By Michael Bonds, Ph.D.
President, Milwaukee Board of School Directors
Across Wisconsin, school districts are finding out just how much students will lose under Governor Walker’s proposed budget and they’re speaking out about how cuts to public education will negatively impact children.
The Governor’s decision to eliminate a state promise of $150 in funding for every student in Wisconsin’s public schools will cut $127 million from programs supporting public school students.
But that’s only part of the fiscal dilemma public schools face in this budget.
The budget also does not include any increases that allow schools to keep up with inflationary costs.
The double punch of a surprise cut in state funding and no inflationary increases puts many districts in tough financial situations.
In Milwaukee Public Schools, the state aid cut amounts to $12.1 million less for educational programs.
In addition, due to increasing costs associated with educating students, the district’s cost to continue budget was already projected to be $11 million short bringing the projected loss to the district to $23 million.
But it’s not just MPS that’s feeling the financial pinch. From Ashland to Wauwatosa and dozens of districts in between, school district leaders are speaking out about the impact of state cuts and funding issues.
The Wauwatosa School District, Governor Walker’s home district, will lose $903,900 under the Governor’s proposed budget. In an interview with a local Wauwatosa newspaper, Wauwatosa Superintendent Phil Ertl said, “Longterm, our programs are not going to be sustainable. We can’t just keep taking these hits.”
In that same article, Wauwatosa Director of Business Services John Mack said, “It’s a hard hit.
You almost have a sense of disbelief when you read that.
To say ‘we’re going to take away from you again,’ it’s very disheartening to work in this industry when that type of thing keeps happening.”
According to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, estimates of cuts to other local school districts include:
Brown Deer $288,150,
Menomonee Falls $574,050,
Oak Creek $922,575,
West Allis $1,295,550.
While districts hope funds will be restored, many are also beginning to take a hard look at what this proposed budget means and where cuts will have to be made if funding is not reinstated.
While local public schools are being cut, Governor Walker has proposed spending more dollars on voucher schools by expanding the program statewide.
Funding for the program would come from reducing the general aid to schools statewide, taking even more dollars from public schools.
Madison Metropolitan School District Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham expressed the frustration of many superintendents and board members when she released this statement about the proposed budget.
“Unfortunately, this budget proposal clearly prioritizes private school vouchers, the authorization of independent charters and politics over real support for public schools and our students,” Cheatham continued, “Rather than invest in what we know works, this proposal puts resources in strategies with mixed results at the expense of our public school students.
We urge legislators to take a serious look at this proposal and focus our resources and efforts on supporting our public school students.”
If you care about public schools and the students they serve, call the Wisconsin Legislative Hotline at 1-800-362-9472. Speak up for our public school students.