I had my first chance to read through the new Milwaukee Public School (MPS) budget proposal yesterday, and I must say, I was pleasantly surprised. Compared to trends of the last decade or so, things are definitely looking better for the district.
Most important, MPS is increasing their staffing in key areas next year. Despite all the talk about governance structure the most important place in education is the school itself. MPS is increasing its school level staffing by 120.8 full-time-equivalent employees in FY14. A good number of those positions, 51, are teachers and educational assistants (though on the negative side the federal sequestration is responsible for the loss of 24 title 1 teachers). The district is also adding assistant principals, safety assistants, social workers, and nurse associates in schools. All of this is particularly impressive when overall enrollment is projected to decline 1%.
So how did they do this? A big part is the aggressive action the district has taken to reduce its benefit costs. MPS notes in their budget that their average teacher salary is increasing but their “school operations and categorical benefit” rate will drop to 58.4% from almost 70% just two years ago. Part of this is due to Act 10, and part of this is due to the willingness of MPS to take needed action.
Milwaukee’s $1,170,867,945 budget will spend $15,011 for each of its 78,000 students during the 2013-2014 school year. Madison spends a similar amount per student.