Milwaukee Mayor not interested in MPS takeover

Mayor Cavalier Johnson says all Milwaukee schools should be focused on better outcomes

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

Despite turmoil in the district and calls from the community for action, Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson said Tuesday he is not interested in a city takeover of Milwaukee Public Schools. 

Instead, Johnson said he is hoping there will be a renewed focus on improving education at all schools — including Milwaukee Public Schools and the charter and private schools across the city.

“I think that there are extremes here, the extremes being the status quo that we’ve seen as relates to public schools and the extreme of mayoral takeover,” Johnson said. “There are other communities around the country that have mayoral control of schools that don’t necessarily perform exceptionally well. So this is what I want to see: I want to make sure that kids in Milwaukee Public Schools are best positioned for success.”

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Johnson spoke to the media hours after MPS Superintendent Keith Posley resigned. That resignation was accepted by the district’s board at about 2 a.m. Tuesday following a fiery public hearing Monday evening attended by hundreds of community members, most calling for Posley to be fired.

The public anger at district administration was ignited by news that the district is in jeopardy of losing millions of dollars in state funding after failing to submit financial reports for months to the Department of Public Instruction. 

Millions of dollars in federal funding is also being withheld from the district’s Head Start program after officials discovered abuse and lack of supervision in MPS programs.

Milwaukee Public Schools Superintendent Keith Posley at the June 3, 2024, special school board meeting. Evan Casey/WPR

But parents and community members who spoke at the meeting spoke repeatedly of larger issues within the district and called for systematic change.

Posley’s resignation is effective June 30. 

According to a statement issued by the board early Tuesday, MPS Regional Superintendent for the Southwest Region Eduardo Galvan will “support and facilitate day-to-day operations” of the district while the school board seeks an interim replacement.

When Johnson was sworn in for his second term as Milwaukee’s mayor in April, he pledged to be more involved in education. He has also repeatedly said he wants to increase the city’s population from about 575,000 to 1 million. 

He said Tuesday anywhere people move, they consider the school district. That is why it is important for him to be involved. 

MPS is the largest school district in the state, with roughly 68,000 students.

But Johnson didn’t let the other schools in the city off the hook. The district is losing students to private and charter schools in the city that have nearly as many students. Johnson said many of those schools are successful, but some are equally as challenged as MPS. 

As far as Posley’s legacy, Johnson said he has worked closely with the soon-to-be-former superintendent and they have had success. 

Johnson touted programs that have shown students they can directly enter the workforce after high school and can prosper. 

State Superintendent Jill Underly said DPI is continuing to work with MPS to solve the immediate challenge ahead. 

“In Wisconsin’s system of local control, elected school boards make decisions about district superintendent staffing,” Underly said in a statement. “ No matter how the board chooses to move forward, under my leadership, the DPI will continue working with the MPS team to resolve the current challenge. As we go forward, our primary focus is on improving outcomes for all of Milwaukee’s children.”

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