Hines, Darling vow new rules on empty MPS buildings
Charter school advocate Dennis Conta (left), Common Council President Willie Hines and State Sen. Alberta Darling hold a news conference about a plan to ease the sale of underused MPS schools.
By Erin Richards of the Journal Sentinel
Jan. 5, 2011
Milwaukee Common Council President Willie Hines and state Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) vowed Wednesday morning to change existing legislation – or write new legislation – that would force Milwaukee Public Schools to sell or lease its vacant school buildings to high-performing charter school operators that wish to use them.
In a news conference in front of the vacant Thirty-Eighth Street School, which was sought after by the independent and expanding Milwaukee College Prep charter school before negotiations with the district fell through, Hines and Darling said that they would try to take away the Milwaukee Board of School Directors’ authority over selling the buildings and allow the city to control the sale and lease of unused real estate.
The city already owns the empty schoolhouses, but MPS and ultimately the school board control selling or leasing them.
The district has a deed restriction on the buildings that keeps them from being used as schools that are not part of MPS, or competing schools that might lure students away from the district and further contribute to the decline in MPS enrollment.
The empty building controversy follows a Dec. 31 Journal Sentinel story about the district’s vacant properties, the money it spends every year to maintain them, and the failed attempts by some outside school operators to lease or buy them.
Hines said he’s aware of more than a dozen buildings or properties that are empty and that could be filled with high-performing charter schools, authorized to operate by entities such as the Milwaukee Common Council or the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Charter schools are also public schools, but they have more freedom to experiment with curriculum in exchange for upholding academic performance goals outlined in their charter.