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What to know about the fallout at MPS

MPS Superintendent Keith Posley at a first day of school press conference in 2023.
Emily Files
/
WUWM
MPS Superintendent Keith Posley at a first day of school press conference in 2023.

Earlier this month, Milwaukee Public Schools superintendent Keith Posley resigned amid the district's struggles.

But to make sense of the moment, we wanted to provide a breakdown of what to know to understand all the turmoil.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel education reporter Rory Linnane shares her reporting on the local politics of MPS and what happens now with the state’s largest school district.

As Linnane explains, the democratically elected school board is at the top of the MPS's power structure. They have the authority to hire and fire the superintendent. However, the superintendent also has a lot of decision-making power regarding the budget and officers beneath that office.

"There were severe problems within the Finance Office of Milwaukee Public Schools," Linnane says. "One major problem was the high number of vacancies, high rate of turnover, a lack of institutional knowledge [and] a lack of training for the staff in that office."

"There were severe problems within the finance office of Milwaukee Public Schools. One major problem was high number of vacancies, high rate of turnover, a lack of institutions knowledge, a lack of training."

Rory Linnane

She continues, "On top of that, they were not using a good system for their accounting. They had a software system that seemingly should be able to do what they needed it to do. They weren't using that system for everything; they were using like a series of Excel spreadsheets to get some of their tasks done. And that's what introduced a lot of opportunities for error, especially when you combine that with an inexperienced staff."

These inconsistencies delayed the availability of the budget information, which delayed the preparation of the Department of Public Instruction's aid estimates. After some time, and in a rare move, DPI went above the superintendent and informed the school board of the situation. Soon after, Superintendent Posley resigned, followed by the chief financial officer and then the comptroller was fired by the district.

The full aftermath of the fallout might not be evident until the next few months.

"When DPI first notified the school board at the end of May about previous accounting errors, they did say this could result in the district getting less aid in the next school year because, basically, they were overpaid in the last school year because of those errors," says Linnane. "There could be around $35-$50 million that would need to be made up through either taxpayer money, budget cuts or by dipping into the district's saving accounts. However, the vice president of the school board says that the district will seek to limit the impact on taxpayers."

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Jimmy is a WUWM producer for Lake Effect.
Rob is All Things Considered Host and Digital Producer.
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