Here's an angle very few people have considered in the discussion of school choice and vouchers for schools: can the teachers in a district argue for their jobs? In MPS and elsewhere, the answer is generally a resounding NO, unless those teachers work at the few diamonds in the rough. Generally, however, teachers know which schools are best, and they send their own kids there, which is often NOT where they work and often NOT in their own district.


My mom was an MPS teacher for many years. She taught at Bryant Elementary up on Silver Spring. I went to MPS, but I sure as sugar did not go to her school. When I got jumped freshman year of high school by a gang of thugs, my mom wanted to send me to Milwaukee Lutheran. I decided to stay at an MPS high school (Marshall), but the only reason I was still in MPS at all was because of the French Immersion program. The other teachers my mom worked with also either sent their kids to the immersion schools or to private religious schools. Next time you meet an MPS teacher, ask where his or her kids go and why.

I'm not writing this to embarrass MPS teachers. They SHOULD be embarrassed, to some extent, but the city itself should be more embarrassed. We've forced teachers to live in the city they dislike to teach at schools they dislike and that they'd never allow their own kids to attend, all the time pretending that we're working towards some version of equity or narrowing of the achievement gap. 

As a resident of Milwaukee and a parent, I myself could care less about that achievement gap if it means my own kids getting tossed around the playground or picking up the bad habits of those less fortunate than myself, so I fully participate in the decimation of MPS (like most of the MPS teachers) and send my own kids to the German Immersion School. Teachers there several years ago already told us they could not operate it as a charter or choice school. Why? They couldn't afford the contracts of the educators. It's one of a few high-achieving schools in the entire district, and it will stay that way for years to come, since the kids are mostly middle class, and many are even the children of educators. Educators who made the CHOICE to send their kids to what amounts to a private school within the public school system, and if MPS tried to integrate low students with our kids, then our high-achieving kids would be gone, sent to other choice schools.


Don't get me wrong, teachers in other districts do exactly the same thing. When I taught in Menomonee Falls, one of the complaints each year was from administrators who saw our teacher answers on the survey about whether or not we'd recommend the district to others (or send our own kids). Teacher in the Falls were generally not enthusiastic about sending their own kids there. On my final survey (I'd been laid off), I answered the question of "How could MFHS best improve?" by suggesting they relocate it to Brookfield. In fact, about half the teachers in my department with kids sent those kids to Brookfield instead of the Falls. Why? The teachers knew which school was better and had a choice. Just as in MPS, how can those teachers really say they fully believe in what they do if they don't?

Personally, I at least pretended that I would have sent my kids to Menomonee Falls, but I was also glad no one was going to force me to do so, and that my house is located closer to Brookfield, Wauwatosa, New Berlin, and an MPS school that I would have preferred. With all the new construction going up, I'm sure the district will continue to improve, but it just wasn't what I would have recommended to others unless that other person really liked sports or athletics or gym.

Anyhow, forcing MPS teachers to live in Milwaukee so they could find sneaky ways to really live elsewhere and send their kids anywhere but their own schools didn't really work for MPS, and it doesn't really work anywhere else. Never mind that the only way we could have fixed MPS would have been for all the children of policemen, firemen, and teachers to have been dispersed evenly among all the school, but I've known so many kids of all those professions who went to Pius or Wisco or whatever, but most of them weren't at Marshall with me.

Which brings me to the final question of does it matter which schools those teachers choose? I became a teacher and did well enough, so would that have happened had I gone to Brookfield East or Milwaukee Lutheran or Custer? Marshall was at least kind of a magnet school at the time, but the answer is a resounding YES. It not only matters to the school district which schools those teachers choose, but it matters to their kids. I would have done just fine in Brookfield or at Custer as a student, but my (hypothetical) Brookfield friends would not have been impressed with my decision that UW-Milwaukee was just as good as the next choice. Later, when I lost my $100,000 a year job (as opposed to my $50,000 teaching job), I would have contacted one of those friends on Linkedin and gotten another $100,000 job within a few weeks, partially because we went to the right college together. Yes, it does matter. It always has and it probably always will. MPS teachers know this. Menomonee Falls teachers know it. We all know it, and when there's a full voucher system, we'll all be able to choose where our kids go, just like those MPS teachers have been doing for years.