Adult Employment and Empty Milwaukee Public Schools’ Buildings

Erin Richards:

Spurred by a deal gone sour between Milwaukee Public Schools and the developer commissioned to renovate one of its empty buildings — a deal that kept a private school from buying the facility — Common Council President Michael Murphy has introduced an ordinance that would position the city to take charge and sell unused MPS property.

“The state granted us the authority to sell these properties, and I’m going to recommend a process for that to occur,” Murphy said.

The proposed ordinance comes on the heels of the latest twist in the Malcolm X Academy development deal: A School Board decision to cut ties with the developer and renovate part of the building for a new school on its own, but not before paying for work performed so far that the districts pegs at a little under $500,000 — though the developer says it’s owed closer to $1 million for its time and products.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said he’s not pleased with the way the Malcolm X development deal has gone, especially since the city played a significant role in improving the initial proposal from MPS.

“I’m not happy at all that taxpayers are on the hook for these development costs,” Barrett said. “The city has the responsibility to put these buildings to their highest and best use.”

And state lawmakers Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) and Rep. Joe Sanfelippo (R-West Allis) — perennial advocates of selling MPS property to non-district school operators — also weighed in, saying that the Legislature should try again in the next session to pass a law that would more forcefully compel the City of Milwaukee to sell MPS property.

They reiterated their view that the Malcolm X deal was phony from the start, designed by MPS to simply block St. Marcus Lutheran School from buying the building and expanding to serve more students.

Stop running the system for the sake of the system.

A focus on adult employment.