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DPI withholds $16.6M in Milwaukee Public Schools aid over missing financial reports


DPI withholds $16.6M in Milwaukee Public Schools aid over missing financial reports

Jun 07, 2024 | 5:00 am ET
By Baylor Spears
DPI withholds $16.6M in Milwaukee Public Schools aid over missing financial reports
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The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) notified Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) Thursday that it is withholding a $16.6 million state special aid payment due to the district’s failure to submit required financial reports.

The action was expected as DPI notified the district in May that it was in danger of having state aid withheld due to significantly overdue financial data, some over eight months late. DPI officials met with MPS repeatedly over several months in an effort to collect the missing data. 

DPI spokesperson Chris Bucher said in a statement that the agency was “working deeply and actively” to develop a corrective action plan (CAP) and that once that happens, the district will be able to recoup the June aid payment. 

“We remain optimistic we will have a CAP in place so we can make the scheduled general aid payment later this month,” Bucher said. “When we have a CAP in place, we will also be able to release this withheld special education aid payment. Our focus remains on solving this challenge and supporting all of Milwaukee’s children.”

The Milwaukee Board of School Directors said in a statement that MPS has been in “close communication” with DPI to resolve the issue and working closely with the department and its auditors to complete the necessary documents and reports.

“Currently, our top priority continues to be ensuring that all key required financial data is submitted to DPI as quickly as possible,” the school board said. The statement said board members are finalizing a corrective action plan to complete and submit past due financial reports to DPI. 

A draft corrective plan along with missing financial data were submitted to DPI on Wednesday, according to school board members. 

“MPS is optimistic that the [corrective action plan] will allow the district’s general aid payment to be received on time, and that its special education aid payment will also be released at that time,” the board stated. 

The plan submitted seems to need additional work. State Sen. John Jagler (R-Watertown) posted the district’s draft plan that was submitted to DPI to social media Thursday afternoon, saying that it was “pretty obvious why this wasn’t sufficient to stop DPI from withholding funds. 

“There’s no urgency on finding immediate solutions,” Jagler wrote. 

Tom McCarthy with DPI responded to Jagler’s post, saying the lawmaker was right.  

“We communicated that directly to MPS in a meeting this morning,’ McCarthy said. “We made it clear we need a real plan, we are committed to help them get there, and we believe they understand what we need to be able to move forward.”

The missing financial reports led to the resignation of Keith Posley as MPS superintendent on Tuesday as he was criticized over the delays. Alfredo Balmaseda, who was serving as the comptroller for MPS, said he was fired.

“Our students, families, staff, and community count on MPS to prepare our youth for success in higher education, post-education opportunities, work and citizenship,” the board statement continued. “This is our mission and our guide as we navigate this complex situation.”