July 23, 2014

MPS could be forced to sell buildings

The state may force the sale of vacant Milwaukee Public School buildings. Republican Senator Alberta Darling (R-Hills), the bill’s author, said it would require Milwaukee to sell school buildings that sit underused or vacant for five years.

“To prove a building is still in use, MPS will have to staff it and utilize it to educate children,” Darling said at a public hearing this week. There’s some disagreement about the number of buildings that would qualify: Darling says 28 while MPS Superintendent Gregory Thornton said it’s 15. “I’m terribly concerned about the bill, the omissions from the bill and the inability to unpack it,” Thornton said. “Once something like this goes into place it’s very hard to turn it back.”

Darling said the measure would serve to clarify a bill passed two years ago that hasn’t always worked. “It’s kind of been a shell game and a wild goose chase for some of the charter or choice schools who are very interested in buying some of the schools, but they run around a mulberry bush,” she said.

The city owns the MPS buildings, and Mayor Tom Barrett opposes this bill. “I feel very strongly that this legislation does exactly the wrong thing when it comes to requiring us to hold on to a building for educational purposes only,” he said.

MPS has refused to sell or lease its Malcolm X School to St. Marcus Lutheran, a north side private school that wants to open a second campus. The district says it has other plans for the building.