Vacant Schools

The City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) have spent years trying to keep vacant and underutilized school buildings from being sold to Milwaukee’s charter schools or private schools. 

WILL has been involved in documenting the vacant and underutilized schools in Milwaukee, the experience schools have had with the City, and the costs that have accrued as a result of the City’s refusal to sell.

Research and Analysis

Feds in the Classroom

Empty Handed: How Milwaukee Thwarted a State Law Meant to Help Schools

October 13, 2020 | Libby Sobic

This policy brief reveals how a state law passed in 2015 intended to make vacant Milwaukee schools available to charter and private schools has been thwarted by local actors. Just one vacant Milwaukee school was sold to a Milwaukee charter school in the last five years despite the intent of a state law intended to facilitate sales.

Press Release | Report

What Goes Around, Comes Around: How MPS and Milwaukee’s Failure to Sell Vacant School Buildings Has Contributed to the District’s Budget Deficit

January 23, 2018 | Will Flanders and Natalie Goodnow

The study provides an updated and comprehensive look at the vacant and underutilized schools issue by using new and previously unreported documents obtained by WILL, including a facilities report conducted by an outside consultant, for which MPS paid nearly one million dollars.

Press Release | Report

The Never-Ending Story of Milwaukee’s Vacant School Buildings

March 10, 2017 | CJ Szafir and Libby Sobic

A new WILL report explains how the City of Milwaukee is failing to follow state law, preserving the never-ending vacant school building crisis. In total, Milwaukee has at least 15 empty school buildings and taxpayers have spent over $10.2 million on maintenance for empty buildings in the last decade.

Press Release | Report

Why the State of Wisconsin Forced Coca-Cola to Sell to Pepsi

August 12, 2015 | Rick Esenberg, CJ Szafir, and Elena Ramlow

In 2015, the state legislature passed a law to force Milwaukee to sell their unused and underutilized school buildings. In WILL’s latest report, “Why the State of Wisconsin Forced Coca-Cola to sell to Pepsi”, we explain how this new law works – and why the state was forced to intervene.

Press Release | Report

MPS and the City of Milwaukee Ignore State Law and Policy

September 5, 2013 | CJ Szafir

Based on a MPS open records request, WILL concludes that the City of Milwaukee’s policy of giving Milwaukee Public Schools the authority to designate and sell or lease its unused school buildings is a failure and violates the spirit of state law, 2011 Act 17.

Press Release | Report

Media and Commentary

Center Square | Milwaukee Public Schools played shell game to keep empty buildings

October 14, 2020 | Ben Yount

Wall Street Journal | This Building Is for Sale (but Not to a Charter School)

November 9, 2018 | CJ Szafir and Cori Petersen

Wall Street Journal | Milwaukee’s Public School Barricade

August 13, 2018 | Editorial Board

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel | Military-style voucher school denied vacant building

October 6, 2016 | Annysa Johnson and Erin Richards

Wall Street Journal | The Vacant School Buildings That Made Milwaukee Infamous

January 24, 2014 | CJ Szafir