Thursday, May 12, 2011

Wisconsin Rep. Jason Fields (D-Milwaukee) To Lawmakers: "Knock it Off!"

On Tuesday, before the Wisconsin State Assembly passed two pieces of legislation that will expand school choice options to Milwaukee families, the legislative body received a much-needed wakeup call from one of its own.

After introducing a successful amendment that that will ensure that families currently participating in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP) will not lose eligibility—and see their education severely interrupted—if their income rises above the program’s current income eligibility requirements, Rep. Jason Fields (D-Milwaukee) took to task legislators for failing to support a provision that would remove the program's arbitrary student enrollment cap.

"It means nothing to you!" Fields said, specifically directing his ire towards legislators who voted against the measure without actually representing any of the affected areas.

"With all due respect," Fields continued,"knock it off! You all don't give a damn about these kids!"

Fields excoriated both parties for having forsaken Milwaukee's predominantly black population of children. He criticized Democrats for their failure to support a program with demonstrably positive results, and reminded Republicans that the city's children also need their support on other issues of social justice.

Legislation to expand the MPCP, Fields said, has support within the community that would actually stand to benefit from it, with opposition only coming from out-of-touch Assembly members.

“The kids at MPS don’t have a problem with the kids at the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program,” Fields said. “They don’t have a problem with each other. So why do you?”

Fields's words are refreshing for two reasons. First, in a climate of extreme political posturing and rhetoric continually tied to talking points and point-scoring, it's wonderful to see someone speak from the heart about an issue for which they care deeply.

And second, it seems like Fields's words may have had an impact. In addition to eliminating the enrollment cap, the bill, which calls for expanding the program to all of Milwaukee County, passed by a bipartisan vote.

As the State Senate is now considering the measure, we hope they listen the call to "knock it off" and start thinking about kids.

Frankly, it's a sentiment we've all held for a long time.

Thanks to Rep. Fields for having the courage to say it.

- American Federation for Children | Alliance for School Choice, MAG

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