Restrictions on Who Can Buy Old MPS Buildings Considered

MacIver News Service | January 15, 2014

[Madison, Wisc…] Milwaukee Public Schools might not have many options when it comes to selling vacant buildings in the near future, as the state legislature is once again working on bills to restrict who can buy old school buildings in the city.

Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) and Rep. Joe Sanfelippo (R-West Allis) introduced SB 318 and AB 417 back in October. The Assembly Committee on State Affairs and Government Operations took up AB 417 at an informational hearing on Wednesday.

Under the proposed legislation, MPS would have to give preference to educational organizations when selling old school buildings. Other groups would only be able to make offers after a building had been on the market for two years. Sanfelippo told MacIver News such a law will benefit choice schools in the Milwaukee area.

“AB 417 is not just about selling buildings, it is about educating children,” he said in his testimony on Wednesday. “Time and again, operators of successful choice schools have been denied the opportunity to purchase some of MPS’s vacant buildings. As a result, kids are being denied the opportunity to receive a quality education because these schools cannot expand.”

The bills were introduced during a controversy involving the old Malcolm X Academy in Milwaukee. The district wanted to sell the building to 2760 Holdings, LLC for $2.1 million, but would pay for the building’s renovation costs. The company wants to convert half of it into housing and retail space. Meanwhile, St. Marcus Lutheran School had been trying to buy the building for years.

MacIver News made an open records request asking for communications with the holding company, but MPS denied that request.

Sanfelippo said the Assembly will likely vote on the bill next month.