Evers moves forward with audits of Milwaukee public schools

MPS board member says $1.5B budget will get passed this week

Milwaukee Public Schools Administration Building
Charles Edward Miller (CC-BY-SA)

Gov. Tony Evers announced Monday he is proceeding with plans to direct resources to support two additional audits of Milwaukee Public Schools. 

During an interview Monday with WPR’s “Wisconsin Today,” Evers said a lot of people have opinions about what to do with the state’s largest school district — from dismantling it to expanding the voucher school program. 

“No, we need an analysis of what actually happened before we can address it,” Evers said. 

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The state is withholding about $16 million in funding from the district this month after MPS failed to submit financial reports to the state Department of Public Instruction. The district submitted the missing documents last Wednesday, but they have not yet been approved by DPI.

Millions of dollars in federal funding are also being withheld from the district’s Head Start program after the district failed to comply with the program.

Milwaukee leaders including Mayor Cavalier Johnson, County Executive David Crowley and MPS School Board members have said they support state audits of the district’s operations, processes and procedures, as well as an audit of instructional policies and methodologies, which could include classroom learning environments, professional development policies and practices to support educators, among other areas.

The Evers administration will begin soliciting requests for services in the coming days.

“MPS and the greater Milwaukee community must both be supportive of any efforts aimed at getting the district back on the right track if those efforts are going to be successful,” Evers said in a statement.  

Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu criticized Evers’ decision to hire outside auditors, saying a private audit commissioned by the governor — who once served as state superintendent — won’t address the issues at MPS.

“The non-partisan Legislative Audit Bureau has a long track record of transparent work on behalf of taxpayers,” LeMahieu said in a statement. “Governor Evers’ decision to move forward with an outside audit is disappointing, and his administration must be careful to choose an auditor with no ulterior motives or other entanglements.”

MPS School Board member Henry Leonard said Monday he supports third party audits of the district and believes Evers’ support is a “shot in the arm” for the district. 

MPS expected to pass budget this week, referendum stays

On Thursday, the Milwaukee School Board is expected to vote on the 2024-25 budget. The $1.47 billion budget was scheduled to be voted on May 30, but was delayed when board members found out administrators had failed to submit financial reports to DPI. 

Leonard said the budget will be voted on this week. 

State statute requires the district to submit a budget by June 30, or MPS could face more trouble with DPI, Leonard said. 

“I don’t think people understand the gravity of it,” Leonard said. “The trouble MPS is in right now would be compounded.” 

Meanwhile, the administrative missteps have led to calls by elected officials and the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce for MPS hold off on implementing a $252 million tax increase narrowly approved by voters in an April referendum.

Milwaukee Alder Scott Spiker has called two press conferences within the last week on the issue. As a city council member, Spiker has no say over MPS.

Leonard said he doesn’t even know if it’s legal to suspend the tax increase.

“To me, it’s a lot of political rhetoric that looks good to taxpayers,” Leonard said. “I represent a conservative district and they are letting me have it. A lot of them are saying, ‘Who cares if MPS falls apart?’ I care. These are students who live in this community. We’ve created a really, really, extreme mess in this situation.”  

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