Proposed bill aims to refill vacant, underused MPS buildings

Two state legislators eager to see underutilized and vacant Milwaukee Public School properties put back to good use have introduced a bill that would eliminate some of the barriers preventing alternative education systems from purchasing these sites.


State Senator Alberta Darling and State Representative Joe Sanfelippo are behind the bill and are currently trying to secure co-sponsors for it in hopes of having it ready for a vote during the fall legislative session.

According to the bill, buildings deemed as surplus, underutilized or vacant on any resolution adopted by MPS school board members within the past five years would be eligible for sale.

To prove a property is still in operation, MPS will have to staff it and use it for education purposes.

“MPS is allowing buildings to sit vacant and deteriorate, which is costing taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars,” Sanfelippo said. “They are depriving kids of the possibility of going to school in their own neighborhood simply because they may not like who could be running the schools.”

According to Darling, these vacant properties have a direct negative impact on their surroundings.

“Great schools make for great neighborhoods,” Darling said. “They increase home values because people want to move to those areas and raise their families. Vacant buildings don’t help at all. That’s not fair to (taxpayers), and it’s not fair to the children and parents.”

MPS counters that it has made a targeted effort to incorporate several unused buildings into the expansion plans of its own schools needing more space and has leased and sold other properties to outside education operators.

“Milwaukee Public Schools has strategically utilized unused buildings primarily to expand current, in-demand schools under the MPS umbrella,” said MPS spokesperson Tony Tagliavia. “Golda Meir School, Garland School, I.D.E.A.L. Charter School and Carmen High School of Science and Technology are among the successful schools that were able to expand because the district has been strategic in its use of space. That includes the leasing of 11 sites to independent charter schools and sale of four buildings, including three to high-performing charter operators.”

“MPS is committed to making decisions about buildings that benefit all Milwaukee taxpayers, families and students, not just one school or advocacy group,” Tagliavia said. “The citizens of Milwaukee deserve to have a thoughtful, comprehensive plan implemented for the buildings their tax dollars have paid for. That is exactly what we the district has done.”

Darling and Sanfelippo’s introduction of legislation comes as MPS and St. Marcus Lutheran School continue to debate the best use for the former MPS school Malcolm X Academy, located at 2760 N. First St. in Milwaukee.

While St. Marcus would like to purchase the property to reach at least 600 more students in grades K4-8 and another 300 children in early childhood development, MPS is remaining committed to its plans to transform the property into a community resource center.

At a special session called by the MPS board on Thursday night, the board agreed to enter into negotiations with 2760 Holdings, LLC for the purchase of the Malcolm X Academy building. According to the board’s agreement, 2760 Holdings has 90 days to negotiate terms of a sale.

MPS officials would not immediately release additional details about 2760 Holdings, LLC or stipulations of their negotiations.

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