Perhaps you’ve heard about SB 318, a new bill in the Wisconsin legislature that aims to force the sale of “underutilized” buildings owned by Milwaukee Public Schools and the City of Milwaukee. You can read the bill here: SB 318 text
The bill is sponsored by a number of a Republican senators and cosponsored by an even greater number of Republican representatives. These are all legislators who claim to believe in limited government and local control. So, a few questions for them:
1. How do you square a belief in local control with sponsorship of a bill that strips control away from locally elected leaders? SB 318 establishes a mechanism for forcing the sale of MPS buildings according to criteria set by the state. This is a clear intrusion by Madison into the affairs of a local city and school board. Beyond being bad policy, it’s a terrible precedent to set and a betrayal of what are supposed to be core Republican values.
2. If this is such a great idea, why limit it to Milwaukee? If there’s some deep and abiding taxpayer interest in selling a certain class of public buildings to private parties, why not require every municipality and school board in Wisconsin do to the same?
It’s clear that this bill is a giveaway to private and charter school operators who have their sights set on certain unused MPS buildings. The goal is to force the sale of a few particular properties. As written, however, it would also force the sale of several other MPS buildings that meet the very broad “eligibility” criteria the bill establishes (including being “underutilized” for as little as a year), buildings that MPS is using for the expansion of some of its flagship schools, including Golda Meir. The bill is thus not only bad government—you don’t pass a law to force a particular market transaction—but it’s so badly written that it has much broader destructive consequences for the district, even if unintended.
If you live in Wisconsin, please call your state legislators and tell them to oppose SB 318.