Milwaukee’s mayor says it’s time for a takeover of Milwaukee Public Schools by the mayor’s office. Mayor Tom Barrett says the failure of MPS is borne out by the numbers for tenth grade reading and math attainment in the state’s largest school district. “We have to be honest with ourselves and say ‘look at those figures, we are not meeting the expectations we as adults should have for our children,” Barrett said.
“So what do I want to do? Why do I want to have mayoral reform in this community? I want to have mayoral reform first and foremost because I want to close the racial achievement gap,” Barrett said during a press conference on the UW-Milwaukee campus. That gap, said Barrett, is the largest in the nation, “worse than Mississippi, worse than Louisiana.”
Barrett insisted a mayoral takeover of MPS isn’t about taking away democracy, but about increasing accountability. “And I believe the mayor, whether it’s Tom Barrett or anybody else, is the local official who is MOST accountable to the people in this community.”
Governor Jim Doyle conceded “significant problems” will confront whoever governs MPS, but “the current structure is not getting us where we want to go,” said the governor, who recently announced that he’s not seeking a third term in office. “I’m not going to have any power in a year and a half from now, and I don’t know who the mayors will be in future years in Milwaukee,” Doyle said. “But I do believe that it is best for the people of Milwaukee to know that he mayor is in charge of those schools.”
MPS has more than 87,000 students and 6,000 teachers, making it larger than the Madison, Racine and Green Bay districts combined. Barrett said many of those teachers are dedicated, and the district has numerous excellent schools, but that he “doesn’t know anybody who thinks the status quo is acceptable.”