Thursday, June 16, 2011

Witnessing history

It's a big week, and for two reasons.

The first reason is that we marked the last day of classes for most of our schools, and released thousands of students for their summer break.  I was at the door when the dismissal bell rang at our school on N. 52nd Street, Milwaukee French Immersion School.

I saw kids excited to start their vacations, and talked with a few of the parents who were there to pick them up.  I wished these families a safe and happy summer break.

We worry sometimes about our kids over the summer.  Many live in neighborhoods where there is little to do, and frankly, some of them go hungry. With most of our children living in poverty, I need to use every chance I can to talk about access to meals during the summer.  Families should call 2-1-1 to find a location near them.  Please spread the word.  We also have summer school ready to start later this month.  Though we have limited seats this year due to budget challenges, many students will have a safe place to go where they can keep their reading skills sharp or recover the credits needed to keep them on target to graduate.   Our Community Learning Centers (CLCs) are safe, fun places to go before and after school, evenings, weekends, and during the summer. CLCs offer educational, recreational, and social activities so that young people don't have to be home alone or on the street. Here's a list of the summer CLC sites.

I said it was a big week for two reasons. 

The second reason is that 90 miles away from here, legislators in Madison are putting the final touches on a state budget that is poised to cut millions from MPS specifically and from public education in general.  It looks as though the way is paved for a larger expansion of voucher schools.  Collective bargaining for public workers is already gone; a separate measure passed this week and the Secretary of State says it will become law June 29.  Already, there are lawsuits from unions.  You can read about one suit here.  I heard that some of our teachers will be headed to Madison on their own time to join a protest in the Square.

We are witnessing history, aren't we?  My sincere hope is that steps taken in Madison this week do not do irreparable damage to the hopes and the opportunities for Milwaukee's already fragile and under-supported children.