MPS Budget Closes Schools, Reduces Staff, Raises Teacher Pay in Face of Budget Gaps

Union Would Not Reopen Contract

MacIver News Service | April 26, 2012

[MILWAUKEE] Superintendent Gregory Thornton released his proposed 2012-2013 budget for the Milwaukee Public Schools Thursday, totaling $1.168 billion to educate the district’s students. The budget works with funding cuts that reduced spending by 1.7 percent – cuts that could have been avoided had the district reopened their labor contracts and made job-saving contributions to employee benefits.

Attepmts to reopen those contracts were thwarted by the MTEA, the local teachers’ union. As it stands, teachers are poised to receive, on average, a 5.5 percent raise.

That 1.7 percent reduction from FY 2012 comes mostly from a decrease of federal funding. The overall budget will decrease by $19.7 million, but $11.2 million of that comes from grants from the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). With the government still in the process of reauthorizing this process, it is possible that that cut may increase. Those funds apply to policies like Title I schools and School Improvement Grants, programs that target low-performing institutions in low-income areas.

The new budget calls for a reduction of 400.75 positions. That figure is not a layoff total, but rather a record of vacancies, retirement, and attrition. More than 40 percent of these reductions – 160.43 – are the result of eight school closures within the city. These school closures include non-instrumentality charters such as the Wisconsin Career Academy, the WORK Institute, the School for Urban Planning and Architecture, and Montessori IB.

The fate of these licensed staff members is up in the air. WTMJ, reports there are more open positions than projected cuts and that these teachers, administrators, assistants, and other workers will have the chance to remain with the district at different institutions. Even if the number of openings in FY 2013 is not greater than 400 there will still be roles and positions available within the district for many of these transplanted educators to fill.

Despite the decrease in overall funding, local per-pupil revenue limit increases will actually raise school operation funds by $717,122 in the coming year. While that constitutes under 0.1 percent of the overall budget, it still leaves more money for staff salaries, benefits, and supplies. The budget calls for over $415 million to be spent on district salaries in FY 2013 and $266 million to go towards employee benefits.

The average salary for a teacher in MPS is slated to rise as a result of this budget. In this current school year, average pay was $59,500. In FY 2013, this figure will increase to $62,800. In 2011, average benefits in MPS were $43,505 per teacher.

The average total compensation for MPS teachers next school year, therefore, will exceed $106,000 per year.

The city is also projecting another year of declining enrollment for students educated at MPS schools. The latest budget predicts that these institutions will enroll 78,746 pupils next year, a decrease from 80,098 this year – a loss of 1.7 percent of the overall student body. This does not include an estimated 8,200 children who are expected to leave the district through open enrollment and Chapter 220 transfers to public schools outside of MPS.

While overall enrollment within MPS is predicted to decline, parents exercising school choice is expected to rise. While student counts in traditional neighborhood public schools is slated for a 2.5 percent reduction in pupils, alternative schools (55 percent increase) and non-instrumentality charter schools (11.1 percent) are expected to see boosts in enrollment.

Additionally, parents utilizing open enrollment transfers are supposed to rise by nearly seven percent. This may be due in part to a newly enacted state law that dramatically expanded the open enrollment period.

The FY 2013 budget presents several interesting scenarios for Milwaukee Public Schools. Over 400 staff positions will be reduced, but there are also over 400 staff openings that will keep many of these teachers in classrooms across the city. These teachers are due for a 5.5 percent raise, on average, despite an overall funding decrease of 1.7 percent from the previous year.

This funding decrease is in line with the decline of the city’s overall student population, which is also projected to be 1.7 percent next year. Eight schools will close this year, and four of those are non-instrumentality charter schools. However, non-instrumentality charter schools and alternative schools are due for an enrollment boost despite the closure for four NI charters this summer.

MPS enrollment is projected to drop for the 1oth straight year.

The current teachers’ contract expires at the end of the next school year. At that time the school board will be have the flexibility to require teachers to contribute to their retirement and pay a portion of their health care premiums without having to go through the process of collective bargaining.