George Mitchell

    Author Bio:

    George Mitchell is an education and public policy consultant based in Milwaukee.

    Mitchell's interest in education policy and politics began in 1984 when Wisconsin Governor Anthony Earl named him to chair a commission that studied public schools in metropolitan Milwaukee. Research for the commission was directed by University of Wisconsin Professor John Witte. Witte and his staff documented major educational gaps between low-income, mostly minority students and students from middle- and upper-income families. The research spurred Mitchell and some other members of the commission to advocate a voucher program that would expand educational options for Milwaukee families. In 1990, Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson signed legislation sponsored by Rep. Polly Williams creating the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program. Mitchell has written extensively on K-12 education issues. With Howard Fuller and Michael Hartmann he authored a study of teacher collective bargaining in the Milwaukee Public Schools (published in Conflicting Missions?)

    Teachers Unions and Education Reform, Tom Loveless, ed., Brookings Institution Press, 2000). With Fuller, he argued in authored "A Culture of Complaint" (Education Next, Vol. 3, 2006) that bargaining and related union activity have introduced practices into the education system that are counterproductive.

    Mitchell attended the University of Wisconsin and worked as a journalist for the Wisconsin State Journal, the Wall Street Journal, and the Riverside Press-Enterprise. He previously served as Assistant Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Revenue, Director of Public Works for Milwaukee County, and Director of Government Contracts for the Carley Capital Group, a real estate development firm.


Blog Posts/Multimedia

Public Education’s Looming Fiscal Train Wreck

Bruce Thompson is the sole at-large member on the Milwaukee Public Schools Board of Directors. In a commentary that appears in the February 21 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel he states, “For Milwaukee Public Schools, the financial crisis that many of us have been warning about is here.” What makes Thompson’s analysis significant is that it could be applied to a substantial number of public school districts today—urban and rural.


Fire Them All

One assumes this won’t stick.  But the dust-up should produce some interesting discussion and perhaps litigation.  Along with the Wisconsin DPI threat to yank tens of millions in Title 1 money from the Milwaukee Public Schools, in some places people are actually “up to here” with failure.


A True Shot Across The Bow

Here’s a story that bears watching: “Wisconsin’s superintendent of public instruction took the first step Thursday toward withholding up to $175 million in federal funds from Milwaukee Public Schools because of the district’s failure to meet yearly academic progress targets required under law.”


Milwaukee Vouchers: 18% Graduation Edge Over Public Schools

As with other policies where the President now is reconsidering his approach, perhaps he and Education Secretary Arne Duncan will take a second look at the power of parent choice. New data from Milwaukee gives them a chance to do that.


Expanding Choice in Elementary and Secondary Education

An upcoming Brookings Institution report — “Expanding Choice in Elementary and Secondary Education” — will make interesting reading. The preview for a release event says that the report will discuss “how to expand school choice to increase equity and create a market within the public sector for school quality.” Given the expertise and background of the panelists who will present next week, how they define equity, the public sector, and school quality will be quite significant.


Scholar Ladies

Trust me, you will want to watch the students and faculty at Milwaukee’s Hope Christian Schools in their version of Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies.” More than 100,000 online viewers have seen the music video, the subject of a seven-minute feature earlier this month on CNN.


Initial Steps For Reform in Virginia and New Jersey

Aggressive education reform won’t occur without strong governors who are committed to real change. Accordingly, this week’s news from Virginia and New Jersey raises the prospect of interesting developments in both states.


Wisconsin’s Race for the Feedback

The Department of Education will announce Phase 1 winners of Race to the Top money in April. The department notes that “Feedback [will be] provided to applicants who do not win.” Wisconsin appears to be a prime candidate for feedback.


A Skeptic’s View of Race to the Top

While the first Race To The Top applications won’t be submitted until later this month, some observers already see evidence that this initiative might be a game-changer. An alternative view — mine — is more skeptical.


Elections Matter

The year 2009 has not been kind to school vouchers. In the end, elections matter. As such, 2010 looms large for those who support expanding parent education options.


Calling Out President Obama

In yesterday’s Washington Post, Kevin Chavous and Anthony Williams note that President Obama has not yet “spoken publicly” on plans to end the D.C. Scholarship Program. Yet, a case could be made that he has.


No Reader Left Behind: Improving Media Coverage of Education

A Brookings panel discussion Wednesday afternoon should be interesting.


Defining “Effective” and Other Keys to a Successful RTTT Application

What most stands out is the palpable disconnect between the RTTT process and what actually occurs in the many charter schools and private schools that have made real progress. If a random selection of administrators at such schools were asked to review the process, the response likely would be a collective laugh.


An Update on Wisconsin’s RTTT

There are new developments in Wisconsin’s quest for Race To The Top money, an effort highlighted by President Obama’s decision to deliver a speech on education in Madison earlier in November. The most reasonable conclusion: if the state actually gets some or all of the $250 million for which it is eligible, then RTTT is meaningless.


Rocketship Redux

In an earlier post I described an October visit to the Rocketship Mateo Sheedy charter school in San Jose CA. Last week the school was the subject of a post at the blog of Joanne Jacobs. One comment asked about teacher salaries at the school. Another doubted that the budget was as low as I had claimed.


Wisconsin’s RTTT Follies

Further comment on the Wisconsin situation would not be warranted but for the continued assertion by Governor Jim Doyle and key legislators that the state is a serious contender for RTTT funds.


Wisconsin Teachers’ Union Calls The Shots on RTTT

With the approval of the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC), Wisconsin legislators this week approved a decidedly tepid package of legislation supposedly designed to help the state win a Race To The Top grant.


Wisconsin’s Race To The Top

Wisconsin appears to be a strong contender for Race To The Top funds. Melody Barnes, the director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, said in a conference call that the president on Wednesday will ‘applaud positive steps forward’ on education reform in Wisconsin. One wonders: has Arne Duncan vetted the pending bills to determine if they represent the kind of change that will meet RTTT criteria?


Blasting Off

As surely as the sun rises in the east, defenders of America’s traditional schools recite the litany of demographic reasons for the racial gap in academic achievement.
Not everywhere, however.


In Good Faith

Earlier this week I submitted the following letter to the editor to the Wall Street Journal. I don’t know whether it will be published. I am less sanguine than the paper’s editors regarding the intentions of Senator Durbin.


Giving Up on Education Reporting

I could not disagree more with the notion that it’s unfair to blame education reporters for lack of depth in covering labor issues.


A Little Context Needed for Complaints about School Revenue Shortfalls

The general public is woefully uninformed as to how much is spent on K-12 public education and, by extension, how much that spending has grown. Why would this be the case? No mystery, really.


President Obama’s Real Message

The President’s real message on education reform will be delivered early next year, when Education Secretary Arne Duncan makes the first round of Race to the Top grants.


School Choice Research: Will Evidence Ever Count?

Earlier this month, Mike Petrilli moderated a Fordham Institute discussion about whether charter schools had eclipsed private school vouchers as the most promising education reform.


Opinion Divided: Making Private Milwaukee Schools Public?

Major changes this year to Milwaukee’s 20-year old voucher program please some and dismay others.

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