Abele, Means ask MPS to work with OSPP to preserve funding, jobs, enrollment

Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele and Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program Commissioner Dr. Demond Means will today, June 16, at 11 a.m., hold a media availability to discuss their latest request that Milwaukee Public Schools work with OSPP on a proposal to preserve MPS funding, jobs, enrollment and governance.

In an open letter to MPS published Wednesday in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, County Executive Abele and Dr. Means urged MPS to come to the table and reach a partnership agreement with OSPP that would protect MPS and ensure stability and certainty for MPS students and families.

To Milwaukee Public Schools:
On April 21, we presented a proposal to you for a partnership between Milwaukee Public Schools and Opportunity Schools Partnership Program (OSPP). As we said at the time and have said all along, this proposal was a result of an effort on our part to implement OSPP – a mandate from the state – in the most productive way possible, while preserving funding for MPS, maintaining the student count and protecting teacher jobs.
Furthermore, per MPS’s request, we agreed to this partnership for only one school and that we would implement additional wraparound and other services to help the struggling school succeed. Instead of privatizing the OSPP school, we chose instead to craft a path for it to remain under public control. This is not only vital to us, but also to the community.
At that time, we said that we hoped that proposal would be the beginning of a conversation and we could work toward a shared agreement over a couple of months. The two-month timeline left us with enough time to change course in case we could not reach an agreement.
Since that presentation, you have appropriately spent time asking questions of us and doing your due diligence. While we have answered every question we have received from you, we also have asked for an opportunity to have a conversation about how this proposal can be better molded to suit your needs.
Our multiple requests for a conversation have largely gone unanswered. You have held two closed door meetings without giving us an opportunity to participate or providing us any guidance on how you would like to proceed. In the meantime, we have heard some of you in the media saying that you have many more questions and concerns about this legislation. It is difficult to see how this is anything other than a stall tactic to prevent making a decision.
You have clearly expressed your displeasure with this legislation and we have said from the beginning that this legislation is not how we would have approached a turnaround effort. We did not seek this legislation nor did we have any input into its drafting. However, as elected officials, we take an oath to uphold the law. We understand that you are in a very difficult position; however, partnering with us in no way shows that you support this law – just that you want to ensure funding for MPS.
We would like to clarify what options exist at this point. If we do not receive an answer from MPS or even an expression of willingness to work with us, we are still mandated to implement the law. This means a private provider would run the school and the millions of MPS dollars currently allocated to that school would have to be given to the private entity to operate the school. We have worked hard to find a way to avoid that scenario.
As you know, there are thousands of students who attend one of the more than 50 struggling schools identified by the state that do not know what their future holds and whether their school will be the one identified. The instability and uncertainty created by the fact that we have not been able to resolve this issue is unfair to them and only perpetuates instability and uncertainty in the lives of families who are already struggling.
While we understand that you view this law as a distraction from your own turnaround efforts, by continuing to stall and waiting out the timeline you are perpetuating this uncertainty for hundreds of students, parents and teachers. By either declining or avoiding partnering with us, you are in essence forcing a “takeover” and the loss of millions of dollars from the public system, which is exactly what we are trying to avoid with our proposal to you.
This decision to partner or not should not be made for political reasons, but because we both care about the students and families of Milwaukee. We can put an end to the uncertainty they are feeling now by showing that we can work together for their benefit.
For over six months we have reiterated our support for MPS. We have never viewed this as an “us vs. them” situation, nor do we now. We know you care passionately about the children and families we serve. We do too. We continue to believe that we are stronger if we work together and we ask again that you engage with us in a dialogue about how we can make the best out of this situation.

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