ON-Lion Letter

The struggling Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) system has led parents to leave it to attend independent public charter schools or private schools in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, among other schools.  This enrollment decrease at MPS has resulted in an abundance of MPS buildings that are either vacant or currently operating at below capacity.  Although the vacant MPS buildings have attracted the attention of the media and public, and rightfully so, there has been little discussion or research about the MPS schools that are currently underutilized.

A January report from the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) in Milwaukee, Kids in Crisis, Cobwebs in Classrooms, studies the MPS buildings that are operating below capacity.  By comparing MPS' building-capacity information to the most-recent school-enrollment data, WILL is able in the report to determine the utilization rate for every MPS school.  It analyzes the academic performance of those schools and recommends solutions to policymakers. 

Among the report's conclusions: 

•    There currently are 27 MPS schools operating at or below 60% capacity.  Of these, there are 13 schools operating below 50% capacity.

•    On average, the underutilized schools -- those operating at less than 60% capacity -- are lower-performing than the other MPS schools and have nearly twice as many police calls and a much-higher habitual student absenteeism rate.  Eighty percent of the underutilized schools -- 22 schools in total -- received either a "D” or an "F" in DPI’s most-recent State Report Card.

•    Underutilized schools are more likely to experience enrollment decline.  Given the poor academics and declining enrollment of some of these schools, they are at risk of soon becoming empty.

•    A severe shortage of quality public schools exists in the vicinity of the underutilized schools.  Out of the 52 closest schools, only seven scored a "C" or better on the State Report Card.

Milwaukee's Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation substantially supports WILL.

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