MPS finance scandal: Evers calls for audits, mayor offers help

Gov. Tony Evers called for additional audits of Milwaukee Public Schools – and Mayor Cavalier Johnson offered support from the city – on Friday, June 7.

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, which announced it is withholding financial aid to the state's largest school district, signaled its support of both Evers' calls and Johnson's offers.

Johnson admittedly used his bully pulpit on Friday to address the problems facing MPS, including civic involvement. 

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"We need more top-notch school board directors here in Milwaukee. Some school board elections in Milwaukee have shamefully low turnout," Johnson said. "We need more from the people in this community."

Johnson said he offered his support to help select a new superintendent. He also offered the help of the city comptroller's office and expertise in financial management, and said the city has not intent to take over governing the school district.


MPS June state financial aid withheld; ousted comptroller speaks out

Milwaukee Public Schools’ June financial aid has officially been temporarily withheld by the state.

"I think the form that that assistance would take is yet to be determined," said Bill Christianson, city of Milwaukee comptroller. "There are certain things we may be able to assist in the short-term, depending on what MPS’ significant needs are."

DPI told MPS on Thursday that it is withholding the school district's special education aid payment of more than $16 million this month due to ongoing financial problems. Those problems include MPS being months late on required financial reporting to the state agency.

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Superintendent Keith Posley resigned earlier this week and will get $160,000 in severance.

Evers on Friday said he is calling for audits of both the district's operations and instruction in classrooms – in addition to a financial audit. The governor calls for using state funds to support the two additional audits. DPI said it supports the governor's plan as it "could have value beyond MPS as well."

The Milwaukee Police Department said it, too, is still investigating allegations of financial mismanagement, but it's unclear if that investigation is related to the latest troubles the school district faces.

Official statements

Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley

"As an MPS parent and alumni, I strongly believe our children deserve the best education possible. The community continues to express concerns and frustration about the state of Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS). Our residents, families, and kids deserve action now. With that in mind, I support Governor Tony Evers’ proposal to direct funding for operational and instructional audits of MPS. Accountability and transparency are the way forward, and we need answers in order to address these challenges, identify solutions, and move forward. I’m looking ahead to working with Governor Evers and local leaders to ensure every possible tool is provided for Milwaukee County students to succeed."

State Superintendent Jill Underly

"My goal as the elected State Superintendent of Public Instruction is to always do what is best for kids. That is why we at the Department of Public Instruction are working so intensively at this moment with Milwaukee Public Schools. We have and continue to provide guidance and a tremendous amount of staff resources to address the immediate issues.

"Both in addressing the current situation, and as we look ahead at longer-term solutions, I welcome all partners and support to help kids in their learning and lives, and I look forward to continuing to lead in this work.

"I especially appreciate the governor’s commitment of additional resources from the state to support this work and look forward to working together on these comprehensive reviews to execute the needed analysis and improvement. We believe these evaluations and analyses could have value beyond MPS as well.

"I also appreciate the Milwaukee mayor and comptroller offering services to support MPS. We need resources and innovation, and we appreciate the opportunity we’ve had to discuss that idea this week.

"There are a lot of good people working hard at MPS to try and solve the problem, and they have indicated they are open to more support as well. As we look to the future, we need an all-hands-on-deck perspective to support all of Milwaukee’s learners.

"I also appreciate those who have spoken up to turn the page on the political battles of the past. Making schools political battlefields does nothing to improve education, and as the governor, mayor, and county executive have all said, we must stop proposing already-rejected ideas such as district and school takeovers or breaking up the district, and instead focus on what will make schools stronger, especially in Milwaukee. At its foundation, this work is built on our mutual heartfelt commitment to doing what is best for kids.

"Finally, let me speak directly to the educators and families in MPS and in every school across Wisconsin: Thank you for your relentless dedication and commitment to our children as you finish out this school year. Wisconsin’s children are our state’s future, and teachers and parents are their stewards. We deeply appreciate your unwavering devotion every day."

Milwaukee Public Schools Board of Directors

"First, the Board wants to emphasize our commitment to the students, families, and staff of the District. These key groups count on MPS to prepare our youth for success in higher education, post-education opportunities, work, and citizenship. This is our mission and our guide as we navigate any and all situations.

"We value the spirit of urgency and offers of support we’ve received and continue to receive from our partners at all levels of government. As their support indicates, we are all in this together.

"A few points in response to comments we heard today from the governor and Milwaukee’s mayor:

"The Board welcomes the funded audit and continued partnership expressed by Wisconsin State Governor Tony Evers today. We agree that what matters most in all of this is our kids.

"Additionally, we welcome the offer of comptroller and superintendent search assistance from the City of Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson. We welcome and encourage the public’s participation in our schools, and we echo the mayor’s call for even greater civic engagement. We absolutely agree that the public should weigh in on the MPS budget. The series of public hearings we’ve held on this budget represents both our legal and ethical obligations. It is critical that the district have an approved 2024-25 budget in a timely fashion so our school community has the resources it needs for the next school year.

"The Board continues to appreciate a high level of interest in our district, students, families and staff."