Milwaukee to Voucher Schools: No Sale

Published May 14, 2013

MADISON – In January 2011, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett begged the state senate for legislation that would transfer control of vacant Milwaukee Public Schools real estate to the city of Milwaukee. State lawmakers passed a law allowing Milwaukee to sell unused school buildings without MPS approval.

Two years later, the city struggles to deliver. Milwaukee said it would quickly put the buildings to use, but it’s now refusing to sell to private voucher or for-profit charter schools until the state changes its education funding formula.

In March, the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL), a Milwaukee-based nonprofit law firm, filed an open records request on Milwaukee’s stance.

WILL discovered:

  • The city refuses to directly sell empty schools without MPS’s approval, even though Act 17 says it can.
  • City policy prohibits selling unused schools to private voucher and for-profit charter schools.

“It’s just rotten when you have children who are not able to go to high performing schools … because of some vendetta [Milwaukee leaders] have with the Legislature,” said C. J. Szafir, WILL’s education policy director.

M. D. Kittle ([email protected]) is a reporter for, where a longer version this story appeared. Reprinted with permission. Image by Benny Lin.