Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Wisconsin Expands Choice, Cuts 220 "Escape Hatch" for Inner City Kids of Color

Partly as a result of the recent Supreme Court decision, the Republican legislature in Wisconsin has cut Milwaukee's longstanding "220" program that funds MPS children of color to attend suburban schools. At the same time, they are planning to expand the choice program from the city of Milwaukee where it is currently limited to the county of Milwaukee (a much larger area) and later to another county.

What is fascinating about this is that it fits perfectly within a right-wing agenda around schools. Eliminate the "choice" of poor kids of color to attend established integrated schools with better funding and usually stronger educational programs. And then allow them to "choose" badly funded "choice" schools can spring up and disappear like mushrooms without any significant oversight. E.g.: You can have "choice" as long as you don't "choose" to come into "my" schools. (Milwaukee's suburbs are the most segregated in the entire nation).

This is a perfect example of how particular populations are being increasingly interned in America in ways that prevent their "escape" from what have become much like prisons without walls.

The legislature's budget has to be brought into agreement with the one passed by the Democratic state senate, so we'll see what will happen.

See this recent Milwaukee Journal Sentinal Article.

I am not really up on all the "ins and outs" about 220. Here's a blog post I found on the recent decision and 220 that sounds reasonable, making an argument about possibly changing the requirements to ones based on income (see Jim's earlier post on this blog) but no guarantees on its accuracy. See also this Wisconsin State Journal article. And an older article from the Public Policy Forum. And a 1998 Rethinking Schools article on bussing in Milwaukee.


tjmertz said...

Just a clarification, the cut to 220 is part of a truly horrid budget passed by the GOP controlled Assembly. A conference committee with equal representation from the Dem controlled Senate and the Assembly will begin work shortly to reconcile the Assembly budget with the Senate budget and then it will go to the (Democratic) Governor who in Wisconsin has an extreme line item veto power.

This is far from over and many of us are working to make sure the Democrats involved stick to their guns.

More here:,com_jd-wp/Itemid,31/p,222/


Aaron Schutz said...

Yes. Good points. Thanks for the clarification. I stayed away from the specifics for this wider audience, and I'm not a Wisconsin legislation guru in any case. Another effort I'm working on that would support Milwaukee Public Schools is also at risk because of the Republican cuts.

However, while the governor in the WI legislature has extraordinary powers (he can veto individual words, etc., and actually rewrite laws creatively this way) I'm not sure what he can do if the conference actually eliminates 220 from the budget completely. But maybe you can elucidate this.

tjmertz said...


It would be hard to put it back if it is gone. I'd have to look at the language to see if the Governor could piece together a sentence from that language to save it via the line item veto. My guess is some form will remain in the final budget.

Most of my attention and energy is focused on the school funding related issues and the SAGE class size reductions cut back. There is so much wrong with the Assembly budget that you have to pick your fights.

Right now the thing to do is make sure the Democrats show some backbone and try to keep those Republicans from the Senate who have been less than awful on school issues from toeing the awful party line.

Mobilize everyone you know -- friends, students, co-workers -- call write, contact the papers.

This is far from over.


PS - I loved the community organizing series and shared it with many. Great stories and insights.

Aaron Schutz said...

Yes, you are absolutely right about picking fights, and I'm glad to hear that someone is fighting for SAGE. We've been focusing on BadgerCare+. I'm not as directly involved because I'm doing some background work trying to get a follow-up campaign going around dental care in schools and we're facing a deadline. Keeping multiple organizing "balls" in the air is a real challenge given the realities of politics and the real limits in the number of organized folks out there to fight.

Sherman Dorn said...

As Jonathan Kozol pointed out a few days ago, one could rework NCLB to give children in deeply-troubled districts to transfer across district lines, something that would preserve some aspect of desegregation through other means... not saying that I like NCLB, but I see the pragmatic argument Kozol is making.