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WUWM's Emily Files reports on education in southeastern Wisconsin.

Milwaukee College Prep Charter Schools Stay With MPS After All

Milwaukee College Prep building
Emily Files
There are four schools and about 2,000 students in the Milwaukee College Prep charter network.

The Milwaukee College Prep (MCP) charter school network is sticking with Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) so it doesn’t miss out on an estimated $10 million in federal COVID relief.

MCP, which operates four K-8 schools, previously planned to cut ties with MPS and switch to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) as its charter authorizer. MCP CEO Robb Rauh said the main reason for the departure was a dispute over $1.7 million in incentive funding tied to student test scores. MCP filed a lawsuit against MPS over the money.

>>Milwaukee College Preps Leaves MPS Amid Tense Relationship Between District And Charter Schools

If MCP had left the district, it would have cut MPS’s enrollment count by about 2,000 students and negatively affected MPS’s state report card, because MCP’s students tend to score higher than the MPS average on standardized tests.

Public charter schools like MCP are independently-run but publicly-funded. They must receive authorization from a public entity, like MPS, the city of Milwaukee or UWM.

Rauh said MCP was in the process of switching to UWM as authorizer when he found out mid-June that MCP would lose out on $10 million of federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) if it made the move.

“We found out that there was gonna be complications with getting any of the stimulus money,” Rauh told WUWM. “Those resources were very valuable to our students and we wanted to ensure they would get them.”

MCP and MPS quickly negotiated a new five-year contract, which was approved by the MPS Board Thursday night.

Recently-elected MPS Board member Aisha Carr, who represents the district where MCP’s schools are located, spoke in support of the network. “As a former MCP parent, I am proud to be part of the MCP community,” Carr said. “MCP students are our students. They are public school students in Milwaukee.”

Rauh told WUWM that MPS made the new contract contingent on MCP dropping its lawsuit over the performance-based funding. So, he said, MCP will not receive the $1.7 million he feels was owed to his schools.

“[It] is disappointing, but the pros outweigh the cons in making sure our scholars had access to the stimulus dollars,” Rauh said.

The MPS Board has been conflicted over the district’s relationship with independent charter schools in recent years. Some board members, along with the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association, accuse the schools of siphoning students from traditional public schools.

In a sign of the lingering tension between MPS and independent charter schools, a proposed lease to colocate Milwaukee Excellence charter school’s high school at MPS’s Andrew Douglas Middle School was pulled from Thursday’s school board agenda.

Milwaukee Excellence CEO Maurice Thomas said he was caught off guard by the move. Now, he said, his high school students do not have a place to go when school begins Aug. 16.

When asked why the Milwaukee Excellence contract was dropped from the school board agenda, MPS media manager Earl Arms sent WUWM this statement: “Milwaukee Excellence Charter School has been a non-instrumentality partner with Milwaukee Public Schools since the fall of 2016 and we recognize and value this strong partnership. MPS is committed to working with them to secure a facility to accommodate MECS students and staff for the 2021-22 academic year. In the process, concerns and questions were raised that are causing us to consider other options. While this process is taking longer than anyone would like, we are continuing to work with the MECS team on ensuring students and staff have a location for this school year.”

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Emily is an editor and project leader for WUWM.
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