Last night on Vliet Street, Milwaukee Public Schools superintendent Gregory Thornton and the Board of School Directors sketched out what Thornton called a “worst case scenario” for next year’s school budget.
On top of the already-projected loss of $13 million in state funding — and tens of millions of dollars in federal funds — for fiscal year 2012 the governor’s proposed budget would, according to the scenario presented on Thursday, slash another $74 million from Milwaukee’s public school system.
More than 80 percent of the children in MPS live in poverty, said Mayor Tom Barrett, who was the first to speak when the meeting opened up for public comment.
Saying that he and the district must overcome past differences and come together to solve the problems facing the MPS and the city, Barrett added, “we must move out of our comfort zone and talk to people we might not normally talk to.”
He suggested contacting state senators and assemblymen who live outside the Milwaukee to voice concerns and to invite them to visit MPS schools.
After Barrett spoke, board president Michael Bonds followed the mayor out of the auditorium for a brief — and seemingly amicable — conversation in the hallway.
School board candidate Meagan Holman — whose child attends MPS — suggested that the district make the most of the knowledge and skills of concerned and committed parents in MPS.
Other parents expressed concern that not enough is being done to alert parents of the ways the budget proposal will affect MPS.
Board member Peter Blewett pointed out that at least two schools in his district on the West Side stand to lose 50 percent or more of their teachers.
His colleague Tim Petersons said, “this is an assault” on MPS and on Milwaukee children.
Board member Larry Miller — and a number of parents and students who later addressed the board — encouraged teachers, parents, administrators and other supporters to make their voices heard in Madison.
Among the items being cut or completely eliminated are school breakfasts, Advanced Placement, bilingual assistance and the successful math teacher leader program.
MPS CFO Gerald Pace and legislative policy manager Chris Thiel also reported. Thiel noted that there are no proposed cuts to the voucher or charter programs — both of which the governor proposes to expand. The voucher program, Thiel said, currently accounts for 17 percent of the district’s tax levy.
While Thornton’s picture suggested a loss of $555 per student, Bonds noted that if the projected increase of $275 in per pupil funding is added to the equation, the loss per student is actually $830.
Supporters were on hand with T-shirts that announced support for Milwaukee Public Schools and one group handed out postcards with a link to ilovemypublicschool.com, a site for public school supporters.
Others distributed fliers for a rally on Saturday afternoon at Greenfield School District headquarters on South 60th Street, reminding attendees that public school districts throughout the state are facing cuts.