Updated: Budget cuts spell nearly 1,000 fewer positions in MPS

As an MPS parent whose child is in one of the many schools that is interviewing new principals this week, I’ve been eager for any news I can scrape up these days.

Today, however, MPS spokesperson Roseann St. Aubin offered some news that no one will be happy to hear.

Although the district is still working out how the proposed state budget will affect schools next year, among the impacts, apparently, will be 971 fewer positions in MPS. (Note: this figure was updated to 988.68 a few days later. That includes 468 teachers and teaching coaches.)

That information is arriving in the form of letters to staff and parents today.

It is unclear at the moment how many of those cuts will be at the school level. Certainly, many will be.

But remember that schools finalized their individual budgets before the proposed state budget became big news. And Superintendent Gregory Thornton did not ask schools to reopen those budgets.

Instead, the stated goal is trim more heavily from the main administration staff on Vliet Street.

When there was a projected shortfall, Thornton split the cuts between central office and schools. This time around, facing a much bigger cut from the state budget proposal, Thornton hasn’t touched schools’ budgets.

“All the changes, all the challenges, we’ve basically tried to insulate schools from (them),” Thornton told me as he was about to board a plane to a conference this afternoon.

That’s great news, generally speaking, for students, parents and others at the school level, though it may also mean wholesale cuts of programs.

Recently I heard that many summer school sites — and therefore seats available to kids — have been slashed.

“We’re going open the schools,” said Thornton. “But, it’s one thing to just open the school and maintain. It’s another to advance an academic agenda.

“This budget does not advance an academic agenda (for) the children of Milwaukee. We’re going to have to rethink where we’re going, if we want a district that can be transformational in the city as well as the state.”

St. Aubin pointed out that the number is not a layoff count. The 971 — which Thornton said is a solid number — will be reached via resignations, retirements, vacancies (some positions being eliminated were, apparently, currently vacant) and, finally, layoffs.

I’ve heard that some teachers have begun receiving notices that they’re being “excessed.” In the past, teachers have received such notices and have been rehired. Whether or not that will be the case again this year remains a question mark.

“How many (positions) will be through attrition we don’t know yet,” St. Aubin told me. “That will be significant.”

She added that as of April 1, there were 427 retirements in the district and about half were teachers.

“The impact cannot be seen yet,” St. Aubin said.

There will be a budget briefing next week for media and I will be there, so I will update you again next week.

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