Press Release: Gov. Evers Calls for Conducting Operational, Instructional Audits of Milwaukee Public Schools

Office of Governor Tony Evers
Gov. Evers Calls for Conducting Operational, Instructional Audits of Milwaukee Public Schools

MADISON — Gov. Tony Evers today announced he is calling for operational and instructional audits of Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) and is proposing to direct funding to support both audits. The governor’s proposal would be a more comprehensive review than the ongoing MPS audit, which is solely focused on the district’s financial statements, drastically expanding the scope of a review of MPSoperations and systems, as well as reviewing instructional effectiveness in classrooms. The move comes as the district has failed to submit statutorily required annual financial audit reports to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI), which were due several months ago.

Gov. Evers and the governor’s office have been in contact with MPS and the DPI in urging them to work together to reach resolution quickly and avoid further financial impacts to the district. With financial data still missing, the DPI announced yesterday MPS’ June 2024 Special Education Aid payment of $16,623,612 will be temporarily withheld. The audits being proposed by Gov. Evers today would be overseen by the Evers Administration in collaboration with the DPI and State Superintendent Jill Underly. 

Gov. Evers released the following statement:

“The purpose of the outstanding MPS audit is to examine the district’s finances for the sole purpose of meeting statutory reporting requirements. That audit is critically important, but it is not comprehensive. 

I’m proposing today to go two steps further with two important goals: the first, to audit MPS’ programs and operations in their entirety, and the second, to audit the effectiveness of teaching and instruction of our kids in classrooms across the district. 

“A similar effort was conducted at MPS now fifteen years ago, but no similar effort has been made since. Parents and families, taxpayers, and the greater community rightfully have questions, and each and every one of those questions deserves honest and transparent answers. For any meaningful conversation about possible solutions to happen, the first step is to fully identify the extent of the problems. The audits I’m proposing today must be done to drive those future conversations.

“For this to be successful, Milwaukee Public Schools must be at the table, and I’m asking for their partnership in supporting this important effort, and I am committed to engaging the Milwaukee community and stakeholders, including the folks most impacted—Milwaukee’s kids, families, and educators—throughout this process.

“I also have to say—I’m exceedingly disappointed by the politicking and jockeying I’ve seen since this situation came to light by opportunists who’re seizing this moment to serve their own selfish goals instead of worrying about what matters most: our kids.

MPS is the largest public school district in our state and serves thousands of Wisconsin’s kids—no one should be hoping for its failure or using this moment to push partisan agendas or sharpen political talking points. The only focus right now should be doing what’s best for our kids by working to ensure MPS’ improvement and success, and that’s what I’m going to continue to be focused on.”

The outstanding audit MPS is required to submit to the DPI is a financial audit aimed at analyzing the accuracy of the district’s financial statements. Gov. Evers is proposing to direct funding to support conducting both operational and instructional audits of the MPS district using federal dollars available between underspending of previously awarded contracts and funding already allocated for Milwaukee that has not yet been spent. An operational audit of MPS would entail a comprehensive review and evaluation of the district’s systems, processes, and procedures to identify areas for improvement. An instructional audit of MPS would entail a comprehensive review and analysis of instructional practices, methodologies, and policies, which may include, for example, reviews of school and classroom learning environments, professional development policies and practices, curriculum implementation, and leadership, among other areas. The audits would also bring additional expertise and guidance to the district while allowing staff resources to be focused on addressing the immediate needs of complying with required financial audits and DPI reporting.

“I know from experience the challenges facing our state’s largest school district, including our kids and teachers. What Milwaukee needs right now is leaders who will step up and support helping get MPS back on track, and that’s what the governor is calling for today,” said State Rep. Chris Sinicki (D-Milwaukee) and former member of the Milwaukee Board of School Directors. “I’m grateful to Gov. Evers for his leadership and getting involved, and I encourage MPS leadership and community partners to support the governor’s proposal so these audits can be completed and we can have all of the information that we need in order to start talking about solutions to fix these problems.”

“Everyone needs to check politics at the door, first and foremost,” said State Sen. LaTonya Johnson (D-Milwaukee). “Parents and families and educators in my district want answers, and people are tired of feeling like they aren’t being heard or listened to. With the audits Gov. Evers is calling for, the public will have more information and finally get more transparency to understand what happened so our community can make informed decisions about what should happen next. We can’t move forward until we have all of the information.” 

An online version of this release is available here.