In schools, the adults need supervision

Christian Schneider:

It’s not nearly as funny, however, when real-world students demand a substandard education. Last week, students from South Division High School walked out of class to protest a legislative plan that would allow private school operators to take over five of the worst-performing schools in Milwaukee Public Schools. The protest combined two of teenagers’ favorite things — demonstrating unearned self-righteousness and getting a day off school.

In opposing the Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program, the South Division students were sticking up for a status quo in which a scant 10.8% of them tested “proficient” or above in reading last year. If Gov. Scott Walker’s budget cuts had forced the school to eliminate the use of verbs, the reading scores could hardly be worse.

Of course, the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association would have us believe that the student walkout was a spontaneous demonstration — as if students at a school where 4.3% of students are proficient in math are intimately attuned to the arcane school finance details passed by the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee. Perhaps it was just coincidence that the kids just happened to be carrying around the same union signs that have popped up at other recent demonstrations around the city.

And the details of the OSPP plan are important. Under the proposal, the Milwaukee County executive would pick a commissioner to oversee the takeover of the city’s five worst-performing schools. Control of those schools would be transferred to current operators of either high-performing private schools or certain types of charter schools. The new operators would put in place systems that have proved effective in their existing schools.