Walker to propose $1 billion cut to education: MPS would lose up to 25% of its funding

MPS School Board President Michael Bonds at Fratney Escuela meeting: school funding to be cut statewide, Federal Title 1 dollars on chopping block.
February 16th, 2011 |
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A typical Wednesday night. A gym full of parents and citizens ready to discuss possible cuts to the Milwaukee Public School budget and how it will affect their school. MPS School Board President Michael Bonds in attendance to answer their questions.

But instead of answers, Bonds brought bad news for not only the parents and students at La Escuela Fratney Elementary School, but for schools across the state.

“I have no good news for you,” Bonds said. “We were just told that Gov. Walker will propose a $1 billion cut to K12 education funding across the state.”

Bonds said this cut in aid will reduce the revenue available to the district by almost $200 million, or a reduction of $500 per pupil. Other school districts would suffer similar loses in state funding.

But that was not the worst of it. Bonds added that Walker is also proposing an end to Federal Title 1 funds, money that is allocated to help low-achieving students in poverty-ridden districts.  For the 2011 fiscal year, MPS budgeted $33.5 million in Title 1 funds towards programming within its schools.

According to the Department of Education website, Title 1 funds are allocated to more than 50,000 public schools across the country to provide additional academic support and learning opportunities to help low-achieving children master challenging curricula and meet state standards in core academic subjects. For example, Title 1 dollars can be used for extra instruction in reading and mathematics, as well as special preschool, after-school and summer programs to extend and reinforce the regular school curriculum. Bonds did not cite Walker’s reasons for proposing an end to the funding.

In all, Bonds said the district could lose 25% of its revenue if Walker’s plan is enacted. Walker is expected to make these announcements next Tuesday (Feb. 22) during his biennial budget address.

The West Allis-West Milwaukee School District is facing a similar $500 per pupil cut to its state educational funding, according to School Board President Sue Stalewski. She added this could leave her district with a $7 million deficit in the next year.

“K-12 schools are 50-plus percent of the state budget,” she said. “How else will he balance the budget and not raise taxes without cutting public education? There are a lot of things on the table in this state.”

Bonds’ message was not what the 150 parents and teachers expected when the meeting began. They were there to learn how to reverse the proposed loss of the SAGE program (which allows for small class sizes in K5-3rd grade), six classroom teachers, two teacher’s aides, their librarian, an art teacher and the lead math teacher from La Escuela Fratney. Those cuts were proposed based on the upcoming 2012 MPS budget prepared by Superintendent Gregory Thornton, prior to hearing about Walker’s budget plans.

“I’m going to be honest with you. There will be major cuts, school closures and mergers, not just in MPS, but all across the state,” Bonds said.

He said the district is working on contingency plans, such as voiding individual school debts so those monies can be moved into instructional spending. But he was not hopeful.

“Given the fact that he (Walker) rejected $831 million in transportation aid, in this era anything is possible. These cuts will take education back sixty or seventy years, at least. This train is moving really fast and the only people who can stop this now are the legislators.  You have to call your legislators to stop this.”

In addition to cold shock and even open weeping, parents and teachers at the meeting were angered that their losses would probably be permanent, and that more would come. Calls to march on Madison were loud and repeated.

Lorena Terando, the parent of a student at Fratney, asked if MPS teachers would be excused from classes to join the protests in Madison. “We need to take action now,” she said.

“This is our civil rights movement,” teacher Tonieh Welland stated, following an impassioned plea in Spanish. “I don’t agree the train has left. We can act. We can do more; we can write, we can call. We need to come out in force. We need 100,000 of us to stand up and talk about our right to sound and stable education.”

Another parent and teacher said if 2,000 teachers called in sick the district would have to close, allowing them to join the protests at the Capitol. However, Dr. Thornton has released a letter this evening directed towards MPS staff, both congratulating them on their professionalism and promising disciplinary action if teachers and staff failed to report for work on Thursday or Friday.

Others were angry with Bond’s demeanor and attitude of hopelessness. They challenged him to do more, to fight for the students of MPS.

“You need to stop being a funeral director and start advocating for our district,” Angela McManaman demanded. “You need to tell the state that these types of cuts will hurt our kids the most. We need an advocate.”

But he seemed beaten and tired, even when contacted by phone following the meeting. He said board members and the superintendent have been meeting all day to work on contigency plans for MPS.

“I want to fight,” he said, “but I won’t play to your emotions and just tell you what you want to hear. At the end of the day, if the governor’s budget goes through is will be an unprecedented disaster. This may be the death of MPS.”

It may also be the death of education as we know it in Wisconsin.

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10 Responses to “Walker to propose $1 billion cut to education: MPS would lose up to 25% of its funding”

  1. acquisitions says:

    I do trust all of the ideas you’ve introduced to your post. They’re very convincing and can certainly work. Nonetheless, the posts are too short for beginners. Could you please lengthen them a little from subsequent time? Thanks for the post.

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  2. Shawn Moore says:

    If you want parents to pay for specialized programming, how could they ever pay for special education services. That would mean the salaries of the teacher, aides and material cost would have to be divided amongst those benefiting from them. I don’t want to pay for many programs (social security, welfare,etc.) but if we allowed those that need the service to pay for it they all would be broke and the kids would never receive the help!

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  3. Shawn Moore says:

    Our school district has already cut over 6 million in the last three years.This has nothing to do with over inflated pension or health plans. The question we should be asking, is what is he not attacking. What is left untouched. Why are some programs or plans being left alone? Wisconsin did not become a great state for education by not attracting the best students and teachers. As the teachers salaries and benefits are cut and their classroom size increases and the help for struggling students decreases will future college students skip education for other fields?

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  4. Mmam5 says:

    I have to agree with this:

    “If select parents want to keep those programs why not pay for them? Concentrate on the core courses required to receive an education.”

    Would love to see music/art stay in school. But so many schools are spending too much time on “other items” that the core teachings, Reading/writing/ arithmetic are getting behind. Atlanta has great programs in place … BUT the Parents/students Pay extra for them. Since they are individually paid for, all involved get more out of it and excel further. Teachers are free to do what they were hired for – Teaching! None have to be a coach or teach things they really have no heart for, just cuze the extras are part of the curriculum.

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  5. Todd B says:

    It is amazing how one individual reporter’s slant can dictate how others feel about any situation. Patti Wenzel says as the last line of her story “It may also be the death of education as we know it in Wisconsin.”
    Really? If Milwaukee Public lost 25% of its funding, would that mean the death of education in Wisconsin?
    No, education might have different parameters to abide by, but it is not going to be “the death of education in Wi”..

    There are two things that need the utmost clarification here –
    1) The media in this country should not be providing their own filter or personal commentary on events as they unfold in the state of Wisconsin, or anywhere else – their job is to report the facts only and this seems to be constantly forgotten by them. And
    2) You only get what you can pay for. We don’t have enough money in the state to pay for education, State worker’s (and retired State worker’s) retirement/health care benefits, snow removal, clerks of courts,…. everything that is included within the state budget. Cuts need to be made, you can protest, at the end of the day the majority who voted this Governor in will stand behind him and forsake those of you who think you can continue to spend money you do not have. I am sorry, that’s how it has to be for this State to continue as a seperate, viable entity.

    Please, if I am wrong, point out where.

    Cheers

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    Mmam5 Reply:

    THAT is the crux of this whole mess … inflated pension plans and awesomely wonderful health care benefits (paid for by taxpayers) have to be paid every year and the more that retire, the larger these numbers are.

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  6. Doreen Nehmer says:

    I too want to cry. I love children and value every one of them and what they mean to OUR future! I want them all to have a well rounded quality education!!

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  7. notvanilla says:

    There are programs in schools that do not benefit the majority of students and offer little in the way of benefits to society as a whole. If select parents want to keep those programs why not pay for them? Concentrate on the core courses required to receive an education. Too many have come to think that chorus for example is a core educational requirement. While culturally beneficial and fun for it’s participants, it is not useful in the long term to society as a whole. We need to focus our resources where they will do the most good. Resources are always limited.

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  8. urban dweller says:

    Walker’s motives are obvious: he wants Wisconsin to be a state of passive, compliant, uneducated proles who will work in dangerous conditions for slave wages and never complain. Only the rich deserve a decent education.

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  9. vicki samolyk says:

    This makes me want to cry.
    At one time we had a number of innovative specialty schools in mps that provided a variety of learning systems and experiences that benefitted thousands of our children. These grown up students are now looking for those good educational options for their own children in mps …and they are either no longer there or a shadow of what they used to be. The decimation of public education in Wisconsin is a crime! We used to be known as a state that had good, solid public schools. Now we are falling victim to the elimination of a quality education to all except those who can afford it.
    Shame on you, Scott Walker, and the horse you rode in on, too.

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