MPS: Compensation Soars as Performance Sputters

MacIver News Service

[Milwaukee, Wisc…]  Since the federal government began monitoring school performance under the No Child Left Behind Act, the average Milwaukee public school teacher’s total compensation has increased by 55 percent while student test scores have remained stagnant.

Information provided by MPS and the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and compiled by the MacIver Institute shows that in 2002, the average MPS teacher made $63,413 in salary and benefits. Next year, the average teacher will make $98,423*.

During this same time period, state aid to MPS has also drastically increased. In 2002, MPS received $515 million. Last year it received $600 million.

Spending per student has also gone up. In 2002, the district spent $6,035 per student. Last year it spent $7,311 per student.

While the spending and compensation for MPS staff has seen steep inclines, that has not been the case with student performance.

Since 2002, student achievement in MPS has fluctuated from year to year. The biggest gains were in 8th grade test scores;  35 percent scored proficient or better in math in 2002, compared to 52.1 percent in 2009. Reading scores in 8th grade went from 56 percent to 64.2 percent.

However, that moderate success did not follow students into high school. Math and reading scores dropped noticeably from the 8th to 10th grade. Among 10th graders math proficiency went up only slightly from 28 percent to 30.4 percent, and reading went from 40 percent to 41.7 percent.

Despite there being no apparent correlation between student achievement and funding,  the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association insists the district needs more funding.

After the district sent 482 teachers layoff notices last month, Pat O’Mahar, MTEA Interim Executive Director, argued “Long-term, we must reform the way Wisconsin funds public schools. The current system is no longer working for kids, families, and school communities throughout the state.”

In the meantime,  President Obama and Wisconsin Democrat Congressman David Obey are pushing for Congress to pass a $23 billion bailout package they say will save 100,000 teachers’ jobs around the country.

Stephen Moore writes in Wall Street Journal that MPS’ contract woes are a microcosm of what’s wrong with education spending across America.

Referencing reporting previously done by MacIver News Service, Moore writes:

“Milwaukee’s experience suggests that the $23 billion bailout fund is meant to provide a federal life raft to keep afloat the unsustainable, gold-plated compensation packages that unions negotiated when states and cities were flush with cash. The citizens of Wisconsin have rejected tax increases to avoid layoffs, and they’re right to have done so.

It is hardly sensible to force taxpayers in Mississippi, Colorado, New Hampshire and elsewhere to step in and save the union’s bacon”

While the drama plays out in Washington, MTEA hopes to convince new MPS superintendent, Dr. Gregory Thornton, to rescind the layoff notices. The district and the teachers’ union are currently negotiating a new contract.

We’ll have continuing coverage of this issue at See our previous news coverage and analysis of developments at MPS.

*Note the 2010-2011 figures are a recalculation based on anticipated lower health care costs—MPS previously estimated the average teacher’s package for next year would be $100,005.