Chris Abele gears up for role as overseer of troubled Milwaukee schools (and, run for Governor?)

Erin Richards

The state budget signed by Gov. Scott Walker last month gave Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele broad authority to oversee a special district in Milwaukee for the city’s most troubled public schools.

So, what happens now?

Abele must soon appoint a commissioner to oversee the Milwaukee schools selected for new management. But there’s no money to pay the commissioner, no engagement yet of the philanthropic community — or parents — in the project, and little talk of who will staff the schools selected for treatment, if not the employees in them already.

Abele, a lifelong Democrat, said he’s committed to giving the Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program developed by Republican lawmakers and passed as part of the state budget a good-faith effort.

“What got passed is nowhere near the optimum, but it’s not the finish line, it’s the starting line,” Abele said in his first interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about his new role in the city’s education scene.

The program is designed to take some of the district’s lowest-performing schools from the control of the Milwaukee School Board and put them under the control of Abele and the commissioner he selects, or directly under MPS Superintendent Darienne Driver, if she chooses to use that authority.