Instead of breaking up MPS, let’s merge!

A Map of the North Shore Districts adjacent to Milwaukee

Dear Senator Alberta Darling,

It’s good to hear from you. I was getting worried; it’s been a couple of election cycles since you’ve popped up with any anti-Milwaukee nonsense (I don’t think I have written you since 2016!), but here you are, just in time to distract the GOP base from the #Gablemess™ and the fraudulent elector scheme.

Anyway, I see you’ve once again proposed splitting the Milwaukee Public Schools into some number of smaller districts. This is a terrible idea–it was the last time it came up, and it will be again the next time it comes up. That’s why the idea has never flown and why you haven’t gotten any cosponsors for the legislation from Milwaukee County, let alone the city itself.

But I write not to criticize, but to offer an alternative solution! I am hopeful you will take this seriously, as the benefits of my proposal are many and mutually uplifting to all. My idea:

Merge the Milwaukee Public Schools with the neighboring North Shore districts of Glendale-River Hills, Maple Dale-Indian Hill, Fox Point and Nicolet.

(I know Milwaukee, the city and school district, does not share a border with either the Maple Dale-Indian Hill district or Fox Point, but if we’re merging with Glendale and Nicolet, then we might as well bring them along.)

Consider these benefits:

North Shore access to International Baccalaureate and Montessori: The children of the North Shore currently lack access to an International Baccalaureate program, one of the most rigorous and respected curricula in the world. Milwaukee has three IB high schools and an IB middle school, and while those schools do have selective entrance criteria and a waiting list, I am sure at least some of the North Shore students who apply would be able to get in.

In addition, Milwaukee has more public Montessori schools per capita than any other city in the US. In fact, Milwaukee’s Montessori programs consistently score near the top of the statewide rankings. Wouldn’t it be great if North Shore parents had access to these high-quality instructional opportunities?

Increased resources for Milwaukee’s neediest schools and students: If MPS and the North Shore combined forces, think of what additional resources would be available for students in Milwaukee. Currently, the North Shore districts have not just the highest revenue limits in Milwaukee County, but some of the highest in the state. Nicolet’s revenue limit (ranked 6 of 421 in Wisconsin) is $19,164 per student. That is nearly double the current revenue limit of the Milwaukee Public Schools, which is a below-median $10,623 per student (260/421). Fox Point’s $17,919 (11/421), Maple Dale-Indian Hills’ limit of $17,439 (13/421), and Glendale-River Hills’ limit of $13,707 (32/420) are still way above what MPS has been stuck at for decades.

Now, upon the merger, I don’t know where the revenue limit of this new district will be situated. I mean, we can only hope for the upper limit here. An additional $8,500 annually per student would mean more than $600 million–enough to double the teaching workforce and halve class sizes all over the city. That’s what a revenue limit like Nicolet’s would mean for MPS. At the lower revenue limit of Glendale-River Hills, MPS would still see nearly a quarter of a billion dollars a year!

(I know, revenue limit is not the whole story on school spending, and with categorical aids, per-student spending in Milwaukee is more like $15,844, according to the latest DPI data available. That’s right! The revenue limit for schools in your neighborhood, Senator Darling , is higher than MPS spends overall! Also, MD-IH spends $24,787 per student, Nicolet $22,771, Fox Point $18,682, and G-RH $17,529, all well above MPS.)

Management, administrative, and teaching know-how brought to bear in Milwaukee schools: Considering how much better the results are in the North Shore districts than in MPS, the teachers, administrators, and bean-counters up there must be doing something right. I mean, look, we all know a “test score” isn’t the best measure of student success, but that’s the number that really matters, right? So let’s take advantage of what the North Shore has!

Now, some will be tempted to say that the better educational outcomes in the North Shore districts are due either to all that extra per-student spending, as detailed above, or maybe to the higher incomes and greater wealth accumulated there in the 53217. ($62,000 per-capita income compared to Milwaukee’s $23,400.) But if money was what made all the difference, surely someone would have proposed giving the Milwaukee Public Schools more money per student, maybe enough to match neighboring districts’ spending. Or someone might have offered a plan to guarantee a basic minimum income for Milwaukee residents to help them not get evicted, pay for out-of-school opportunities for their children, or improve their medical care.

But since no one has offered those solutions for the challenges MPS faces, then clearly it all comes down to what the adults in the North Shore schools know and do. I, for one, can’t wait to chat up the English teachers at Nicolet so they can tell me what I’ve been doing wrong in my Milwaukee English classes all along. They must have some tricks I don’t know about!

So, Senator Darling, I hope you will consider this alternative. While I know that not all of your neighbors in the North Shore will be excited to suddenly be on the hook for what happens in the most challenging are schools, I know that you–someone who really and truly cares about the educational welfare of Milwaukee’s children–will be able to see the wisdom in this merger.

If you have any questions, you can find me in my classroom every day. I think you’d be enlightened by the visit!


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1 thought on “Instead of breaking up MPS, let’s merge!

  1. An idea which just may work, never will our republican legislature support such an idea that actually might fix a problem.

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