Milwaukee Public Schools officials recently initiated a budget proposal that they hope will alleviate Black students’ barriers to success. But the controversial name made national headlines, drawing the attention of conservative talking heads.
They called it the Black Lives Matter initiative.
Kyle Olson, founder of the Wisconsin-based Education Action Group, told Fox News that parents and taxpayers should be worried about the movement’s possible connection to the proposal.
“All I’ve seen from ‘Black Lives Matter’ is a fomentation of hatred against the police, increased racial division and making excuses for the combination of poor parenting and failed policies from big city liberal politicians,” he said.
Charlie Sykes, local radio talk show host and founder of RightWisconsin.com, said the budget’s wording suggested funds might be allocated to the “militant political anti-cop” movement.
“The budget explicitly includes line items for “Black Lives Matter,” he wrote in a blog, though he acknowledged that a thorough reading of the document made clear that the money would not go to the organization.
“This leaves the obvious question unanswered: Why did the bureaucrats who run the system think it was a good idea to use the politically and racially charged title in the first place?” Sykes continued.
Milwaukee County Supervisor Supreme Moore Omokunde told school board members they were the solution to breaking a harmful prison cycle, at Tuesday’s public budget hearing.
“You are the stopgap for the school-to-prison pipeline,” he said. “If I’m a young person and learning about myself in school, it sparks my ability to learn about anything and everything else in the world,” he said. “And it may keep me off a path of desperation.”
School Board Vice President Larry Miller co-authored the resolution that will devote $471,000 to adding racial and cultural studies classes and conflict-resolution techniques to the curriculum for the 2016-2017 school year.
The budget will cover salaries for three new instructors and cultural sensitivity training for current teachers.
Officials have stressed that no portion of the funds will go to the actual movement and that its name is the only connection to the organization.
Community members were invited to speak at the Board of Directors meeting. The majority of attendees were in favor of the resolution.
“I hope you take the resolution more to heart,” Khalil Coleman said, per Fox6. “It’s just a drop in the bucket to the deficit young people are dealing with every day.”
Many citizens suggested a provision to end the presence of school resource officers in local schools. In a move to reduce tensions between students and police officers, MPS partnered with the local police department to introduce Students Talking it Over with Police in 2010, Watchdog reports.
“There should be a specific provision for the STOP program to end or SROs to be quickly phased out,” Mary Watkins said. “As long as those things remain, they are directly counter to this Black Lives Matter resolution.”
Maria Peeples agreed, arguing the collaboration had negatively impacted students of color.
“While we are funding positive programs such as Black Lives Matter,” Maria Peeples said, “we also need to be brave in our resolve to defund harmful partnerships that continue to contribute to violence against MPS students.”