Typically, when Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett opens his mouth, stupid falls out. Case in point – his never-ending idea to create a 2.5-mile trolley using $65 million in federal transportation funds. Or his brilliant idea to create a gun violence hotline when we have a perfectly functional 9-1-1 system.

However, Barrett’s latest idea is not only stupid, it may possibly be criminal.

Late on Thursday, Barrett decided to shake down St. Marcus School for a cool $1.3 million. He said the “tax” would make it more likely that the city would back the school’s efforts to purchase the vacant Lee Elementary School at 9th and Meinecke, currently owned by the Milwaukee Public Schools.

Really Tom? Did you just ask St. Marcus for a bribe? Did you just make them a “deal that can’t refuse?”

Barrett said the $1.3 million, paid over the next decade, would offset the lost revenue to MPS for the choice students that would attend St. Marcus. He said that Milwaukee taxpayers are disproportionately paying for voucher students and that this would help MPS stay financially afloat.

St. Marcus Superintendent Henry Tyson told the mayor no deal.

Responding to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Tyson said, “We won’t pay a tax like that because it’s evident that we bring a huge net benefit to city taxpayers,”

St. Marcus posts some of the best tests scores in the city, with a student body made of mostly poor and African-Americans.

Barrett’s idea is seriously flawed. Taxpayers and voters in Wisconsin have whole-heartedly supported school choice and the funding of it with public dollars. We have seen the results, better test scores, lower high school drop-out rates, higher high school graduation rates and as is the case with Hope Christian High School, 3 years of 100 percent of their graduating seniors enrolling in colleges.

In addition, the people who benefit from St. Marcus are already paying a tax for education, which is simply being diverted from the failing Milwaukee Public Schools to a successful choice school. Why should current and potential St. Marcus families be asked to pay another tax?

To make liberals and school choice opponents happy? Definitely no.

So Tom, take you shakedown politics somewhere else and let St. Marcus have that vacant, money pit called Lee Elementary and allow them to offer a decent education to another 750 students in the inner city. In the end, the benefits will be there for Milwaukee with a highly educated workforce and informed citizenry that will increase the city’s tax base.

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