Fresh from referendum win, YES student members tell Milwaukee School Board how to use the funds

Voces’ student members didn’t stop their work even after telephoning 18,144 people in support of the recent successful referendum to raise funds for Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS).

They followed up on the April 7, 2020, election victory by addressing the Milwaukee School Board on May 19, laying out a serious plan on how MPS should use the additional funds.

Katherine Villanueva and Simone Lewis-Turner, members of Voces’ youth affiliate, YES (Youth Empowered in the Struggle), demonstrated how well they’ve learned a basic lesson of organizing: Don’t Stop.

They thanked board members for the difficult work MPS has accomplished despite financial problems.

And they noted they are “working so closely with other students and teachers.”

The YES proposals were based on the students’ assessments of the most pressing needs in Milwaukee’s public school system. Here are their proposals:

  • More training of teachers to be more effective in teaching reading comprehension and basic language skills;
  • Hiring more teachers, paraprofessionals and classroom assistants to bring the ratio of students to licensed staff (16:1 in MPS) closer to the state average of 13:1;
  • Limiting class sizes to a maximum of 32
  • Expanding support for meals at school, so fewer students will be distracted by hunger;
  • Increasing the minimum number of days per week in elementary and middle schools for instruction in art, physical education and music;
  • Increasing the minimum number of days per week in all schools when librarians are available;
  • Requiring every school to have full-time access to a psychologist to help students deal with anxiety and depression;
  • Allocating funds to individual schools not on the basis of how many students they have but rather but rather on the level of students from at-risk demographics.

The referendum passed overwhelmingly, drawing Yes votes from 78% of those voting. It will mean an additional $87 million for MPS in coming years.

Click here to see the statement for the school board.

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