WILL Press Release | WILL Cautions Common Council Ahead of Vacant Schools Vote

Published on: March 17, 2016

Superintendent Driver is not an “education operator”

March 17, 2016 – Milwaukee, WI – The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty sent a letter to members of the Milwaukee Common Council, cautioning them ahead of their upcoming major vote regarding which schools and individuals can purchase empty and underutilized MPS buildings.

Last July, the Wisconsin Legislature passed a law that requires empty MPS buildings be made available for purchase by “education operators.” The City of Milwaukee owns MPS’ buildings and potential buyers of those buildings must submit letters of interest to the City.

The City received letters of interest from seven different individuals or entities: (1) Penfield Montessori Academy, (2) Pilgrim Rest Missionary Baptist Church, (3) Risen Savior Lutheran School, (4) Right Step, Inc., (5) Rocketship Education Wisconsin, Inc., (6) Mr. Zhoucai Fan, and (7) Milwaukee Public Schools Superintendent Darienne Driver.

On Tuesday, the Zoning, Neighborhoods, & Development Committee will consider a resolution that will determine which of those individuals or entities are “education operators”.  Under state law, only “education operators” can purchase unused and underutilized buildings.  The full Common Council will consider it on March 29.

As our letter notes, state law is very clear that “education operators” are only those individuals or schools associated with private or charter schools.  As a result, MPS Superintendent Driver, as well as Mr. Fan, are not education operators and they cannot use the new law to purchase empty buildings.  In contrast, Penfield Montessori Academy, Pilgrim Rest Missionary Baptist Church, Risen Savior Lutheran School, Right Step, Inc., and Rocketship Education Wisconsin, Inc. are all considered “education operators”.

WILL Vice President for Policy and Deputy Counsel CJ Szafir noted, “In their decision making process, we urge the Common Council to consider both the letter and intent of the law.  Failure to do so could result in unnecessary conflict and litigation.”

The letter to the Common Council can be downloaded here.

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