Jamaal E. Smith, a community activist and chair of the education committee at the Milwaukee branch of the NAACP, weighs in on the proposed merger between Carmen and Pulaski high schools.
Within the last few months, the state of Wisconsin has been under the educational microscope nationwide due to recent legislation intended to dismantle public education by expanding school vouchers statewide. Gov. Scott Walker approved a budget that cut millions of dollars from public education in order to re-direct that money into the “Parental Choice” program. The charter/voucher school movement has been in place in the city of Milwaukee for more than 20 years and continues to drain millions of dollars from the public school budget. We are now beginning to see the ramifications of this agenda on Milwaukee Public Schools.
However, there is another outcome of this conservative-led initiative that has not been discussed in detail, but has a major effect on our students.
Segregation is an issue of major concern within our school system and there is no greater example than the recently proposed partnership between Carmen Schools of Science and Technology and Casimir Pulaski High School. Carmen is an MPS chartered school with two campuses, South and Northwest. The South campus was recently named the most challenging high school in the state of Wisconsin by the Washington Post.
Patricia Hoben, Carmen’s head of schools, stated at a recent school board meeting that the South campus has a waiting list of 400 students and the space at Pulaski would be ideal, especially since the school is under-enrolled. However, there are two areas of concern to be aware of:
- If Carmen were to be approved for merging into the Pulaski building, its students would be separated from Pulaski’s students, which completely negates the idea of collaboration. Given that charter schools are able to select the students they desire, this could potentially lead to a proposal for Carmen to take over the building outright. In that case, the Pulaski students — including special education students — would need to find another school.
- There are 150 available seats at Carmen’s Northwest campus that need to be filled. Students on the waiting list for the South campus should be able to attend the Northwest campus and receive an equally good education, correct?
If the idea is truly for Carmen and Pulaski to collaborate in providing quality education for our students, then there should be no reason why the students need to be separated. The fact that parents, residents and community stakeholders in the area were not asked their opinions of the proposal also leads me to question its authenticity. The students of Pulaski High School should be exposed to the same education as the students at Carmen. This proposal is adding to the many ways of separating the “haves” versus the “have nots.”