Milwaukee School Board votes to join Arizona boycott

WNPJ member group Voces de la Frontera reports on the Milwaukee School Board's vote to join the growing Boycott Arizona movment:


As MPS parents and children held signs reading, "Wisconsin is Not Arizona" the Milwaukee Public School Board, representing 82,500 students, the largest and most ethnically diverse public school system in Wisconsin, voted 5-2  with one abstention to condemn Arizona's racial profiling legislation, SB1070, and HB2281 which bans ethnic studies. The Board also voted to support a national boycott of Arizona until these laws are repealed.


Arizona's SB1070 has ignited a national boycott movement, similar to a previous national boycott of Arizona, when the state legislature refused to recognize Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday as a national holiday. 


Arizona's' SB1070 legalizes discrimination by forcing local and state law enforcement to question and arrest individuals who they "reasonably suspect" are undocumented and requires all persons to carry papers proving their immigration status or risk arrest and fines. The law also criminalizes immigrants, including children.


Arizona's HB 2281 outlaws the teaching of ethnic studies to children and acts of solidarity between different ethnic groups.   


As Director Terry Falk, MPS board member explained, "this resolution directly relates to public education and children." He explained that SB1070 requires schools to inquire about a student's immigration status-inconsistent with our Supreme Court laws that provide equal educational opportunities for all children (K-12) and in alignment with Wisconsin's own recent passage of in-state tuition rates for undocumented students that graduate from Wisconsin schools. He affirmed the danger of similar laws gaining ground in other states like Wisconsin.


Director Larry Miller, who introduced the resolution stated, "Back in the 1960s, I promised myself, when I marched with Father Gropi crossing the 16th Street bridge for open housing, that anytime I saw injustice I would oppose it."


Director Peter Blewett, reported he had received positive comments from Milwaukee residents and questioned the logic of people who called from around the state to say, "why are you sticking your nose in Arizona's business? "and he asked: "Why are they sticking their nose in Milwaukee's business?" Director Blewett spoke forcefully about the importance of challenging hate and reaffirming the value of all families and children in our schools.


In a prior committee meeting, an MPS teacher, close to tears, described how two of her students had a parent deported and the devastating impact this had on the children and their academic performance.


According to Christine Neumann-Ortiz, Director of Voces de la Frontera, "I applaud the MPS board for their principled stance against discrimination. When I saw a few members vote "no", I recalled the spirit of Martin Luther King's letter from the Birmingham jail, where he essentially said that the greatest obstacle to social progress is not our enemies, but good people who fail to act. The Arizona resolution was a teachable moment and the MPS board members who voted for this resolution affirmed MPS's commitment to its children, their families and the values of justice and equality that are fundamental to our national identity."