Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

Mayor Pledges To Get Involved in Schools

Johnson vows to make Milwaukee a city that attracts people because of its schools.

By - Apr 16th, 2024 01:07 pm
Mayor Cavalier Johnson delivers an inauguration speech. Photo by Jeramey Jannene

Mayor Cavalier Johnson delivers an inauguration speech. Photo by Jeramey Jannene

Mayor Cavalier Johnson is rolling up his sleeves and heading into the classroom.

The mayor used his inauguration speech Tuesday to tout many of his frequent talking points: improving public safety, economic development and stopping reckless.

But then he threw a curveball: education.

“I intend to break from decades of disconnection between City Hall and our schools,” said Johnson.

Short of sharing a city attorney with Milwaukee Public Schools and the city authorizing a handful of charter schools, city government and Milwaukee’s public, charter and voucher schools are merely passing ships in the night.

But that’s not how residents see things.

“Too often I hear people are leaving Milwaukee because of our schools,” said the mayor. “I want people to come to Milwaukee because of our schools.”

Johnson doesn’t intend to limit his engagement just to MPS.

“I intend to engage with the Milwaukee Public Schools’ leadership and with private and parochial schools,” said Johnson.

He said he would continue his practice of visiting schools, often to read to children, but is looking to go further. “What I intend to add is greater attention to policy, priorities, and resource deployment. I will join the strategic discussions about what is best for our city’s students,” said the mayor.

Johnson’s entry into the universe of education would be a departure from the longstanding practice of his predecessor Tom Barrett. The former mayor, whose wife was a public school teacher, briefly flirted with the idea of placing MPS under mayoral control, but the proposal never substantially advanced.

Prior mayor John Norquist expended more political capital on schools, including publicly endorsing the development of the voucher school system. He also opposed an MPS referendum to pay for new school buildings, arguing it would hike the property tax by too much. Still, as Johnson mentioned Tuesday, Norquist frequently cited the need for schools to be a source of resident attraction.

Johnson publicly endorsed the MPS funding referendum prior to the spring election, which was narrowly approved by voters.

Johnson Says He’s More Optimistic Than Ever

The speech, held during a recess in the Common Council’s charter meeting to swear in the winners of the April 2 election, was given to a packed crowd in the City Hall rotunda.

“I am completely optimistic about the future of Milwaukee,” said Johnson. He said he was more optimistic about the city than at any point during his tenure.

“Milwaukee, our city, is safer now than when I initially took office [in 2021],” said Johnson. He cited recently-released first-quarter crime stats that show a continued year-over-year decline, though homicide levels still remain above 2019 lows.

“As your mayor, you have my commitment and my honor that I will not rest,” said Johnson.

He said a new effort was forthcoming to focus city resources on two neighborhoods, one on the North Side and one on the South Side. The city, said the mayor, would also continue its work to redevelop Northridge Mall now that is has full ownership. He thanked Council President José G. Pérez for pushing forward a community resource hub program that the mayor said would soon open.

Johnson also endorsed the Growing MKE plan to build more housing and an effort to establish economic growth throughout the city.

Additionally, the mayor threw his support behind reconfiguring Interstate 794 through Downtown (read our coverage).

Those in attendance included virtually every city department head, police and fire chiefs Jeffrey Norman and Aaron Lipski, the city’s other elected officials, several civic leaders including VISIT Milwaukee CEO Peggy Williams-Smith and political consultant Thad Nation, County Executive David Crowley and Sheriff Denita Ball. Department of Administration head Preston Cole served as the event emcee.

Johnson, who became acting mayor in 2021 and won a special election in 2022, is beginning his first full-time as mayor.

“Let’s get to work,” he said before walking off stage.

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One thought on “City Hall: Mayor Pledges To Get Involved in Schools”

  1. Kate says:

    Again, Mayor Johnson shows courage and forward thinking. You have many supporters, Mr. Mayor, who will rally to help MPS and public education. Keep it up!

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