On Act 10

Since launching my campaign for School Board, I have met with hundreds of neighbors at their homes as I have gone door to door. Most people ask me where I live, what my background is, and why I want to be on the school board. I have also been asked about my thoughts on different policies- more specifically what my thoughts are on Act 10- a bill from 2011 that significantly affected public sector employees. My quick response has been “I believe Act 10 has made it difficult to retain and recruit the teachers we need in MPS.”

But there is so much more I want to say. I remember what it was like here in Wisconsin six years ago when Act 10 was first introduced. In 2011, I lived in Milwaukee and worked as an AmeriCorps member with a program called Public Allies. My roommate at the time was in her second year of teaching. Everyday, she left the apartment as I was rising to get up and she got home after 5. We would share stories from our day as we ate, she might watch one show before going back to work until 8 or 9pm. She usually spent half the day on Saturday working as well.

Paula with her friends Adrienne (Detroit Public School teacher) and Erica (Milwaukee Public School teacher)

As a second year teacher in a new school, she wasn’t simply implementing curriculum, she also created it. Her hours were long without much praise or money yet the driving force was, and continues to be, her students. She knew in high school that she would want to be a high school music teacher and I would say that she is called to it. She is the educator you pray your kid might have their classroom. When Act 10 was introduced, she continued to go to school every day hoping that her work in her classroom would make the case for public education.

That case became harder as time passed.

I learned about how teachers in her building had to make the hard choice of leaving the classroom before they intended.

I saw how stressed my friend was — would her new program lose support? Would people understand how vital music and the arts was to students, to their school culture?

I heard people tell her that she was so talented and could probably get a better paying job in a suburb.

I cried with her. I saw how she poured her entire soul into her classroom every day while living with the anxiety of losing her job due to cuts.

After my time as a Public Ally, I went on to work for City Year Milwaukee- an educational nonprofit that provides support to teachers and role models to students in MPS schools from when the first student arrives at school until the last student leaves at the end of the day. Our AmeriCorps members were uniquely positioned to provide small group and individual tutoring for students struggling to stay on track so that teachers could focus on instructional time for the entire classroom. When I would visit our school sites, administrators and teachers gave glowing reports on their City Year members and describe the support they provided as, “vital.” Beyond tutoring, our AmeriCorps members were positive role models for our students, added positivity to school culture, and were there before the first child got to school and after the last one left.

City Year AmeriCorps Members working with students

I love the City Year model and understand the power of their support is in MPS schools . Still, we cannot solely rely on community partners and volunteers to support our teachers. We must act now to recruit and retain the best teachers in the state to build careers here at MPS.

As a resident of Milwaukee for seven years, I’ve seen first-hand the impact that that Act 10 had, and will continue to have, on our community. I’ve been told by my old roommate, MPS teachers during my time at City Year, and by many neighbors, that Act 10 most impacted them because of how teachers have been portrayed. Feeling that your life’s calling isn’t valued by our community and by the people you serve feels like an ultimate betrayal.

We must support our educators in Milwaukee Public Schools and through ensuring every school is safe for students and staff, every teacher has the support they need in the classroom to provide world-class instruction, and fight for fair funding from the State, our educators will have the resources they need to be successful. I believe that there are some bright spots in our community that continue to support our educators like United Way of Greater Milwaukee, Boys and Girls Club of Greater Milwaukee, College Possible, PEARLS for Teen Girls, and City Year Milwaukee. It is imperative that every school have programs that have a proven track record of successful collaboration in our schools.

Please join me in supporting our educators by thanking them for the hard work they do each day, consider volunteering for Milwaukee Public Schools, and voting for me for school board on April 4th.