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You can help kids improve reading skills at Forest Home Avenue School via a Donors Choose campaign.
You can help kids improve reading skills at Forest Home Avenue School via a Donors Choose campaign.

Help give the gift of education

Today is Giving Tuesday and thus I'm re-sharing this post from December 2013 about how you can use Donors Choose to help out a local public school. The only changes have been to update links and remove some information that is now past its sell-by date ...

Tis the season for opening your hearts and helping out around town. One way you can do that is to help a teacher in a classroom. I don’t mean in person – though you can do that at many schools, of course.

Instead, consider doing something like donating materials to a classroom at your child’s school, your neighborhood school or a school to which you feel some sort of connection (you went there, your mom went there, etc.).

At our school, for example, teachers have placed giving tree items on classroom doors. Parents can pluck a post-it and return it with the item listed on it. In many schools, budget line items for things like supplies have been swallowed up by lines that help make sure there are sufficient adults working in the building. So, classrooms can use some help with supplies.

If you’d like a suggestion for a school, I’m always happy to offer one. Email me.

Otherwise, DonorsChoose.org always has great ways to give. There are many projects that teachers in Milwaukee Public Schools are trying to fund. For example, Forest Home Avenue School (which my mom and her grandmother attended) second grade teacher Angela Bohr was (when I first posted this) trying to raise about $300 to support materials to help boost the reading skills of the kids that are in her Tier 2 Response to Intervention (RTI) group. These are kids who are struggling and need intensive instruction to make progress.

"We have a daily, 45-minute Tier 2 time where I work with nine students that are in my Tier 2 group," said Bohr. "My students are loving and come to school to learn. They have had traumatic events happen to them which has caused many of them to have academic delays. My school serves students Pre-K-5th grade with over 8…

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Testify, Alexander Mitchell Integrated Arts School, testify.
Testify, Alexander Mitchell Integrated Arts School, testify.

Powerful Milwaukeeans help reboot MPS Foundation

The idea of donating to public schools has raised questions over the years. Should a tax-funded system raise extra money from the private sector? And, the related and extremely relevant companion: should it HAVE to?

Then there’s the question of individual public schools seeking outside funds – grants, donations, fundraising events, kids selling candy bars – for specific programming.

Like many discussions surrounding schools, these can be complicated questions and the subject was addressed just this weekend in The New York Times Magazine, when a reader wrote to Kwame Anthony Appiah’s "The Ethicist" saying (s)he felt immense pressure to donate to a granddaughter’s public school.

"Is this level of pressure for large contributions to the operation of a public school unethical," the reader queried.

"All children deserve a fair shot at a decent education, let’s agree," Appiah replied in a long answer that I won’t quote in its entirety here. "Are inequalities among schools that aren’t a result of unequal government provision a threat to this ideal? Only if inequalities between private and public schools are. So it would be wrong for parents’ groups to bolster a public school by providing resources beyond what’s available to all children in the system only if it were also wrong to send children to private schools.

"Even affluent public schools have fewer resources than many private schools. Raising money from parents and other outside donors allows them to do a better job than they otherwise would, resulting in better educations for some children in the public system than for others. ... But inevitably, we confront a trade-off between increasing fairness and increasing the number of people who get a worthwhile good; in this case, a better education.

"Which returns us to the point with which I started. Certain values vary with roles: We expect an umpire to be a neutral party on the playing field, while Mom and Dad take a rooting interest in their ki…

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Educators help nurture the ambitions of Milwaukee's children, whether they want to be doctors or red Power Rangers.
Educators help nurture the ambitions of Milwaukee's children, whether they want to be doctors or red Power Rangers.

Saying thank you to Milwaukee educators

As I prepare to pack up my stuff and head out to spend Thanksgiving with my family, I’d like to take a moment to express my gratitude for the folks who work hard every day to educate Milwaukee’s children.

I’d say that in the current climate that is a thankless task but as I was reminded last week when I spent a little time with a quartet of smart, sharp, funny minds at Siefert Elementary during the MPS school’s amazing Comprehension and Conversations reading event (organized by energetic school support teacher Dannette Justus), the rewards come directly from the kids, even when they don't come from politicians and others far removed from the classroom.

I’d also like to give a special shout out to the folks at City Year Milwaukee, who work in MPS schools to serve as leaders, mentors and tutors. They are AmeriCorps volunteers who receive little more than a small monthly stipend to help cover their room and board.

The nonprofit does such good work that the Herzfeld Foundation recently gifted it $50,000, and just this week, City Year MKE announced that its VP and Executive Director, Jason Holton, is transitioning to the national senior leadership team, heading up talent recruitment. Fortunately for Milwaukee, Holton will remain here, where he will join in the search for a successor.

Holton will help City Year chapters across the country find talented folks like Milwaukee resident Faith Harper-King, pictured below. A student at MATC, Harper-King – who attended MPS’ Milwaukee High School of the Arts – signed on with City Year for a year to help make a positive mark on Milwaukee schools.

"I serve to help children in low performing neighborhoods so that we can change statistics and prove those statistics wrong," Faith Harper-King said. "The students I serve have taught me that it’s more than just giving to the community. It helps children to see that someone that looks like them cares."

City Year is in its seventh year in MPS. Last year, 29 perce…

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Do some of these include a golden ticket?
Do some of these include a golden ticket?

MCTS goes Wonka on M*Card anniversary

To celebrate the second anniversary of its M•Card travel fare card, Milwaukee County Transit System says it's announcing "the most exciting giveaway ever" at noon on Wednesday, Nov. 16.

The announcement will be made via a Facebook live on the MCTS Facebook page. In order to convince the media to look in, the system sent out these Wonka Bar-like packets.

I opened one and although I didn't find a golden ticket that would get me a tour of MCTS facilities and potentially result in my becoming the maven of Milwaukee transit, I did get a nice, weighty Hershey bar.

If you want to get in on the giveaway, watch the Facebook live tomorrow at noon for details.

In the meantime, MCTS introduced the M•Card in 2014 and the cards now facilitate 1.5 million rides each month. So far, the electronic smartcards have been used for 25 million rides on Milwaukee County buses.

The cards are available online and via 100 locations throughout the county.

Incidentally, the wrapper on the bars boasts, "In your wildest dreams you can not imagine the marvelous SURPRISES that await you when you Ride MCTS!"

Surely, they meant this awesome driver ...

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