to school has doubled in the past 5 years, and the total MPS expulsions have tripled in the past 15 years. To put this into proper perspective, more students from MPS are getting expelled for bringing firearms to school than all of Chicago's Public Schools, and Chicago has 4.5 times the population of Milwaukee.
The recent school board resolution did not address our low reading scores, our paltry graduation rates, the alarming upsurge in school violence, or a school system that now has 482 fewer teachers. Instead, they spent taxpayer resources to weigh in on state statutes that do not affect Milwaukee and ultimately distracts school board members from dealing with pandemic failure.
Arguably, there is no greater benefit to the Hispanic community than a good education. According to the Pew Hispanic Research Center, Hispanics viewed education as the top issue of the day. It was considered more important than health care, jobs, the economy, and even immigration reform. Surprisingly, immigration reform ranked 4th on the list of important concerns for the Hispanic community.
Currently, the only educational refuge for the Hispanic community is the school choice program. Schools like St. Anthony's in Milwaukee for example, provide quality education to low income communities through an innovative voucher program. The voucher program allows low income parents to send their kids to private schools like St. Anthony's for a better suburban-styled education, a more disciplined environment, and at a more fiscally responsible cost to taxpayers.
At a time when the threat of mayoral control looms over MPS' school board, it was unwise for them to weigh in on affairs that don't concern or affect them. The issue of Arizonan immigration, although an important issue for the Hispanic community, has no bearing on the quality of education students receive in here in Milwaukee. There are better ways to address Arizona's questionable decisions than to boycott the state.
Economic boycotts financially harm the very people that MPS has proposed to help. Remember, 30% of Arizona's population is Hispanic, and 10% of Arizona businesses are also Hispanic. The effect of boycotting Arizona will cause more harm to the Hispanic community and will unlikely push the Arizonan government into repealing their law.
The resolution of the school board should serve as a reminder that they, while failure abounds, cannot bring themselves to let educational priorities supersede personal politics. School Choice, however, provides Hispanic families an escape from politics and educational mediocrity. Choice schools are not bound by the same bureaucratic nonsense we see in public schools, and it provides parents an option that puts their children's needs above ideological obstacles.
Wisconsin has a mandated cap or restriction on how many children are eligible to receive school vouchers. It is important, therefore, that we elect state representatives that understand the importance of promoting a policy that expands school choice. As a Hispanic community, we cannot afford to elect candidates that will not fight for us and our children. Hold candidates accountable and ask them if they will fight for the school choice program. If not, they have no businesses running for office.