MacIver News Service | April 10, 2012
A new report highlights expensive provisions within the lucrative contract between the Milwaukee Public Schools and their unionized teachers. Among the findings, in the last school year 5,200 public school teachers in Milwaukee had a more than 9 percent absentee rate, forcing nearly $12 million to be spent on substitute teachers.
The Education Action Group, through their news service EAGnews.org is releasing a series of stunning reports to show taxpayers how public funds are being spent in government schools.
In the first of a series of reports, EAGnews.org examined the teachers’ contract for Milwaukee Public Schools for the 2010-2011 school year and discovered a slew of expensive provisions. The numbers are shocking.
"We hear virtually every year that schools’ cupboards are bare, forcing school boards to lay off teachers and cut programs," said Kyle Olson, CEO of EAG. "We spend billions on education each year, yet the mainstream media has never peeled back the layers to show the public where the dollars are currently going. That’s what we’re doing."
They found that 5,200 teachers took 92,691 days off last year, for sick/personal leave, convention leave and “incentive” leave. That level of teacher absenteeism – over 9% of the school year – resulted in $11.9 million being spent on substitute teachers.
"We are providing information to the public and encouraging citizens to form their own conclusions about spending priorities and whether or not schools are spending appropriately and if they need more resources," said Olson.
EAG also broke down several other personnel cost drivers within MPS.
“Step” raises – given for a teacher’s years of service, not effectiveness – cost $5.5 million last school year.
“Lump sum raises” cost another $10.4 million, according to the EAG analysis.
According to data received from the Milwaukee district, teachers do not contribute to their retirement or health care plans. Thus, MPS paid the full freight of those benefits for teachers – spending $56 million on pensions and roughly $128 million for health insurance.
“While Gov. Scott Walker’s budget reforms now require school employees to pay a portion of both of these items, MPS extended its contract with teachers’ union members prior to the reforms passing,” writies EAG. “And that haste is generating millions in waste.”
They list more examples: MPS spent nearly $2 million to compensate teachers for monitoring the lunch room in elementary schools.
EAG has worked with the MacIver Institute on projects in the past. However, the MacIver Institute, which operates the MacIver News Service, did not participate in the EAGnews.org analysis of MPS data.
EAG notes that Milwaukee provides for teachers who want to retire early – at 62 – but don’t yet qualify for their full pension, which begins at 65. Thus, taxpayers pay the difference of the pension they will receive at 65 and the one they receive a lower rate for retiring early. MPS spent $15.6 million on that perk.
MPS also paid out $709,306 for unused sick days.
“Milwaukee, like too many other schools, continues throwing money out the door to make adults happy and maintain “labor peace,” EAG contends. “With this kind of reckless spending, it’s no wonder Milwaukee Public Schools are facing a financial crisis.”