MPS slow-walks records request about OSPP with deadline looming
June 17, 2016 – Milwaukee, WI – Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) is refusing to comply with WILL’s open records request in a timely manner. MPS’ slow-walk on the request comes ahead of next week’s deadline for Superintendent Driver and MPS to decide whether to partner with Commissioner Demond Means for his Opportunity Schools and Partnership (OSPP) plan.
In the name of good government and education policy, WILL calls on MPS to immediately turn over its communications on OSPP so that the public can be better informed about the OSPP debate ahead of MPS’ decision.
Last year, the state legislature passed a law creating the Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program which allows a Commissioner – appointed by the Milwaukee County Executive – to run a certain number of failing MPS schools. The appointed Commissioner, Demond Means, has proposed a plan that partners with Milwaukee Public Schools to help run the OSPP schools. This includes retaining MPS teachers and giving the MPS Board oversight of the OSPP schools. The plan has been criticized by some for not going far enough. Means and Abele have asked MPS to approve the OSPP plan by June 23.
WILL filed an open records request on May 9, 2016 for communications relating to the Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program (OSPP). The request was a simple one. We asked for limited communications to and from four individuals regarding OSPP: MPS Superintendent Darienne Driver, MPS employee Michelle Nate, Board Member Michael Bonds, and Board Member Larry Miller. Yet, to date, no records have been produced.
State law requires MPS to respond to this request “as soon as practicable and without delay.” Wis. Stat. § 19.35(4)(a). And the Wisconsin Attorney General has said that 10 days is a reasonable time for a response for records that are easily identifiable from the request. The Governor’s office reiterated this standard in Executive Order #189, which directed state agencies to fulfill straightforward requests within 10 business days.
It has been over 25 business days and MPS has not provided any records, despite telling WILL two weeks ago that the responsive emails had already been collected. Multiple emails last week from WILL went unanswered by MPS.
MPS has long had issues with transparency. The John K. MacIver Institute recently criticized MPS for conducting its deliberations about the OSPP deal in closed session. In February 2014, WILL sued MPS for access to public records regarding MPS’ failed efforts to sell a vacant school building, Malcolm X.