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Abele: creating pre-K school in vacant MPS building an option for so called MPS takeover

Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele tells CBS 58 he is discussing taking control of a vacant Milwaukee Public School building and creating an early childhood education school.

This comes one day after Abele and MPS' Superintendent, Dr. Darienne Driver, received a list of 55 schools eligible for the Opportunity Schools Partnership Program. That's the plan opponents have dubbed the "MPS takeover."

That program was created earlier this year when it was included in the State's budget. Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) and Representative Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield) were the lead authors.

As directed by the new state law, Abele needs to appoint a commissioner to oversee a special district tasked with operating under-performing MPS schools. Between one and three buildings can shift to the new district this year, and the commissioner would make the final decision.

"A lot of the people we've talked to about commissioner are very.. I'm excited about the quality of people we've talked to." Abele said. "I'll just leave it at that."

The list of 55 schools included a memo from State Superintendent Tony Evers. In the memo, Evers explained older data is being used to compile the list of failing schools, and it doesn't account for recent improvements. He also wrote if current reporting methods are used, then two-thirds of the schools on the list would have higher scores.

State Senator, and Milwaukee County Executive candidate, Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) said, "Maybe take over an empty school and put forward programs we know that work instead of going into a school where you have to fire every teacher, fire every administrator."

Abele explained one of the options he's discussing, “If you had a new school that is early childhood education and you put that in one of the unused MPS buildings near a high functioning MPS school so it’s a feeder, it actually has the impact of increasing the student count. But again this is something we’re talking about with everybody.”

Larson is critical of Abele for his willingness to work with the Republican legislators on the plan.

“They [Darling, Kooyenga, and Abele] are messing around with our education, with our kids future in a way that is experimental and the models they are using [are] flawed,” Larson said. 

In an email to CBS 58, Darling said, “According to DPI, nearly 32,000 kids are trapped in failing schools run by MPS. If these students formed a city it would be Wisconsin’s 25th biggest and it would be about 10,000 people bigger than South Milwaukee.

I hope MPS improves, but marginal upticks thanks in part to a new report card formula will not fix the deep rates of failure found at MPS’s worst performing schools.

For example, at least four MPS schools had zero students reach proficiency in reading or math in recent years.

Also, at least thirty schools failed to have more than ten students reach proficiency in reading or math in recent years.  

Even if future lists from DPI only include MPS’s deeply failing schools, there is an undeniable need for game-changing reform in Milwaukee.

A slight report card uptick may be good enough for defenders of the status quo, but do not expect me to sit idly by if tens of thousands of students and their families are being denied the opportunities they deserve.”

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