Time flies when you're wasting someone else's money. In 2010, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported that the Milwaukee Public School District owned 27 empty school buildings and maintained them at a cost of $1 million per year. The district prevented charter schools and private schools from buying the properties out of fear that those schools would attract students from district public schools. Meanwhile, taxpayers were forced to keep footing the bill for vacant buildings.
Fast-forward to the present. Four years and $4 million taxpayer dollars later, district officials are still blocking charter schools and private schools from leasing the buildings, despite widespread public outcry. Wisconsin lawmakers even attempted to pass legislation to force Milwaukee school officials to keep an inventory of empty and underused school facilities and expedite the sale of the buildings but that measure was thwarted in the final days of the legislative session.
Two thousand miles southwest lies Tucson, Arizona, the nation's sixth-poorest metro area. The Tucson Unified School District has closed 19 buildings since 2010, and today, district officials have yet to repurpose all of the facilities. Once again, taxpayers are on the hook for millions in wasted payments. Just how much has been wasted is hard to say. In 2011, the district reported spending $450,000 per year to maintain nine of the empty buildings. To make matters worse, vandals have sprayed graffiti on some of the facilities, transforming these one-time community institutions into a blight for local residents.