Add 30 Days to the MPS School Year

Dan Shafer:

The crisis in Milwaukee K-12 education is huge. This cannot be overstated. Yet, the trend seems to be toward getting smaller and smaller.

For example, Milwaukee Public Schools just released its annual budget proposal noting it expects to lose 1,000 students between now and the start of the 2022-2023 school year, reducing enrollment to about 67,500 students. MPS has been shrinking for the better part of three decades for many reasons—some political, some demographic. Either way, the trend is shrinkage.

Some want to accelerate that. A bill passed by the Republican-controlled state legislature this year, sponsored by State Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills), would have split MPS into between four and eight smaller districts. This bill was vetoed by Gov. Tony Evers.

There is another law actually on the books that, if triggered by MPS’s status on state report cards, would force the district to hand over control of a handful of schools—called the “Opportunity Schools District”—to the Milwaukee County Executive. And for decades now, the legislature has been expanding the city’s non-MPS schooling options, from the Milwaukee Parental Choice (voucher) program to schools chartered by UW-Milwaukee and the City of Milwaukee.

These other “districts” are all pretty small compared to MPS—the LUMIN Lutheran schools in the voucher program enroll about 1,800 students; the Messmer schools, 725; the Seton Catholic schools, 2,500. Plus lots of other individual schools and even small “districts” are affiliated with MPS. On the whole, some small “districts” outperform MPS somewhat; others, not so much.

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