On Tuesday, voters head to the polls again – as four of the nine seats on the Milwaukee Board of School Directors are up for election.
Candidates Marcelia Garcia and Henry Leonard are each running unopposed – in Districts 6 and 7, respectively. But there are contested races in Districts 4 and 5.
In District 4, which includes parts of the Midtown, Lindsay Heights, Martin Drive and Metcalfe Park neighborhoods, Aisha Carr and Dana Kelley are vying to replace outgoing school board director Annie Woodward.
Early voting is open at City Hall until 5 p.m. You can find your Election Day polling place here.
Below are short biographies on the candidates, as well as their answers to questions about why they feel they are qualified and what they think about some of the school board’s current issues. You can find more discussion on current issues from District 4 candidates here.
Answers have been edited for length.
Address: 2819 N. 2nd St., Milwaukee WI 53212
Education: Master’s in educational leadership and policy analysis at UW-Madison; master’s in urban special education at Cardinal Stritch University
Occupation: Opportunity Youth Re-Engagement Director at Silver Spring Neighborhood Center
Past election experience: Ran for Milwaukee school board District 4 in 2017
Endorsements: State Rep. Evan Goyke, Zion Rodgers (Rufus King High School student), Andre Lee Ellis, state Rep. David Bowen, state Sen. Lena Taylor, City Attorney Tearman Spencer, Shyla Deacon, Bevin Christie, state Rep. Lakeisha Myers, full list here
Address: 2969 N. 45th St., Milwaukee WI 53210
Education: Graduate of North Division H.S.; associates in biblical studies, Midwest Bible College
Occupation: Co-Op Organizer of North Side Rising, Citizen Action of WI; assistant pastor, The Reviving Faith Movement
Past election experience: None
Endorsements: Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association, Milwaukee Democratic Socialists of America, National Democratic Socialists of America, Our Wisconsin Revolution, Citizen Action Wisconsin, Working Families Party, AFT Local 212 MATC, Voces de la Frontera, Wisconsin Conservation Voters, MPS Director Marva Herndon, Rick Banks, cofounder of MKE Black, MPS Director Erika Siemsen, state Rep. Evan Goyke, full list here
1. What are the most important issues in the final election, and what is the difference between you and your opponent on these?
Carr: “The most important issues in the final election are the plans around developing a strategic safety and academic plan for transitioning our students back to school and ensuring that the students and teachers have the resources and supports necessary to ensure: 1) that everyone is healthy and safe at all times, and 2) that we have academic intervention plans in place for students who were struggling and behind pre- and post-COVID-19. The district is in need of stronger strategies and practices for retaining educators, driving high-quality academic virtual instruction, and ensuring that the funding is properly allocated to address the decrease in enrollment, teacher retention and resources to support families and communities impacted by the chaos and confusion that the pandemic has presented.
“It is humanly impossible for my opponent to learn the depths of our educational system in such a short amount of time and then serve in the capacity of a school board director and lead at a time when our city and our public school district is in its most vulnerable state and the state of emergency. Further, her lack of direct experience in the field of education will be detrimental to children, families and educators in the district. Her dependence on her professional support networks such as the MTEA to guide her through these trying times in education only suggest that she will be yet another school board candidate beholden to these entities to push their political agendas which are dangerous, corrupt and shameful, only to create the changes they want her to support. I am the change that is NEEDED.”
Kelley: “I am the candidate for Milwaukee Public Schools and Milwaukee Public School students in District 4. I will fight for funding for public schools to remain in public schools. I will not allow privatization to continue to pilfer from our public school funds at the detriment and despair of our public school students. I will ensure quality education through smaller class sizes, higher teacher salaries and more mental health and social workers in MPS. I will continue to seek and create funding for music, arts and physical education teachers to be hired full time in every school in District 4. I will generate revenue for books, computers and science labs that have been stripped from our public schools by charter and voucher schools programs. I will implement the Green New Deal in Milwaukee Public Schools, which will generate living-wage jobs in communities of color, provide healthy schools and food programs, introduce a climate equity curriculum and generate revenue by producing power through solar panels and achieve MPS’ energy independence from We Energies and fossil fuels. This is why the teachers’ union endorses me, and why teachers are volunteering for my campaign.
“It’s time to go green and learn clean with Milwaukee Public Schools!”
2. Why should people vote for you, and not your opponent?
Kelley: “I am for Milwaukee Public Schools and keeping public dollars public. My opponent has shown in the past to be supportive of charter schools and privatization and allowing public dollars to go towards funding private schools and I am totally against that. We don’t have enough adequate funding for our public MPS system, so we cannot afford to foster the private education system as well.”
Carr: “My opponent and her team have continued to spread lies and fallacies relative to my commitment and support of our public school system. Because of this, I support all high performing schools and will continue to fight for all of our public schools to meet that standard. Here are some undeniable facts: I graduated from MPS schools; I taught in MPS for almost 6 years; I enrolled my daughter in MPS schools and currently work with and have employed graduates of MPS. Another undeniable fact is: MPS is the chartering authorizer of some amazing charter schools such as: Highland Community School, Milwaukee College Prep, Hmong American Peace Academy, and IDEAL, to name a few. I have always maintained an unyielding commitment, love, service and support to children and families in the City of Milwaukee and that will never change. My strong youth-led campaign, including over 30 youth organizers, is a testament to their hunger for change and their relentless pursuit of it.”
3. For Kelley: Your platform calls for reinstating music and arts classes as graduation requirements in MPS schools. If state funding falls or remains the same next year, what would you cut in order to fully fund music and arts programs?
Kelley: “Actually music and art has a slot already funded due to the work of Marva Herndon, who represents District 1, and a couple of her allies. Right now we have funding for 22 teachers to start in the fall, so this year there shouldn’t be any need for a cut. Going forward I am working on bringing in funding so we shouldn’t have any cuts going forward either.”
4. For Carr: Your platform calls for the inclusion of young people in school board processes, and you have floated the idea of expanding the board to include young people. How would you do this, and are there models from other cities that exemplify your vision for how Milwaukee’s school board should look?
Carr: “I believe that it is time for new, young, passionate and informed individuals to be leaders within MPS District 4. They can not only fight with their words but with their actions as well and produce results. In order to prioritize students, we must give them a voice within the school board. We have been researching for almost a year as well as connecting with other school boards across the country to determine best practices, garner support, draft a resolution to move toward action and then collaborate with the board, District leaders and the community to ensure we create spaces for the youth to lead on the board.”
5. For Kelley: You have talked about the need to bring the Green New Deal to MPS. How is the Green New Deal applicable to public schooling?
Kelley: “One of the ways we will bring funding into school from the federal and state governments is through implementing the Green New Deal in MPS. Working on our infrastructure, heating and ventilation, plumbing, and even using the roofs of MPS buildings for solar panels so we can generate electricity to We Energies, which will generate revenue for MPS. Also, implementing the Green New Deal in MPS creates more jobs for communities of color which increases property values. This leads to more local homeowners, higher property values, and more city taxes. So you’ve got federal money coming, state government money coming, and you’re also generating your own revenue, all from the Green New Deal.”
In case you missed it: Here’s what you need to know to vote in the April 6 spring election