Why are you running for school board?
I am running for School Board to bring the transformative change we need to Milwaukee’s public schools. Our public schools here in Milwaukee are under attack from privatization, systemic racism, and underfunding. As an experienced MPS educator, former union president and active community leader, I have defied the skeptics to win real gains for our community. I have the experience, vision and drive to fight for the schools that our students and community deserve.
What in your background or makeup especially qualifies you for this seat?
As president of the substitute teachers’ union, I won health-care benefits for many substitute teachers by engaging in a 21-day hunger strike. We also defeated efforts to privatize our jobs to a temp agency, and I organized volunteers to knock on hundreds of doors to win a historic school funding referendum.
As an active community leader, I am the executive director of the Wisconsin Alliance for Retired Americans, a member of Citizen Action of Wisconsin’s Southeast WI Steering Committee, treasurer of the Milwaukee Democratic Socialists of America, and a leader in the movement for a Green New Deal. As an MPS substitute teacher, I built a strong reputation as a high quality educator, teaching students across this city for over six years.
I’m running to fight back against privatization and threats to public education, and drawing from my experience as an educator and community leader, I will work to ensure MPS provides for the needs of its students, faculty, staff and community.
What are the most important issues facing the board — and your district in particular? What do you think should be done about these issues?
Housing and food insecurity, lack of access to health care, climate change and environmental racism, poverty and police violence are all social problems that show up in our classrooms as behavioral issues, achievement gaps and lack of resources and funding. The root cause of these problems is racial capitalism, with the richest among us hoarding their wealth and not paying their fair share, while the vast majority of people are forced to live paycheck to paycheck. The only way for every human being to truly realize their potential is through a new, more just form of social and economic organization: socialism. I am running on a Milwaukee Democratic Socialists of America endorsed slate with Dana Kelley, who is running in District 4. Dana and I will be the first socialists elected to office in Milwaukee since 1958, and Dana will be the first woman of color socialist elected in Milwaukee’s history. I am running as a democratic socialist to help bring about a more just society, and I will help bring about this systemic change by fighting for bold changes in our schools. Specifically, as a School Board Director I will fight for public schools against the threat of privatization, create a Green New Deal for MPS and ensure healthy school environments, stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter at School, champion the struggle of MPS workers, and democratize education by opening up school decision-making to all stakeholders — parents, students, school faculty and staff, and community members.
Are you satisfied with the district’s efforts to address disproportionate disciplining of Black male students as described in the Office of Civil Rights report? Would you want to change the district’s approach to this issue if elected?
I would change the district’s approach. There is more that the district can do to improve the educational and disciplinary outcomes for Black males in our schools. The majority of our students are students of color, and we need to do a better job of preparing our young men of color for a meaningful life after high school, rather than over-policing them. I want to see the district embrace anti-racist professional development for all employees and especially for school personnel. Anti-racist practices must become the norm. Also, ending the chronic staffing issues at MPS will help to improve disciplinary and achievement outcomes because a more stable workforce means more continuity and stability for students. In addition, I will stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter at School organization, which has four demands: 1) end “zero tolerance” discipline, and implement restorative justice, 2) hire more Black teachers, 3) mandate Black history and ethnic studies in K-12 curriculum, and 4) fund counselors, not cops. I will work to implement these demands. I will also publicly call out the structural racism of the state school funding formula, and advocate for more resources for working-class majority people of color districts like MPS. We must do a better job, and this is the place to start.
Do you agree with MPS’ decision to keep most students in all-virtual instruction until April? If not, how would your plan be different?
I agree with the decision to keep instruction mostly virtual, and I would support going back to 100% virtual if possible. Every life is important, and I will oppose MPS engaging in reckless behavior with human lives like the suburbs and private schools have been doing. I believe Black Lives Matter, and so I will not be cavalier with the lives of our Black and Brown students and their families by encouraging a premature reopening of schools, which could expose them to the COVID-19 virus. I will oppose any reopening until 1) vaccines are widely available to students, staff and their families, 2) we have free, widely available, and mandatory PPE for anyone entering an MPS building, 3) there is a significant reduction in cases, and 4) we can practice social distancing with smaller class sizes. The push to reopen schools is a result of the problems of capitalism: Workers are being forced to go in to work during a pandemic and they lack child care. Capitalism is killing people, and instead this country should be supporting families. As a school board director and Socialist, I will advocate for all Americans to be paid to stay home if they wish, which will allow parents to focus on supporting their child’s virtual education. We must adopt drastic measures to combat this pandemic.