Milwaukee Plan To Turn Aides Into Teachers Stalls
An innovative program to prepare Milwaukee teachers' aides with college degrees to teach in the public-school system has never gotten off the ground, despite being approved by the participating university, the Wisconsin Department of Education, and the Milwaukee school board. Martin Haberman, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee professor who designed the program with the help of several local teachers, is blaming the city teachers' union for the repeated delays in beginning the school-based training program.
Donald Ernest, executive director of the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association, an independent local, denied that the union is holding up the program.
Mr. Haberman charges that the union's objections to the initiative are based on the fact that members of minority groups would be the prime beneficiaries of the training. "You can quote me saying anything you want impugning the motives, intelligence, good will, and decency of these people," Mr. Haberman said last week.
The award-winning teacher educator, who is known nationally for his creative approaches to teacher training, became so frustrated with the delays last fall that he picketed the union's headquarters.
He vows to begin demonstrating again soon if the lingering procedural questions holding up the program are not answered.
"I'm planning to start again," he said. "I'm 58. My wife won't let me picket until it gets warmer."
Mr. Ernest said the union initially was concerned that the proposed program would discriminate against white teachers. After that objection was raised, the guidelines for the program were changed to include teachers of all races, and the union dropped its opposition, he added.
"The program is fine as long as it's open to everybody," Mr. Ernest said. "We want to make sure everybody's eligible for any program."
Mr. Ernest said, however, that the union--which represents both paraprofessionals and classroom teachers--must negotiate the wages, hours, and working conditions of all of its members who will participate in the program.
"This is absolutely a bargaining issue," the executive director said. "We can't have a program without having the hours spelled out. I'm not going to put my name on anything that is that wide open. The union would not be doing its job."
The details of such arrangements now are being ironed out in negotiations between the university, the school district, and the teachers' union.
Sam J. Yarger, dean of the univer sity's school of education, and Ray mond E. Williams, director of the school district's department of hu man-resources services, both said last week that they expect any questions to be cleared up in time for the training to begin in the fall.
The current problems with the proposed program began last summer, according to the dean and the union leader, when Mr. Haberman recruited 19 paraprofessionals to enter the program and secured forgive able loans for them.
Although the teacher educator had worked for several years with committees of Milwaukee teachers in designing the program, it had not been formally approved by the teachers' union.
Mr. Ernest said the union objected to Mr. Haberman "hand picking" candidates for the program, adding that the involvement of classroom teachers in the planning process did not mean the initiative had the union's formal backing.
After the union complained, the program guidelines were changed so that the school district will screen all of the applicants. The final decision on which candidates to admit will be made by the university, Mr. Ernest said.
But Mr. Yarger said he expects Mr. Haberman to be a "major actor" in selecting candidates. He added that he believes progress on the program's development has suffered because Mr. Haberman crossed the union.
"I think what we're doing now is paying a little price for Marty taking the opportunity to publicize the fact that we were having some problems," Mr. Yarger said. "That irritated the union. They just decided to make him, and us, jump through a few more hoops."
Mr. Haberman, who described himself as a "loose cannon," said he realizes he also has not endeared himself to the university by persuading it to provide loans for a program that does not yet exist. The 19 paraprofessionals selected to begin the program last summer instead are enrolled in a more traditional certification program.
Even so, Mr. Haberman said he is determined to see the program through. He notes that such nontraditional approaches to producing minority teachers are essential be cause universities do not prepare nearly enough teachers of color to meet the needs of urban students. Wilma Ealey, who helped Mr. Haberman plan the program, said she felt strongly that it would benefit minority children by producing older, more experienced teachers "of their own kind."
"We have a very strong teachers' union here," said Ms. Ealey, an elementary-school teacher. "They do what they can to keep people they don't want out of the system. It's almost as if they don't want the children to succeed."
The "metropolitan multicultural teacher-education program" is modeled after a similar program offered in Milwaukee from 1962 to 1973 that certified 1,500 people through paid internships in the schools.
All of the participants in that program--which had the full support of the teachers' union--were white, Mr. Haberman pointed out.
Mr. Ernest said that fact has no bearing on the current proposal, adding that he believes Mr. Haberman "still lives in the 60's."
"In the 60's, there was such a program," Mr. Ernest said. "Today, we're very concerned about fairness for everybody."
The paraprofessionals selected for the proposed program are to be drawn from the pool of about 250 of the 1,500 teachers' aides in the Milwaukee system who already hold bachelor's degrees. During the summer, the 30 people selected by the school district and university for the training program are to spend six weeks observing children attending summer school. For their work, the school district has agreed to pay the students $1,000, Mr. Haberman said.
In the fall, two paraprofessionals are to be teamed with one certified ,teacher, who would be paid a stipend and would be released from regular teaching duties to supervise their work. The aides would assume full responsibility for teaching a classroom of students, and would be paid half of the salary of a beginning teacher, according to Mr. Haberman. In addition, those chosen for the program would take some courses at the university--the cost of which would be offset by forgiveable loans.
District To Hire Graduates
Mr. Williams of the Milwaukee schools said the district is eager to hire graduates of the certification program, adding that more than 70 percent of the district's 98,000 students are minorities, while about 18 percent of its 6,000 teachers are minorities.
"We didn't necessarily agree that the program was discriminatory,'' Mr. Williams said. "We just decided that it was too valuable to waste a lot of time arguing over whether or not it was discriminatory."
Mr. Williams and Mr. Ernest said the issue of how much the cooperating teachers will be paid has not been resolved, although Mr. Haberman said the cooperating teachers will be paid $1,000.
The state education department, which approved the program, is disappointed that it has not yet begun, according to Jacqueline Rodman, interim director of the bureau for teacher education, licensing, and placement.
"We had no problems with the program," Ms. Rodman said. "It is exciting and well-conceptualized, and we wanted to do everything to encourage this university and others to develop interesting, creative programs to meet shortage areas." Mr. Haberman said he is not convinced that the program will ever be approved.
"What they do is tell everybody that it's fine, things are working out," he said of the union. "But we just don't have a program. We can't advertise it."
"I'm looking at a pile of paras' calls who want to get into the program," he added, "and we have no way to proceed."