Milwaukee finance reports show spenders in MPS school board … – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Following losses in the last school board election, Milwaukee’s teachers union has paid big this season to support its favored candidates, reporting spending over $88,000 since January. 
Meanwhile, a group linked to City Forward Collective, and individuals associated with the group, have stepped up to back the other candidates, in some cases pushing them ahead in fundraising.
All Milwaukee voters will have a hand April 4 in choosing the next school board member to hold the only citywide seat governing Milwaukee Public Schools, as board president Bob Peterson is stepping down. Missy Zombor and Jeff Spence are competing for the seat.
More:Here’s who you’ll see on your ballot for Milwaukee School Board and what they stand for
Some Milwaukee voters will have a second school board seat on their ballot for their local area:
Districts 4-7 do not have elections this year and will continue to be led by Aisha Carr, Jilly Gokalgandhi, Marcela Garcia and Henry Leonard, respectively, who were elected in 2021.
The political action committee of the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association, the union for MPS staff, first gave about $11,000 directly to candidates’ campaigns in January: $5,000 to Zombor, and nearly $1,500 each to Hart, Herndon, O’Halloran and Siemsen.
In March, the group spent another $41,422 on postcards and digital ads for Zombor, $22,000 for Herndon, $12,000 for Hart, $1,100 for Siemsen and $1,100 for O’Halloran.
The MTEA’s PAC is funded by MPS staff who choose to pay into it on top of their membership dues. That includes over 5,000 teachers and other staff members.
Ben Ward, MTEA executive director, said he thought the school board has been moving the district in a positive direction since the 2019 elections, when union-backed candidates swept their races. MTEA has advocated for board decisions since then to pursue a referendum for arts and music funding, increase minimum wages in the district and implement experience-based raises, Ward said.
Ward also said members were concerned that Hendricks Reaves appeared to have signed a pledge with Moms for Liberty. Hendricks Reaves did not respond to inquiries from the Journal Sentinel about why she had signed it or whether she supports the organization. The pledge commits to honoring the rights of parents, including directing the “education, medical care, and moral upbringing of their children,” without detailing what that means. Moms for Liberty chapters have advocated for restricting curriculum related to gender, sexual orientation and social emotional learning.
More:Across Wisconsin, here’s who’s behind the school board postcards, Facebook ads and door knockers
An organization called CFC Action Fund reported paying Gibson and Associates $25,000 for literature and canvassing in support of Milwaukee School Board candidates: $15,000 for Jeff Spence, $5,000 for Darryl Jackson and $5,000 for Shandowlyon Hendricks Reaves.
CFC Action Fund, formerly called the Partnership for Quality Schools, is registered to City Forward Collective president Brittany Kinser. City Forward Collective refers to the organization as its “partner” 501(c)(4) organization, which is allowed to endorse political candidates.
City Forward Collective is a Milwaukee nonprofit that advocates for and funds charter schools. Hendricks Reaves has worked for City Forward Collective, serving as a contact point for its parent organizing program and supporting the parents in organizing a mayoral forum.
Kinser said the CFC Action fund interviewed Spence, Hendricks-Reaves and Jackson before deciding to endorse them and send out mailers.
“These endorsements were based on the candidates’ alignment with CFC Action Fund’s policy agenda and priorities and their commitment to ensuring ALL Milwaukee students have access to high-quality school choices,” Kinser said in an email.
Kinser said the CFC Action Fund’s priorities align with the first page of City Forward Collective’s legislative priorities. That includes equitable funding for students in all types of schools, maximizing the use of publicly owned school buildings by “high-quality schools,” restructuring the Milwaukee School Board, improving the “authorization landscape” for charter schools, making changes to state accountability systems and making it easier to get educator licenses.
The Action Fund made the payments as independent expenditures, meaning the work is not coordinated with the candidates. As a 501(c)(4) organization, known as a “dark money” group, it doesn’t have to disclose its donors.
Before January, Zombor had raised over $10,000, and Spence claimed an exemption from reporting fundraising, meaning he had raised less than $2,500. He has since surpassed Zombor, largely with his own money.
Spence reported personally loaning over $33,000 to his campaign and raising about $22,000 this year. Contributions included:
Zombor reported raising about $39,900 this year including the $5,000 from MTEA and:
Hendricks Reaves reported raising about $13,000 this year, including:
Herndon reported raising about $4,000 this year, including $1,461 from MTEA and:
Holmes reported loaning about $300 to her own campaign and raising about $2,300 this year, including $1,000 from Arzbaecher.
Siemsen reported raising about $3,600 this year, including $1,481 from MTEA, $400 from IBEW Local 494’s PAC and $200 from O’Halloran’s campaign committee.
Hart reported donating about $900 to her own campaign and raising about $4,100 this year, including $1,455 from MTEA and:
Jackson reported raising about $7,400 this year, including:
Full finance reports are available on the city’s website.
Contact Rory Linnane at Follow her on Twitter at @RoryLinnane


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