WILL Press Release | New Records show MPS seeking to obtain vacant school buildings under state law
If City of Milwaukee turns over the buildings, it risks litigation
January 19, 2016 – Milwaukee, WI – The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty has learned that Milwaukee Public Schools is seeking to acquire 11 unused and underutilized school buildings. Through an open records request, WILL obtained MPS’ Letter of Interest that seeks to acquire the buildings, however state law prohibits the city from turning the buildings over.
Last year, the State Legislature passed a law requiring the City of Milwaukee – who owns MPS buildings – to make those buildings available for purchase to education operators, i.e., charter and choice schools.
WILL reports have shown that there are at least 17 empty school buildings, which have cost taxpayers well over $1.6 million since 2012 to maintain. An additional 27 buildings are operating at less than 60% capacity. Because MPS has blocked high-performing private and charter schools from purchasing or leasing these buildings, the state legislature viewed this as a major education problem that needed to be fixed.
CJ Szafir, WILL Vice President for Policy and Deputy Counsel cautioned, “Under the new state law, Superintendent Driver does not have the right to obtain these vacant school buildings for free. If the City were to turn over these buildings for free it would risk litigation against the city and MPS. Only education operators – charter and private schools – are able to use the new law to obtain unused and underutilized school buildings.”
The new state law puts these empty and underutilized buildings on the market, and allows charter and choice schools to purchase them. To give them away for free to Milwaukee Public Schools, who have demonstrated, over the years, no need for them, would violate both the spirit and letter of the law.