This week, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed SB 20 into law, an important piece of legislation that will increase public charter school access to surplus district school buildings in Milwaukee. What is most significant about SB 20 is that it transfers the ownership and decision-making about these surplus buildings from the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) to the City of Milwaukee. Not surprisingly, MPS has been extremely resistant to providing charters approved by entities other than MPS with access to MPS buildings. The City of Milwaukee, on the other hand, is one of three charter authorizers in Milwaukee, and has expressed its desire to put these abandoned buildings to their original purpose – educating the city’s schoolchildren, no matter which type of school is serving them.
This legislation is notable because only a handful of states and school districts have policies and practices that promote the use of available district facilities by public charter schools. Through legislation such as SB 20, charter school students will have a much better shot at the quality facilities they deserve and taxpayer monies will be used more effectively. You can learn more about the facilities challenges charter schools face, as well as innovative ways that seven school districts are sharing public education facilities with charter schools, here.