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Report: Milwaukee schools would lose money if charter school evicted

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(The Center Square) – There’s a warning about what Milwaukee Public Schools could lose if it kicks a charter school out of their buildings.

The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty is out with a new report that explains MPS would be hurting its bottom line by evicting the Carmen Charter School.

“MPS also takes a 1% ‘administrative fee’ from the school, which would be approximately $113 dollars per-student. The MPS revenue limit for 2023-24 was $12,660. This means in practice that MPS keeps a skim of $1,215 per Carmen student,” the report states. “Adding the administrative fee to that means that MPS gains approximately $1,328 for every student they’re no longer educating that attends Carmen.”

In all, WILL said MPS could lose more than $2 million if Carmen goes away.

Carmen is a “non-instrumentality” charter school.

That means, while MPS serves as the authorizer, the school is run independently and with non-unionized teachers. If Carmen loses the use of its MPS building, Carmen could have to find a different authorizer.

“Contrary to all the rhetoric about the ‘cost’ of school choice to public schools, this would actually be a financial hit to MPS’s bottom line,” the WILL report adds.

MPS’ school board took the first step toward evicting Carmen about two weeks ago. Carmen would need to find a new home when their current lease runs out at the end of the 2025-2026 school year.

The decision to oust Carmen, and potentially cost Milwaukee Public Schools millions of dollars, also comes as MPS is looking at budget cuts,

“Despite the narrow approval of a massive $252 million referendum just last month, Milwaukee Public Schools recently announced that substantial cuts to their budget will be required. These cuts could include over 280 staffing positions including nearly 150 teachers [that were hired] using pandemic-era funds; funds that are now ending,” the report noted.

Carmen is one of Milwaukee’s best-performing schools. Wisconsin’s high school report cards rank it the fourth best school in the city.

WILL said any move to close or move Carmen would be disastrous.

“Carmen has long been a shining light for the possibilities of urban education in Milwaukee. But unfortunately, Carmen finds themselves the victim of a move away from support for charter schools from public school advocates,” the report states in its conclusion. “This analysis shows that MPS’s irresponsible proposal to end Carmen’s facility agreements would harm not only the 1,000 Milwaukee families, but it would be a loss of apparently necessary funding for the district. All those who care about urban education, school choice, or good governance should unite in urging MPS to abandon this wrong-headed path.”

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