Stirring on Milwaukee’s south side, a building boom of growing and popular choice schools

Alan Borsuk:

Notre Dame School of Milwaukee opened on Milwaukee’s south side in 1996 with a student body of 26 middle school girls.   

It grew steadily — 90 students in 2001, 130 in 2006, 201 in 2012. It added co-ed elementary grades and a middle school for boys, as well as a second building.   

It now has 535 students, a five-star (“significantly exceeds expectations”) state report card, and a lot of construction equipment in what was previously a paved area adjacent to its building at West Greenfield Avenue and South Layton Boulevard as it builds a $7 million addition.  

Three blocks from that Notre Dame building is Nativity Jesuit School. It opened with 14 middle school boys in 1993 and grew within several years to about 60. In recent years, its enrollment has quadrupled to 252, including boys and girls in elementary grades. It also has a five-star report card and it recently completed $3 million in improvements. 

And in four buildings on the south side, there are Carmen charter schools with about 1,400 students in kindergarten through 12th grade (plus another 663 at a northwest side Carmen school). The first Carmen school, which opened in 2007, got a five-star report card this year for the second year in a row. 

Milwaukee parents and students have extensive school options.

Madison’s taxpayer funded K-12 school district has long resisted school choice, rejecting the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School (2011) and lobbying against a proposed University of Wisconsin system charter school (2019).

Despite spending far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts, Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.