Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The wheels on the bus go to Madison

The march on Madison to restore Wisconsin Virtual Academy and protect Wisconsin's schools had over 1100 people participate today. I received this note from Brian Fraley that I thought I would pass along. It sounds like turnout even exceeded Brian's hopes and expectations:

We had to cut off pre-rally registration at the concourse ballroom before all of three Milwaukee Buses arrived. WE had 975 registered on site today, 140 on Milwaukee buses. So we easily had a crowd of more than 1100 thats not including walk ups. In 6 days!

Out of a safety concern we asked 150 or so to head back to the Concourse and head to capitol at 2 instead. And it still took 15 minutes for the throng to enter the Capitol!

AB697 is a bipartisan bill now. Rep. Fields and Rep. Ziegelbauer told Davis they're on board!

Hearing in Assembly may take a long long time!

The only time I've seen a bigger rally is when it was an interest group's day at the capitol and they had a convention in town, and even then maybe only 3 or 4 times in the last 20 years.

We were on the long state street side of the capitol and we stretched almost to the sidewalks.
Here's the official press release from the Wisconsin Coalition of Virtual School Families


www.EveryKidDeservesAGreatSchool.com

For Immediate Release, January 16, 2008

For further information, contact: Rose Fernandez, Coalition President
262-565-7844

More Than One Thousand Real People Rally at State Capitol for Virtual
Schools

[Madison, Wisconsin] Holding signs that read "Don't kick me out of
school, I didn't do anything wrong" and "This Vote Will Go on Your
Permanent Record!" a crowd of more than 1100 students, parents and
educators rallied at the Wisconsin State Capitol Wednesday afternoon.

"In school, you study history," Rose Fernandez, President of the
Wisconsin Coalition of Virtual School Families said to the boisterous
crowd. "But today, you're making history."

Faced with the prospect of a court-ordered closure of a half dozen
online public charter schools in Wisconsin, the group rallied in
support of AB697 a bipartisan bill, which had a public hearing later
in the day. The rally attendees did not return to their hometowns when
the speakers were done, however. The throng went to the legislative
committee hearing to register their support and then spent the
afternoon visiting their lawmakers.

"While the Supreme Court decides whether to take up the appeal in the
virtual school case, there are several well-intentioned legislators
looking for a legislative fix," said Fernandez. "We have union dues
paying teachers, parents, kids, school administrators and those
well-intentioned legislators on our side. The teachers union, which
wants to close these schools, stands alone with their allies at the
state Department of Public Instruction. We hope this massive civics
lesson today will help bring even more allies our way. AB697 is the
only legislation out there that will keep these schools open."

In December, a state appeals court ruled that the state must suspend
funding of the public Wisconsin Virtual Academy and indicated state
statutes must be updated to reflect the growth of this emerging
educational reform in order for it to continue.,

"3,000 kids could be kicked out of the public school that works best
for them if this legislation doesn't pass," said Fernandez. "I want
those who oppose this bill to look these little ones in the eyes and
say 'tough luck, kid, I have to side with WEAC on this one, now hit
the road.'

Representative Brett Davis, the author of the Bi-partisan AB697
immediately began working with the various affected parties to craft a
narrow legislative fix that addresses only the concerns raised by the
court. It must pass both houses of the legislature and be signed by
the Governor this year.

Buses collected rally attendees from stops in Brookfield, Green Bay,
Appleton, Wausau, Plover, Westfield, Eau Claire and Tomah. Hundreds
more made their own way to the rally in Madison despite the short
notice and sub-freezing temperatures.

"This is just the start," said Fernandez. "We're going to do all that
we can to see this through and save these schools."