MPS, Milwaukee Charter School Partnership Sets Positive Cross-Sector Example

Oct 17, 2016

One of the city’s most successful charter school networks, Milwaukee College Prep, has just moved closer to MPS. The two systems have worked together for years, but didn’t fully join forces until this past spring, when the MPS School Board formally agreed to charter all four MCP campuses.

The news doesn’t change much on its surface – but it does bring new benefits to both organizations.

Milwaukee College Prep has four campuses. But on this chilly fall morning, buses have brought all 2000 students to the playground at MCP’s Lloyd Street location for a pep rally to get students motivated to do well in school.

MPS Superintendent Darienne Driver speaks at a rally at Milwaukee College Prep's Lloyd Street campus.
Credit Rachel Morello

Big names from the Milwaukee Bucks are in on the fun – even the Brewers’ racing sausages. As well as a guest you might not expect: MPS Superintendent Darienne Driver.

Driver heads Milwaukee’s public schools -- but these charter school students are her charges now, too. As of March, Milwaukee College Prep is part of MPS.

Here’s how it all works...

“There are three different chartering authorities in Milwaukee: City Hall, UWM and MPS. And different schools have migrated to each of them,” explains former Journal Sentinel reporter and Milwaukee education guru Alan Borsuk. “Milwaukee College Prep, for historic reasons, ended up with two schools under UWM’s chartering, and two schools under MPS. They decided in the last couple years to try to get under one or the other, [and] eventually went with MPS.”

“This is a mutually beneficial deal, I think that’s fair to say,” Borsuk adds. “And it is a business transaction, that’s certainly true.”

As with most business transactions, this one involves resources.

“Originally, we went to MPS because, one, we wanted to create a positive partnership -- but then two, was because of facilities,” recounts Milwaukee College Prep CEO Robert Rauh. “There are some resources that are available as an MPS charter -- things like library funds, and some of the title money is a little bit different under MPS.”

As for the district, its key benefit is higher enrollment numbers which translate into extra state funding.

“The more students there are in the MPS family – [including] these Milwaukee College Prep kids, now 2000 of them - count in that formula for MPS’ amount of state aid,” Alan Borsuk explains. “So by taking on the two schools that were with UWM, MPS in effect got a 1000 student enrollment increase. And that’s a driving element of the state aid formula.“

"You have your public schools and your public charter schools working together as one"

The district could see up to $10 million more in annual state funding. Although, due to quirks in Wisconsin’s school funding formula, MPS won’t see many of these added dollars for a few more years.

Another benefit: its possible Milwaukee College Prep could help lift the district in terms of performance. MCP students generally do well on state tests, the scores for which will now factor into how the district fares on its’ state report card.

MPS Superintendent Darienne Driver acknowledges the boost to her district’s outlook. But, she adds, the new relationship with Milwaukee College Prep is also important symbolically.

“It sends a really positive message to our city, that you have your public schools and your public charter schools working together as one, to help create a better community,” Driver says.