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June 5, 2007

An Interesting Report on the Financial Condition and Position of the Milwaukee Public Schools

Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance and the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce [330K PDF]:

As will be seen, MPS already has many challenges:
  • Declining student numbers and a host of viable options for K12 students and their families;
  • Rising and, in some cases, difficult to control costs. Though MPS’s finances are similar to other large, diverse districts, its salaries relative to staff experience and its benefit expenditures are relatively high. The size of middle management within schools is also atypical.
  • Highly aided by both the state and federal governments, the Milwaukee district is unusually vulnerable to political decisions and policy made elsewhere. An anticipated decline in federal monies will directly impact MPS’s bottom line. And, any slowdown or reduction in state aid, has a direct property-tax impact in a high-tax city.
WISTAX projections show the future to be even more difficult. All these factors combine to suggest a future where revenue growth will be modest, at best, while costs will grow inexorably. If no further budget adjustments are made—and some have already been implemented—the Milwaukee school district faces a recurring and growing gap between slowing revenues and growing expenditures.

Needless to say, MPS has difficult years in its immediate future. From our work, we know that district, MMAC, and community leaders are passionate about improving education for all Milwaukee’s children. We wish them only the very best.

Alan Borsuk:
A study from the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance includes figures from 2005 placing Milwaukee Public Schools in perspective with statewide figures and with seven districts judged to be closest to comparable to MPS (Beloit, Green Bay, Kenosha, Madison, Racine, Superior, Wausau).
  • Teacher salaries
    $35,439 average in MPS
    $43,038 median statewide
  • Fringe benefits
    $21,439 average in MPS
    $20,324 median statewide
  • Assistant principals per student
    1:541 in MPS
    1:1,177 average for comparable districts listed above
In the report, Berry writes, "The combined effect of lost market share, district spending choices (particularly in the fringe benefit area), tightening state revenue controls and uncertain federal funding means that the expenditure demands MPS faces will grow faster than available revenues. Annual rounds of budget retrenchment are inevitable."

Even as spending per student has increased significantly in MPS, the impact of financial belt-tightening has increased, the report says. Rising health care costs and costs for retirees are major reasons.

Education spending has increased annually at the federal, state and local level. Clearly, something different than the usual "same service" or "cost to continue" approach is warranted.

Jay Bullock's notes and links.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at June 5, 2007 8:00 AM
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