One of the biggest stories of the past week has been the Wisconsin Education Association Council’s recommendation to fragment Milwaukee Public Schools into smaller districts. According to WEAC, this would create “more manageable components” as well as “drive greater accountability within the system.” However, a look at how Milwaukee’s public schools operate as separate entities suggests that these schools will run into problems regardless of the size of their district.
In 2009, Milwaukee’s schools carried over operating debts of over $8 million into the new school year. Of the 148 schools surveyed in October of 2010, 93 (62.8%) finished the preceding school year in the red. 42 of these schools racked up debts of more than $100,000. 20 more overspent their budgets by $40,000 or more.
As the MacIver Institute has previously noted, schools like Bradley Tech (running a deficit of over $750,000), Vel Phillips (-$475k), Audubon Middle (-$436k), and Wedgewood (-$382k) are some of the city’s biggest offenders. While some schools have been able to create careful surpluses with their funds, the system as a whole has shown to be flawed. In all, the city’s school-by-school deficits added up to over $10.7 million dollars in 2009-2010 alone.