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August 17, 2008

Milwaukee Public Schools spent $102 million on a building spree meant to reduce busing by convincing parents to enroll students in bigger, better neighborhood schools. Today, many of those new classrooms go unused.

Dave Umhoefer & Alan Borsuk:

A massive building expansion by Milwaukee Public Schools has saddled the district with tens of millions of dollars worth of vacant or severely underused school additions, a Journal Sentinel investigation found.

he $102 million Neighborhood Schools Initiative was supposed to get students off buses and into revamped schools near their homes. Instead, darkened classrooms and half-empty buildings serve as monuments to the program's failures.

The district spent $30 million on major additions to schools where enrollment has actually declined. An additional $19.5 million went toward construction at schools where enrollment gains have fallen far short of expectations. Construction began in 2001, and almost all additions were completed by 2005.

In the most expensive misfire, MPS spent $7 million upfront to lease new classroom space from an affiliate of Holy Redeemer, a prominent Milwaukee church.

That MPS addition is one of the nicest facilities in a district that still uses century-old buildings. And it's vacant.

A rare piece of school finance related investigative journalism.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at August 17, 2008 9:31 AM
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