Bonds warns of ‘devastating’ cut for MPS under state budget
By Alan J. Borsuk Special To The Journal Sentinel Feb. 16, 2011
Milwaukee Public Schools could face huge cuts in programs and loss of a quarter of its current revenue if things officials are being told about Gov. Scott Walker’s budget proposals are true and if they are adopted, School Board President Michael Bonds warned Wednesday night.
“I would use the word devastating,” Bonds told an angry crowd of about 200 at Fratney School, 3255 N. Fratney St. “It’s devastating to school districts across the state,” and MPS will feel the impact more than other districts.
“There’s going to be major cuts, school closures, school mergers, if the governor’s budget is approved,” Bonds told the crowd. “When you’re talking about losing close to $300 million, everything is on the table.”
“The education we know in Milwaukee will no longer exist,” if all of things officials have been told will be in Walker’s budget proposal come to pass, Bonds told the crowd.
Challenged by one parent who said she feared Bonds was acting more like an undertaker for MPS than a leader, Bonds responded that people should protest to members of the state Legislature, and the board is doing all it can.. But, he added, “It may be the end of MPS, I can’t dispute that.”
Walker is scheduled to present his budget proposal for the next two years on Tuesday.
Bonds said MPS leaders learned Wednesday that they should expect Walker will propose cutting the statewide fund for school aid by about $1 billion for next year, which would be about 15% of the current amount. That, and related cuts, could mean $200 million less for MPS, he said.
MPS is already expecting almost $100 million less in federal aid and other grants, largely because of the end of two years of federal economic stimulus funding.
And, Bonds said, district leaders were told Wednesday that Walker was considering refusing federal Title 1 aid for low income students, which brings tens of millions of dollars each year to MPS.
Bonds said after the session that MPS leaders had been told to expect a $500 per student cut in the amount set by the state as a revenue cap for spending.
The cap determines how much school districts across the state can collect in state aid and property taxes combined.
In general in recent years, the revenue cap has gone up more than $200 per student. A cut of $500 would roll back the amount to levels of several years ago, but, in practical terms, would mean significant cuts in just about every district in the state.
Milwaukee School Board members had a meeting last week in which they discussed cuts they would need to make if the revenue cap went up $200 per student, the amount proposed by Tony Evers, the state superintendent of public education. They forecast a deficit of more than $13 million at that point.
The numbers given by Bonds on Wednesday suggest a deficit – and a need for cuts – that could be more than 20 times that amount.
Bonds told the Fratney audience that he wanted to bring them hope and good news. “I’m sorry, I just can’t provide that today,” he said.