District 8 Bears Heavy Burden with Potential Sage Cuts – We Need New Ideas
For MPS, budget cuts are an unfortunate fact of life. With the economy slowly regaining strength, MPS doesn’t have the resources it needs to provide the education Milwaukee residents desire.
Last year, the MPS Board made some tough decisions to balance the budget for the 2010-11 school year. One of these was to lay off close to 500 classroom teachers, pushing more students into classrooms.
For 2011-12, another MPS budget shortfall looms. Some are talking about layoffs again, and yesterday’s JS shows why we need to look at other options. And today’s press conference by WEAC proposing spliting MPS into four distinct districts by 2015 puts in hard focus the fact that MPS can and must do better, work smarter, and be creative, or watch as more and more groups call for the district’s dismantling.
The JS reports that the Wisconsin Student Achievement Guarantee in Education (SAGE) program, which provides funding for an 18-to-1 student-to-teacher ratio in kindergarten through third grade in 470 schools around the state, may have to be cut at 28 MPS elementary schools, including at least six in District 8: Dover Street, Zablocki, Trowbridge Street, Humboldt Park, Garland and Clement Avenue. These schools face this cut because they can no longer provide an 18-1 student to teacher ratio without eliminating some staff – like music and art teachers – and replacing them with general classroom teachers.
No one disputes there are probably more savings to be had in the MPS budget. We can do things more efficiently, preserving resources so they can be directed to the classrooms. But as MPS struggles with new budget challenges, our answer can’t just be “more cuts.” We need new ideas, because the old ones aren’t getting the job done. There has to be a better way to preserve these important classes, which studies show help students develop critical thinking skills.
Last year, Burdick Elementary had to withdraw from SAGE, and Principal Robert Schleck and the staff there worked tirelessly to increase enrollment to offset the SAGE losses. I believe we should be soliciting ideas from teachers for savings that MPS is currently missing out on - little changes can add up to big savings (just ask anyone who ever turned down a thermostat and put on a sweater!). MPS should ask the business community for their ideas and expertise. The Board needs to make their mantra: “No stone unturned.”
If you have an idea, please feel free to send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re all in this together – good schools not only create smarter kids, they help attract new jobs to Milwaukee. And that helps everyone.