Matt Kittle
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Barnes’ private school past conflicts with his political present

MADISON — Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes doesn’t like to talk much about it.   But his private school past has long conflicted with his political image.  Barnes, a Milwaukee liberal who has had some high profile trouble with the truth, has been mostly silent about his school days at Holy Redeemer Christian Academy.  Holy Redeemer is a parental choice school, its students education paid for by the vouchers that Barnes and his boss, Democrat Gov. Tony Evers, have politically opposed.  Barnes and his spokespeople refused to return Empower Wisconsin’s requests for comment, even to confirm that he attended the Milwaukee private school. He did, according to two glowing stories on Barnes as the first black lieutenant governor in Wisconsin history, and the youngest in the nation.  The first, a Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel piece in early January as Barnes was stepping into office, briefly touched on the lieutenant governor’s private school past. It was a passing reference, used to underscore the story’s sparkling narrative on Barnes’ potential.  “Tim Cole, who became friends with Mandela Barnes in kindergarten at Milwaukee’s Holy Redeemer Christian Academy, said he recognized a potential of leadership when the two played football together in middle school,” the story states.  The same story notes that Barnes not only attended Alabama A&M University, he “graduated with a degree in mass communications in 2008.” He did not, a fact the liberal Isthmus newspaper in Madison broke last month.  A recent story in Milwaukee Magazine, too, notes Barnes’ early days at Holy Redeemer.  Barnes’ updated campaign webpage notes the lieutenant governor attended “both public and private schools,” but it doesn’t specify that he spent his elementary and middle-grade years at the kind of school he and his fellow school choice opponents have railed against.  A biographical sketch on Wikipedia states only that Barnes “attended Milwaukee Public Schools, including John Marshall High School.”  There is apparently no mention of Barnes’ mother LaJuan Barnes previously working at Holy Redeemer Christian Academy, but multiple sources, including Bishop Sedgwick Daniels of Holy Redeemer Institutional Church of God in Christ, which runs the school, confirmed as much. Daniels told Empower Wisconsin that Barnes’ mother served the school on an “interim basis” in an administrative role assisting middle school-aged girls. “He was a fine young man,” Sedgwick said, adding that he is not surprised by Barnes’ success. He said his grandparents and parents impressed upon Barnes the value of education.  The Journal Sentinel story only notes LaJuan “worked as a physical education teacher in Milwaukee public schools.” The lieutenant governor’s parents were active in labor unions — “work their son cites as laying the groundwork for his interest in advocacy.”  But what about Barnes’ early education? Did that build a foundation for the man he has become? No mention. Barnes the community organizer and politician is more than happy to talk about his high school public education.  “I’m a public school graduate. That experience is sort of what shaped me, and it got me to where I am today,” Barnes said in a campaign video.  He makes clear that he was born in Milwaukee’s “poorest and the nation’s most incarcerated zip code.” The difference for the lieutenant governor, according to his webpage, was opportunity.  “He was raised in a middle class union household and learned the value of hard work in early life,” the site states. Making sure that “every child” in Wisconsin has a “fair shot” remains a “top priority,” according to the campaign site.  But school choice does’t fit into Barnes’ priorities. In a 2012 Vote Smart Political Courage Test, Barnes, running for a seat in the state Assembly, said parents should not be allowed to use vouchers to send their children to any school.  He declined to answer whether he supports state funding for charter schools.  In a 2015 Q&A for the Capital Times, Barnes told the Madison-based liberal publication the Milwaukee School Choice Program has “not been successful.”  “Besides, siphoning money from public education has not been proper in the ways that those dollars are allocated,” he said.  That thinking may sit well with the liberals in Madison, but it doesn’t sell in the school choice schools in Milwaukee, many of them, like Holy Redeemer Christian Academy, located in one of the state’s poorer zip codes.  “It’s a pretty classic example of choice for me but not for thee,” said Jim Bender, president of School Choice Wisconsin. “It is, unfortunately, all too common throughout the country, and here in Milwaukee and Wisconsin it’s all the same. You have people vehemently opposed to school choice in any form, yet they have taken advantage of schools that so many young people cannot.”  That would include state Sen. Chris Larsen (D-Milwaukee), a 1999 graduate of St. Thomas More High School, a Milwaukee, private voucher school.  Nationally, Democrat presidential candidates Joe Biden, Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Beto O’Rourke, and Andrew Yang all attended private schools for at least part of their K-12 education, according to a recent review by Education Week.  “And the children of current candidates like Bennet, John Delaney, and Sen, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York are attending or have attended private schools,” the publication reported.  Education Week asks the question, are Democrats who dislike vouchers but benefitted from private schools hypocrites?  Bender thinks so.  “If you are unwilling to acknowledge the benefits that you have received from the path of education that you took and then try to deny it to others … that doesn’t come across as very genuine,” the school choice advocate said. “In the end, that’s going to be a difficult thing to deal with as these multiple issues stack up.”

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2 thoughts on “Barnes’ private school past conflicts with his political present

  • Let’s not forget Sidwell Friends School, that very elite bastion of PRIVATE education, where Slick Willie and the H-ideous R-otten C-rone, as well as the Exalted Organizer and his lovely wife, the Queen of Inedible School Lunches, enrolled their precious offspring, all while battling against the same type of opportunities for the D.C. “riff raff” with whom they deign not to consort (but are quite willing to exploit as political pawns). Barnes may have attended a private school, but given his demonstrated abilities, along with those of his boss, it would appear that the places of his matriculation did not put a premium on competence or achievement. At least A &M did not confer a degree on the man child Lt. Gov, so it’s not in the same embarrassing position of Boston U, which apparently did issue a diploma to the renowned rocket surgeon of the House, the infamous A.O.C.

    • As a college grad, AOC received a degree, not a diploma. What she did(?) to earn(?) it is open to speculation, unlike our very own Mandela’s propensity for allowing non-factual Biden-ordained “truth” to fester until the pus of his lack of transparency about his college non-graduation oozed out of that open sore of dishonesty (a Progressive/Democrat/Marxist trait) to reveal the whole truth about our entitled Lt. Gov.

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