Over the past 25 years, Milwaukee Public School (MPS) students have paid the price for school privatization experiments in the City of Milwaukee. MPS classrooms are bursting at the seams while programs essential to a well-rounded curriculum such as art, gym, and music have been drastically reduced or eliminated.
Now the school privatizers have come knocking on MPS’s backdoor negotiating lucrative leases for MPS buildings. Charter school operators love this backdoor loophole because it allows them to remain independent from MPS school board oversight and the stringent legal requirements that public schools fall under.
Below are seven reasons it’s time from MPS to revisit the lease rates for these privately operated schools:
1. Privately operated schools don’t serve all students
MPS funds should go to schools that serve all students. Non-instrumentality charters serve far fewer students with special needs or English language learners. They also have a practice of cherry picking high-performing students and pushing harder to teach students back to public schools.
MPS ALWAYS takes in new students–regardless of special needs, how much space is available, or the time of year. Simply put, public schools are the only schools with the commitment, capacity, and legal obligation to serve all students.
2. MPS privately operated charter schools were once expected to pay more
In 2006 the MPS School District had a board approved rate of $12/sq foot. The current lease for Carmen Northwest is less than half of the 2006 board recommendation coming in at a mere $5 per square foot–some come in at even less. The 2011-16 lease rate for Milwaukee College Prep was only $1 per year.
3. Non-instrumentality charter schools intend to break Milwaukee Public Schools
When we take a close look at the CEO’s and Board of Directors at these privately operated charter schools, there is a disturbing pattern of corporate elites with close ties to the Milwaukee Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce–the organization leading the lobbying efforts to expand privately operated charter and voucher schools in Milwaukee.
4. Non-Instrumentality charter schools create a parallel school system that duplicates services and costs
The initial argument for non-instrumentality charters was that they would provide programs that our public schools aren’t offering. However, MPS continues to approve contracts for schools that duplicate services MPS already offers. College preparatory programs are not unique to privately operated schools.
5. Private charter schools pose a large financial risk to MPS and the city of Milwaukee
Independent charter schools are publicly funded but independently operated. Parents and the school board have very little say in how these schools operate. When privately operated schools chartered by MPS, like Universal Academy schools, closed their doors and turned in their keys, MPS had to swoop in unexpectedly and convert these schools and students back to MPS costing MPS over $1 million. Teachers were pulled with little notice from other schools to fill in the gaps. Hundreds of economically disadvantaged students have been displaced by these abrupt charter closings.
6. Non-instrumentality charter schools break the rules and poach MPS students resulting in cuts to MPS programming
When traditional MPS public schools lose students to privately operated charters, they have to cut programming and services to students. Privately operated charters compete with MPS student recruitment. There have been instances where non-instrumentality charter schools will recruit alongside public MPS schools at recruitment fairs or even sneak open house advertisements into public schools despite MPS Administrative Procedure 5.01(3) requiring a lessee to be noncompetitive with Milwaukee Public Schools enrollment policies.
7. MPS would have additional money for academic and social supports for students that need it the most
Above all, if MPS increases the lease rates on charter schools to a fair market value, the district could invest that money back into our schools to invest in class sizes small enough for one-on-one attention, robust career and tech ed. programs, fine arts, music, school counselors, and more.
It’s time to #RaiseTheRent!
Attend the Tuesday, January 9 School Board AFP Committee meeting to show your opposition to these sweetheart charter lease extensions.