Norquist/Peterkin Disagreement

In the past couple of months Mayo Norquist and superintendent Peterkin have held numerous meetings to negotiate the future of the Milwaukee school building construction program. They have discussed how ambitious the effort should be, how the funds should be generated and who should have final say.

It is unfortunate that they and the School Board are planning to spend only $31.5 million when the needs are much greater. In the last issue of Rethinking Schools we reported that according to School Board hired consultants an expenditure of sixteen times that much, $500 million would be necessary to really do the job right – to replace antiquated facilities and to construct enough classrooms so that class size could be reduced and each school would have separate art, music and computer rooms.

Besides qualitatively improving our schools, the more ambitious construction program would bring thousands of jobs into Milwaukee and create the potential of having new school/community centers spread throughout our city – something which our youth desperately need.

Needless to say, the problem with such a plan is money. If the Mayor and Superintendent have a hard time imagining how to generate $31.5 million, how could they ever come up with half a billion?

The answer lies outside of Milwaukee in another series of meetings, held over the past couple of months to celebrate the long awaited unveiling of the B-2 Stealth Bomber. This bomber – which critics say will be completely ineffective in “doing its job” of flying undetected by :radar to drop bombs on the Soviet Union – costs $512 million a piece to produce. The federal government in all its wisdom plans to construct 132 bombers at this price!

Perhaps Superintendent Peterkin and Mayor Norquist should have another meeting and invite all the superintendents of schools and mayors from the 132 largest cities in the country to come to Milwaukee. Reverend Jesse Jackson and the national Jobs with Peace organization could be asked to facilitate the meeting.

The officials from the 132 cities could then ask President Bush, who claims to be intensely interested in the education of our young children, to stop the production of the 132 Stealth bombers and instead mount a massive school construction program in all major urban centers in the United States.

Spending our federal tax dollars in this fashion would make our country much more secure place than the continued pro­duction of the Stealth Bombers.