The problems with the City of Milwaukee’s many unused and underutilized school buildings have been well-documented over the years. It cost taxpayers over a million dollars every year in maintenance and denies children access to a nearby school. In 2011, the City was given greater power to sell unused buildings, but, yet, these buildings still sit idle and vacant. On behalf of the taxpayers, WILL has filed open records requests with the Milwaukee Public Schools and the City to find out what, if anything, they are doing to solve this problem.
The requests aim to uncover the process that the City and MPS use to determine whether a school building is unused or underutilized. Then, once the buildings become labeled as unused, what are the steps taken by the City to sell the property and to whom does it get sold to.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on this issue in 2010 and how MPS was preventing private and charter schools from purchasing vacant school buildings. This spurred the state legislature to pass Act 17, which made it easier for the City to sell or lease unused and underutilized school buildings. But, for reasons that are unclear, the City has not utilized this power, despite having it for nearly two years.
The hardworking taxpayers of Milwaukee – and their children – deserve to know why there are so many vacant school buildings and what their government plans to do about it.