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HomeBreaking NewsWisconsin DPI Snipes at MPS, 'We Need a Real Plan,' as Fiscal...

Wisconsin DPI Snipes at MPS, ‘We Need a Real Plan,’ as Fiscal Implosion Continues


State Sen. John Jagler declared that MPS’s first plan version was “laughable.”

The state Department of Public Instruction has revealed that DPI told MPS “we need a real plan,” after a Republican state Senator obtained the “plan” MPS submitted to DPI to fix its financial meltdown, declaring it laughable and lacking urgency.

“My office has obtained the ‘plan’ MPS submitted to DPI to try to fix their financial reporting crisis,” Republican state Sen. John Jagler wrote on X. “It’s pretty obvious why this wasn’t sufficient to stop DPI from withholding funds. There’s no urgency on finding immediate solutions.”

Jagler declared, “The initial ‘plan’ was even more laughable.” That plan dated June 3 is a lot shorter. It includes items like “who is ‘out’ short term. Who will be ‘in’ long-term” and “look for personnel bottlenecks in the reporting process.”

Jagler’s post received a swift response from DPI.

“Senator Jagler is right, and we communicated that directly to MPS in a meeting this morning,” DPI’s Tom McCarthy wrote on the agency’s official X page on June 6.

“We made it clear we need a real plan, we are committed to help them get there, and we believe they understand what we need to be able to move forward.”

DPI made the fiscal issues public in late May, revealing that MPS has not turned in required financial documents for months. Although the problem started at least in September, DPI did not let the public know about the fiscal problems before a $252 million referendum was passed this April. DPI is run by leftist Superintendent of Schools Jill Underly. Her executive director, the former Democratic campaign operative Sachin Chheda, donated to efforts to push the referendum through.

In other MPS developments:

  • DPI is withholding more than $16 million in special education funds. MPS responded that it was in “close communication to resolve this issue and the district was aware that this payment would likely be delayed.”
  • The district’s comptroller was dismissed. He told WISN he was “put into a very dysfunctional situation where you don’t have enough people to do the jobs.”
  • Questions remain about why DPI (and MPS) withheld information from the public about the fiscal issues before voters approved a $252 million referendum this spring.
  • The Milwaukee Public Schools board held a press conference but only allowed two questions from the news media.
  • Former Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson said MPS should either be split up or taken over by the city.
  • Democratic Gov. Tony Evers refused to take a stand on whether the superintendent should be fired. Superintendent  Keith Posley ended up resigning.
  • “I am currently researching legislation to impose new guidelines on the Department of Public Instruction with regard to district fiscal data and reporting requirements to school boards,” state Rep. LaKeisha Myers (D-Milwaukee) said.
  • Milwaukee Alderman Lamont Westmoreland said he is “disgusted and embarrassed” by the district’s “ongoing failures.” He believes “local- or state-level government oversight over the district is ‘clearly needed,'” the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
  • Milwaukee Alderman Scott Spiker encouraged the Milwaukee mayor to spearhead efforts to reform MPS.

On June 6, DPI wrote Posley that it “is withholding the district’s June 2024 Special Education Payment in the amount of $16,623.612.”

“The DPI will continue to work with MPS to develop a plan for submitting the district’s financial data so these payments may be released soon,” the letter says. It was signed by John W. Johnson, deputy state superintendent.

DPI’s revised draft “financial corrective action plan” includes such grammatically challenged lines as “individual staff autonomy/authority to immediately address reporting or audit complete problems, other than carte blanche access to journal entries or general ledgers changes which will be focused through a single source.”

It adds, “determine and implement internal staff capable of assisting in DPI reporting and correcting errors in a timely process” and “create a culture of cross-departmental communications” and “promote an ongoing relationship with DPI finance team.”

Meanwhile, DPI found time to update terminology used to “describe performance levels on required statewide standardized assessments. The terms developing, approaching, meeting, and advanced will replace the previous terms that have been used since 2014-15 – below basic, basic proficient and advanced.”

Jagler shared that on X, too, writing, “At first I thought it was a joke. My goodness what are we doing??”

He added, “This is really about deception… especially the new title for the failing category which is ‘developing’ — verb showing progress. It will be given even when skills aren’t really developing.”

The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL) issued a press release condemning those changes, writing, “The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) strongly condemns the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) for changing the terminology regarding student performance as well as once again considering changing the cut points for proficiency on the state’s Forward Exam..”

Jessica McBride
Jessica's opinions on this website and all WRN and personal social media pages, including Facebook and X, represent her own opinions and not those of the institution where she works. Jessica McBride, a Wisconsin Right Now contributor, is a national award-winning journalist and journalism educator with more than 25 years in journalism. Jessica McBride’s journalism career started at the Waukesha Freeman newspaper in 1993, covering City Hall. She was an investigative, crime, and general assignment reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for a decade. Since 2004, she has taught journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Her work has appeared in many news outlets, including (where she is a contributor reaching millions of readers per month),, WTMJ, WISN, WUWM,,, Milwaukee Magazine, Nightline, El Conquistador Latino Newspaper, Japanese and German television, Channel 58, Reader’s Digest, Twist (magazine), Wisconsin Public Radio, BBC, Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, and others. 

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