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.

Jacksonville News

New Jax Witty

Articles, reviews, advice, and legitimate research to go along with some back-handed comments. Think of us as Jacksonville's mother-in-law.
  • Only Way to Avoid The Reverse Mortgage Disaster
    I've seen several news articles about the pitfalls of reverse mortgages. I also saw that we've set up a fund to help people when they get stuck with a reverse mortgage here in Florida. But the simple answer that most older people don't want to hear is that there's only one way to avoid disaster with a reverse mortgage: don't get one.

    The ad that inspired this reverse mortgage article claims that Americans have trillions of dollars just sitting there, not being used. The problem is that a reverse mortgage isn't using that money, either. It's using the house that's worth that money as collateral for a LOAN. It's a loan that needs to be paid off when your house is sold. You can make mistakes and end up losing your house.

    The better advice for anyone already retiredor looking to retire is to sell. I know, you love your house, all the stuff in it, the neighbors you wave at, the same big box retail down the road, and all the stuff in the house. It's basic economics: if you own something outright worth $500,000, sell it for $500,000 and rent a nice condo for 20 years. If you take out a reverse mortgage, then you can get $250,000 towards a condo for 10 years, still pay property taxes and insurance on the house, and continue to maintain it so that in a decade, you'll make enough money to pay off your reverse mortgage loan. New AC, new roof, new driveway? That would all eat into the profit on selling your house that you'll need to cover all the interest on the loan. Don't pay a bank for the right to live in a house for your entire life. Avoid reverse mortgages at all costs.
  • Rental Bikes Aren't Exactly For The Homeless
    Local news was down in St. Augustine covering the newly-proposed use of some kind of bike-share rental system. Since it's standard operating procedure, a homeless man was interviewed about the program. He said something to the effect that it would be good to have options for someone like him who can't afford a bike. FYI local news and homeless people: bike rental programs are not really created for the homeless.

    Since I don't claim to know the biking habits of the typical homeless individual, I'm going to assume it involves getting to a place and then back home. Home being a structure in a field outside of town, not where you'd be able to return the bike for credit. My understanding would be that these folks would need the bike to get to and from "work," each and every day. Based on a similar rental system I found online, the 24-hour rental is $24. Alternatively, an annual pass is $80. The problem is that the trips can only be 60 minutes each. Assuming the homeless camp is close enough to downtown, this might work as a way to get around once in St. Augustine. Not a bad yearly price to not have to worry about bike maintenance, anyhow. If you're homeless already, and now you can get as many maintenance-free trips on a bike as you can use each day, then $80 for the year isn't bad at all.

    But wait, there's less. The yearly pass will need to be paid for with a credit card with a fob mailed to an address. So even if these ride share bikes makes sense to homeless people, it might not be something that can be purchased without the help of someone with credit and an address. It might seem like a lot of people would volunteer to do this, but any extra time or any damage would be billed to the credit card, so I certainly wouldn't volunteer my credit in the hopes that someone else will always return the bike in time (or at all). The Cincinnati bike share, for example, charges $1,200 for a bike that is not returned.

    I have a $1,000 bike. At least someone paid $1,000 for it back in 1986. I picked it up amidst college moving day garbage at UW-Milwaukee back in 1999. It was already worth $0 at that point. I've used some tape to hold it together, but it's still worth about $0. Since I'm probably not the only person in the area with a worthless bike, I'm thinking a bike donation for the homeless might make more sense than saying they should be using tourist bikes. That's not to say that bike shares don't have a place in St. Augustine, just that it might be meant for rich tourists instead of homeless interviewees.