The group “Advocates for Student Achievement” (ASA) admitted at its Monday breakfast meeting co-sponsored by the Milwaukee Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce (MMAC) that it was behind a recent “push poll” in Milwaukee School Board districts with contested elections.
ASA spokesman, Anne Curley, asserted that ASA had not asked any question aimed at discrediting school board members. She said those questions were from the ASA political action committee. But she acknowledged in a question from the audience that all of the questions were in the very same poll undermining its claim to scientific objectivity.
Curley also said that ASA was releasing only some of the questions and responses in the poll.
The Parker Group conducted the push poll, a technique used to plant negative ideas about candidates in voters’ minds while posing as a neutral poll.
In the district represented by MPS Board Chair Peter Blewett, a “question” alleged that Blewett had approved of School Board Director Charlene Hardin’s trip to Philadelphia, an allegation that is untrue. (For more on this push poll see this column by the Journal Sentinel's Dan Bice.)
Spokesperson for ASA also admitted in answers to questions from the audience, that it asked no questions in the poll about the state funding formula’s impact on MPS education.
While ASA claims its poll was intended to identify public perception of issues in MPS, it was clearly intended to persuade voters that the current school board is the problem and to promote the election of ASA supported candidates.
The group’s agenda is clearly revealed because it did not ask about the flawed state funding formula, the costly and unaccountable Voucher Program, the failed Neighborhood School Initiative, or even what voters like about the MPS.
None of the results of this poll can be taken seriously if some of the questions were “push” questions.
Milwaukee School Board President, Peter Blewett, condemned the push poll two weeks ago when constituents contacted him about it.
“These push polls are classic sleazy campaign tricks,” Blewett stated. “I have never used them. I want a campaign that focuses on how MPS can prepare our students for challenging world of work or higher education. Voters have a right to hear about how candidates plan to improve MPS. Secretly-funded sleaze campaigns debase the democratic process and insult voters’ intelligence,” Blewett added.
Blewett said, “I have no idea whether my opponent or some group supporting her paid for this push poll because the callers from the Parker Group will not clearly identify who paid except, in one case to answer, ‘The school board,’ which of course is a lie.” Blewett added, “I hope my opponent had nothing to do with these dirty tricks, and that she will immediately call for any group associated with her to desist from these and any other sleazy tactics.”
If ASA really believed in transparency, it would release all the the questions in the poll so public can see that the poll was designed to get the answers it received.
An additional issue at the event that was held at the Italian Community Center was that the group allowed three candidates for the Milwaukee School Board to speak, but did not allow candidate, Larry Miller, to address the audience.