MPS To Conduct Internal Investigation After Charter School Bribery Scandal

May 16, 2019

Milwaukee Public Schools will conduct an internal investigation into its former partnership with a troubled charter school company.

The decision comes about a month after federal prosecutors announced bribery charges against former MPS Board President Michael Bonds, who left the board last year. Bonds was accused of accepting at least $6,000 in bribes from Philadelphia-based Universal Companies.

Bonds is cooperating with the federal investigation of Universal. He pleaded guilty this month and is scheduled for sentencing in September.

Universal ran three charter schools in Milwaukee, named Universal Academy for the College Bound, between 2013 and 2017. The company received at least $11 million in state funding, according to charging documents in the Bonds case. State records show the schools enrolled more than 1,000 mostly low-income African American students.

Charter schools are publicly funded but privately run. MPS has the power to authorize charter schools, meaning the district has oversight of contracts, but not day-to-day control. Whether MPS should continue to authorize independent charter schools was a central topic in the most recent school board race, in which a solidly charter-skeptical majority was elected.

The MPS Board voted Tuesday to launch an internal investigation into its partnership with Universal. According to a press release, the parameters of the investigation will be determined after consultation from the Office of the City Attorney.