The Milwaukee School Board and I recently had an unusual conversation. It came at the end of a meeting on our proposed budget. Struck by the sadness of the parents and teachers who had testified on the devastating impacts, and in dismay over the massive cuts to state funding offered by our governor, we came down to a question that summed up the past weeks: What do you do when the facts are not enough?
We have made considerable progress academically and financially. The 2009 McKinsey & Co. report listed potential cost savings for Milwaukee Public Schools in six areas. Efforts to trim costs for textbook purchases, food service, transportation, employee benefits and facilities were already underway when this report was released. Since 2009, the district has addressed each area and, as a result, at least $50 million has been or is scheduled to be saved.
Academic achievement is a priority. Fifty-seven percent of our schools increased their reading scores. Forty-three percent improved in math. Data released by the state Department of Public Instruction this spring shows MPS outperformed Milwaukee voucher schools on the state’s test, even though the district serves a much higher proportion of students with disabilities.