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Annette Polly Williams, the longtime Wisconsin lawmaker credited with the 1989 creation of the pioneering Milwaukee school voucher program, died Nov. 9. She was 77.

Ms. Williams said she saw school choice as a way to help low-income and working-class families get a better education for their children. She represented a legislative district that included parts of Milwaukee’s central city and had one of the highest percentages of African-Americans in the state, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

“In 1988, being a black Democrat saying ‘I support vouchers’—that was an unbelievably brave stand,” said Howard Fuller, a prominent school choice advocate who served as Milwaukee’s superintendent during the early days of the voucher program, in an interview with Education Week. “I do not think there would be a modern-day parent-choice movement without Polly Williams.”

–Arianna Prothero

Former Georgia Gov. Carl E. Sanders Sr., who was instrumental in desegregating Georgia’s public schools, died Nov. 16. He was 89.

In 1959, a federal judge ordered the Atlanta school board to submit a desegregation plan. Then-Gov. Ernest Vandiver called on 60 advisers to discuss the state’s options: desegregate or close. Fifty-eight urged the governor to defy the order and close schools. Only Mr. Sanders, a state senator at the time, and House Floor Leader Frank Twitty recommended desegregation.

Gov. Vandiver listened to the minority, shutting schools long enough to allow a special legislative session, during which lawmakers amended segregation laws.


Vol. 34, Issue 13, Page 5

Published in Print: December 3, 2014, as Obituaries
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