National pro-privatization organizations led by former Milwaukee Journal Sentinel education reporter Joe Williams and backed by Wall Street hedge fund managers are emerging as a driving force behind the mayoral takeover of the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS).
Williams is the executive director of the affiliated groups named Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) and Education Reform Now (ERN), based in New York City. ERN has a nine-month-old chapter in Wisconsin, and DFER has branches in Wisconsin, Colorado, Michigan, Missouri and New Jersey.
The Wisconsin state director of both groups, Katy Venskus, has been lobbying in support of the pro-mayoral takeover Senate Bill 405, authored by state Sen. Lena Taylor and state Rep. Pedro Colon.
Venskus also has organized a group of Milwaukee business leaders–including Julia Taylor of the Greater Milwaukee Committee, Tim Sheehy of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce and Tim Sullivan of Bucyrus International–to push for a mayor-appointed superintendent of MPS with enhanced executive powers.