A caucus of black educators at Milwaukee Public Schools is demanding that the district terminate its half a million dollar annual contract with the Milwaukee Police Department.
The Black Educators Caucus Milwaukee wants the district to spend that money to hire and promote more African-American teachers and to implement anti-bias training for all staff. Mayor Tom Barrett said he and the M.P.S. superintendent are concerned about what it would mean for student safety.
For first grade teacher Angela Harris, talking with her students about the death of George Floyd has been an emotional and challenging experience.
"I just want my students to grow up in an environment in a city and a country where they feel safe and they feel like their lives matter and they don't have to worry about what interactions with police may lead to,” Harris said.
That’s why Harris, the chair of the Black Educators Caucus Milwaukee is calling for M.P.S. to immediately end its contract with Milwaukee police.
"It's a police officer's job to respond to incidents that happen within the community,” Harris said. “I don't think that that requires a contract between Milwaukee Public Schools and the Milwaukee Police Department."
Harris said M.P.S. pays the Milwaukee Police Department $478,000 a year to have six officers specially trained and available to respond to incidents at schools.
Aside from hiring more black educators and providing inclusive training, Harris believes the money could be used to offer more mental health resources and a robust black studies curriculum for a district that’s made up of more than 50 percent African-American students.
The Milwaukee Police Department responded by saying it will continue to support the district and its students. Mayor Barrett said he’s not surprised by the push as other school districts across the country have gone in this direction, but he has concerns.
"I think the more important question right now and fortunately we're essentially at the end of the school year is over the course of the summer, what steps is the school system going to take to make sure that the students are safe if there are going to be no police involved in it,” Barrett said.
This decision would ultimately be up to the school board. School Board President Larry Miller said they are taking this request very seriously. The school board has scheduled a special meeting for June 18 to discuss it.