Milwaukee Residents Ask for Vacant Buildings to Be Given to Charters

Milwaukee Common Council President Willie Hines and state Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) vowed Wednesday to change existing legislation – or write new legislation – to force Milwaukee Public Schools to sell or lease its vacant school buildings to high-performing charter school operators that wish to use them.

Standing in front of the district’s vacant Thirty-Eighth Street School – which the independent and highly regarded Milwaukee College Prep charter school sought for its expansion before negotiations with the district fell through – Hines and Darling said they would try to take away the Milwaukee School Board’s authority over selling the buildings.

They said the city should instead control the sale and lease of the unused district real estate.

“There seems to be a logjam over who has the authority over these buildings,” Darling said. “MPS seems to have the authority. We want to change that.”

According to state statute Chapter 119, the city owns the district’s schoolhouses and property on which they sit, but MPS and ultimately the School Board control selling or leasing school property.

The district has resisted selling or leasing the empty schools to outside operators, such as private schools or charter schools authorized by entities such as the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee or the Common Council, because those schools could lure students away from the district.

Because state aid follows the student, a decline in district enrollment means less money for MPS operations.

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