Plan from GOP Sen. Alberta Darling and Rep. Joe Sanfelippo would make Milwaukee Public Schools sell vacant buildings to other 'education operators.'
The proposal may stem from a dispute between voucher school, St. Marcus Lutheran School and MPS. St. Marcus wants to purchase the former Malcolm X Academy on North 1st Street, because the private school is growing and needs more classroom space. MPS has stated that the property is not for sale because the district plans to convert it into a community center.
Darling and Sanfelippo accuse MPS of cheating taxpayers and children by not allowing the vacant building to be used for a school. According to the assemblyman, "They are depriving kids of the possibility of going to school in their own neighborhood simply because they may not like who could be running the schools."
Under the legislators' plan, a building "would be eligible for sale, if it was designated as surplus, underutilized or vacant" within the past five years. In order to keep a building, MPS would have to staff it and educate students in it.
The sponsors say they expect the Legislature to vote on their plan, yet this fall.
Tuesday 9/24 Update: The MPS administration provided the following statement:
We would want to thoroughly review the bill before commenting on it specifically.
Milwaukee Public Schools has strategically utilized unused buildings primarily to expand current, in-demand schools under the MPS umbrella. Golda Meir School, Garland School, I.D.E.A.L. Charter School and Carmen High School of Science and Technology are among the successful schools that were able to expand because the district has been strategic in its use of space. That includes the leasing of 11 sites to independent charter schools and sale of four buildings, including three to high-performing charter operators.
MPS is committed to making decisions about buildings that benefit all Milwaukee taxpayers, families and students, not just one school or advocacy group. The citizens of Milwaukee deserve to have a thoughtful, comprehensive plan implemented for the buildings their tax dollars have paid for. That is exactly what we the district has done.