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HomeBreaking NewsEXCLUSIVE: State Rep. Bob Donovan Wants Audit of Milwaukee Public Schools as...

EXCLUSIVE: State Rep. Bob Donovan Wants Audit of Milwaukee Public Schools as Massive Referendum Looms

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Wisconsin State Rep. Bob Donovan will request an audit of the Milwaukee Public School District on Monday “to find potential waste, fraud, or abuse.”

In a letter that will be sent to the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, Donovan asks the committee for an audit of the previous four fiscal years of the Milwaukee Public School District.

According to Donovan, National data has shown that the Milwaukee Public School District (MPS) test scores are well below average and continuing to decline when compared to other large city school districts across the country.

“On April 2, voters in Milwaukee will be asked to increase revenue limits to generate $252 million in funding over the next four years. This comes after voters already approved a 2020 referendum of $87 million and MPS received $772 million in federal emergency funds for the COVID-19 response,” Donovan said.

Donovan continued, “Citizens deserve a clear vision and purpose from MPS for again coming to voters, with hat in hand, to raise their property taxes. Unfortunately, there has been none. Why is MPS coming to voters after receiving millions from the federal government and a previous referendum just four years ago? Is the district attempting to make any cost-saving provisions before asking for more? Will our children’s education benefit directly as a result to the large increase in property taxes? People deserve to have answers and they clearly have not been provided.”

The audit request cited the following:

  • State testing results on the Forward Exam show MPS students significantly underperforming compared to statewide results.
  • Only 15.8% of MPS students are proficient in English and Language Arts and 11.5% in Math in the most recent available data.
  • MPS recorded 58% of students as chronically absent, and 15 schools recorded chronic absenteeism rates greater than 90%.
  • As MPS enrollment continues to decline, efforts to properly adjust the district’s physical footprint have been an afterthought. This has resulted in schools being both underutilized and over capacity. In total, 43 school buildings are using less than two-thirds of school space, while 21 schools were determined to utilize under half of their space. Additionally, 17 schools are overcrowded as they are one-third over their stated capacity.
  • Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, federal funds have flowed into Wisconsin’s public education in the form of three installments (ESSER I, II, and III). In total, MPS received $772 million in emergency funds for the COVID-19 response and to mitigate learning loss. As of December 22, 2023, MPS still has $63,373,749.72 in unencumbered funds.

Donovan requested the following audit parameters:

  • Investigate and independently categorize the allocation and use of ESSER I, II, III funds for the district.
  • Investigate how much of the ESSER I, II, III funds were used for increasing student academic success and preventing learning loss in relation to the total funds allocated.
  • Determine how the district is attempting to manage systemic chronic absenteeism affecting the district in relation to learning loss.
  • Determine how the district is attempting to track data on absent students beyond the 10% threshold.
  • Determine how the district is monitoring learning loss and academic achievement in relation to chronic absenteeism.
  • Determine how the district is monitoring average daily attendance in schools and the relation to chronic absenteeism.
  • Determine the utilization of district space for both administrative and school property.
  • Investigate how much of the ESSER I, II, III funds were used on construction projects for schools that were underutilized.
  • Determine how the district managed revenue from the previous 2020 revenue limit adjustment referendum.
  • Investigate the overall fiscal standing of the district as it relates to current operational costs and debt.
Jim Piwowarczykhttps://www.wisconsinrightnow.com/
Jim Piwowarczyk is an investigative journalist and co-founder of Wisconsin Right Now.
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