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Thompson: MPS needs to be split up or taken over

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(The Center Square) – Wisconsin’s former governor says Milwaukee Public Schools must be “saved” for the students.

Former Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson told a crowd at the Milwaukee Press Club on Wednesday that there is a clear emergency in Milwaukee schools, and he said he’s “damn serious” about solving it.

“The fact is that the Milwaukee Public School System is too big, it’s too bureaucratic, [there are] too many rolls of bureaucracy,” Thompson said. “It doesn’t get down to the educational system.”

Thompson said he pushed for school choice in Wisconsin in the 1990s because of the poor performance of Milwaukee Public Schools, and he said MPS is not much different today.

“What we’re doing is, we’re failing,” Thompson added. “We’re failing the students who go to Milwaukee Public Schools. We’ve been failing those students for 30-to-40 years. And now is the time to change. We have an emergency, so let’s do something about it.”

Thompson said he wants a “90-day blue ribbon panel” to look at either splitting MPS into four districts or seeing if Milwaukee’s mayor and Milwaukee County’s executive want to take over the city’s school system.

“The worst thing we could do is to take a year to study MPS,” Thompson said.

Thompson is the latest to call for sweeping changes at Milwaukee Public Schools after the superintendent resigned Tuesday.

That resignation came after revelations that Milwaukee Public Schools are months- ate in delivering state-required financial reports that were due as far back as September of last year.

Wisconsin’s Department of Public Instruction has threatened to withhold millions of dollars in state aid from MPS unless and until those reports are turned in and are correct.

Thompson said there is an emergency in MPS, and leaders in Wisconsin must use that emergency to make some changes.

“We know the problems, let’s come up with solutions,” Thompson said “Let’s bring in the Milwaukee business community, they have a huge stake here. Let’s bring in the parents, because they have a huge steak. It’s their sons and daughters that we’re failing and not giving them the education they need to go out and be giving them the hope for a better future.”

Thompson also said he’d like to see Milwaukee’s teachers’ union and Republican lawmakers involved in the discussions about MPS’ future.

He pointed to last year’s compromise on shared revenue as the model to get Democrats, Republicans, Milwaukee leaders, statewide leaders, and even the state’s business leaders

“Let’s use this leadership now. Let’s use this problem area, right now, and [make] the Milwaukee Public School District the best they can possibly be, and give those children, and Milwaukee Public Schools the hope, the chance that they all need and deserve,” Thompson said.

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