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Milwaukee stonewalling sales of unused schools to choice schools, law firm says
The Wisconsin Reporter ^ | 9-5-13 | M. D. Kittle

Posted on 09/06/2013 7:12:09 AM PDT by afraidfortherepublic

MADISON – A complete failure.

That’s how the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty rates city of Milwaukee’s policy of giving Milwaukee Public Schools the authority to sell or lease the district’s unused school buildings.

Beyond the failing grade, WILL, a conservative, public interest law firm based in Milwaukee, asserts the school district is playing “shell games” and the city is violating the spirit of a 2011 state law that gave Milwaukee the power to move idle buildings.

“Our report shows that MPS is preventing numerous charter schools and private schools in the choice program from purchasing empty, unused school buildings. In doing so, they are directly blocking thousands of children from attending a nearby, high-performing school,” said CJ Szafir, WILL’s Education Policy director in a statement released Thursday.

“And the City – by ignoring its power to sell these buildings under Act 17 – is equally culpable.”

WILL contends the school system has played a “shell game” with its unused property.

“In February 2011, MPS listed 28 buildings as surplus, i.e. vacant buildings that are for sale. However, in April 2013, MPS told WILL that only 4 buildings were surplus. Had MPS sold or leased 24 buildings in the intervening two years? Apparently not. Another chart, circulated internally in March 2013, showed that at least 23 buildings were still vacant and, besides the 4, were not on the market,” the law firm wrote in its release.

The city and school district have been unapologetic about their approach.

“We’d be glad to make them available if (nontraditional schools) fix the way the (education) funding formula is funded,” Jennifer Gonda, director of intergovernmental relations for Milwaukee told Wisconsin Reporter in April.

At the time, Gonda said Milwaukee had effectively frozen school building sales to school choice programs because the state’s general school aid formula reduces the mil portion of voucher students – more than 24,000 attending private schools in Milwaukee – and the property value is reduced again because the students aren’t counted in the equalized value of the city’s property value. Gonda said the formula artificially inflates property values, making it seem Milwaukee’s property base is wealthier than it is, which costs the city about $50 million per year.

“It creates a double deduction in school aid. We believe that is an inequitable way to fund schools,” she said in April. “We have the average property taxpayer paying nearly $200 a year more to support that. In an age where the economy and the financial needs of residents is pretty tight, we believe that additional $200 is asking too much.”

As reported in the April story, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett in 2011 urged the Legislature to pass Act 17.

The mayor assured that the city could market the idle or underutilized properties to “high quality, nontraditional schools who are interested in the properties.” He declared such schools, presumably including rapidly growing parental choice voucher schools and for-profit charter schools, were “shut out” of purchasing or leasing public school properties.

In April, MPS spokesman Tony Tagliavia, sent Wisconsin Reporter an updated list of building sales, leases and reuse projects. The district sold four properties between July 2011 and April 2013, while 13 other properties were being leased.

But WILL asserts that when it comes to choice and non-MPS charter schools inquiries about the availability of idle school buildings, MPS “can be difficult.”

“In June 2012, for example, a private school asked for a chart of all the unused schools that might be available to purchase. MPS replied that there are none on the market,” the law firm states in its release.

WILL contends there is high demand for the approximately 23 unused school buildings in the district.

“(P)ractically every vacant school building could have a charter or private school in it – if MPS (or the City) was minimally cooperative,” the organization says.

WILL is calling on the city of Milwaukee to “use the power the legislature gave it by immediately placing every vacant and unneeded school building on the market and allowing choice and charter schools to have a fair opportunity to purchase these buildings.”

TOPICS: Business/Economy; Constitution/Conservatism; Government; US: Wisconsin
KEYWORDS: buildings; choice

1 posted on 09/06/2013 7:12:09 AM PDT by afraidfortherepublic
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To: afraidfortherepublic; Hunton Peck; Diana in Wisconsin; P from Sheb; Shady; DonkeyBonker; ...

Milwaukee Public Schools blocks sale of unused school property to choice schools.

FReep Mail me if you want on, or off, this Wisconsin interest ping list.

2 posted on 09/06/2013 7:13:43 AM PDT by afraidfortherepublic
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To: afraidfortherepublic

A wave of the future, I’m afraid...

3 posted on 09/06/2013 7:16:36 AM PDT by TurkeyLurkey
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To: afraidfortherepublic

Same thing went on here. The Atlanta public school system refused to sell empty, idle, useless buildings to charter schools until forced to do so by the courts.

4 posted on 09/06/2013 7:53:21 AM PDT by AnAmericanMother (Ecce Crucem Domini, fugite partes adversae. Vicit Leo de Tribu Iuda, Radix David, Alleluia!)
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To: afraidfortherepublic

We live in a small community 30 miles SE of Buffalo, NY and as the population has declined they decided to reduce the number of schools from 3 to 2 but retain the newest school building for the administration. It has the ONLY swimming pool (quite nice and rather new), large soccer/football field and the latest state of the art classroom, food serving, shop facilities.

This building is now 95% empty except for the district elite.

Middle school kids now go to a former elementary style school building where everything of course is too small.

The reason to cram bigger middle school students into tiny town,.... the urinals were too tall for elementary students.

I could have fixed that in a weekend.

5 posted on 09/06/2013 8:21:44 AM PDT by Wurlitzer (Nothing says "ignorance" like Islam! 969)
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To: afraidfortherepublic

I would expect no less from that failing county/community; choking to death under Democrat control!

So GLAD we left in 1970!

6 posted on 09/06/2013 10:44:37 AM PDT by Diana in Wisconsin (I don't have 'Hobbies.' I'm developing a robust Post-Apocalyptic skill set...)
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To: Wurlitzer
You need to organize and FIRE that school board!

School board elections are among the easiest to organize and win.

And if you knock off a few of them, the rest will quickly fall into line, rent administrative space in a vacant office building, and put the kids back in the good school building.

7 posted on 09/06/2013 12:09:21 PM PDT by AnAmericanMother (Ecce Crucem Domini, fugite partes adversae. Vicit Leo de Tribu Iuda, Radix David, Alleluia!)
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