Educate All Students: Larry Miller's Blog

July 2, 2011

Walker Responsible for MPS Devastating Layoffs

Filed under: Republicans,Right Wing Agenda,Scott Walker — millerlf @ 5:36 pm

The MPS layoffs are not due to an act of God. They are the results of the unGodly acts of Scott Walker and the Republican Party of Wisconsin.

Milwaukee’s kids, families and communities are meant to suffer while Walker hopes teachers are blamed.

MPS is losing an estimated $54.6 million in general state aid in the new fiscal year – a 9.3% cut and MPS will take an estimated $53.4 million loss in state aid going to the school voucher program, resulting in layoffs of 519 employees.

These cuts are Scott Walker’s cuts, meant to devastate Milwaukee’s communities and dismantle public education. At the same time he is giving tax breaks, contracts and access to Wisconsin’s resources to corporations and the rich.

Read the following MJS summary about Walker’s draconian policies:

Nearly every Wisconsin school district to see cuts in state aid

By Karen Herzog of the Journal Sentinel July 1, 2011

School districts have known for months that their state funding would be cut significantly for the new fiscal year.

Reality hit home Friday, as districts received general state aid estimates to plug into their budgets until final numbers are released in October.

As expected, almost every Wisconsin public school district – 410 out of 424 – will receive less aid for the 2011-’12 fiscal year because of a statewide 8.4% general school aid cut, according to the state Department of Public Instruction, which is required by law to provide estimates to school districts each July 1.

A handful of districts will see small increases in projected aid because of growing enrollments, property values declining faster than the statewide average or other district-specific aid formula impacts.

The state budget set general aid for school districts at $4.262 billion for the 2011-’12 fiscal year. It leaves schools with roughly $900 million less in state aid and property tax authority over the next two years, state figures show.

“We’re still on target for assembling our budget,” Milwaukee Public Schools spokeswoman Roseann St. Aubin said Friday. “But the general aid number doesn’t provide the whole picture. It does not show the net effect of the district having to limit how much money can be raised through property taxes, or the loss of state funding for school nurses. This is just one piece of the puzzle.”

In previous years, school districts could make up for state aid cuts by raising property taxes. That’s not an option this year, as Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican-led Legislature also reduced school districts’ revenue limit authority – the combined amount they may raise through local property taxes and general aid from the state – by 5.5%.

The upshot is that many districts – perhaps two-thirds statewide – will have to cut their property tax levies to stay under revenue caps.

Many school districts handled the expected cuts by increasing employee contributions to health insurance and by requiring employees to pay 5.8% of their salary toward retirement, as part of the state’s new collective bargaining law.

The Kaukauna School District, which expects to lose $2.75 million in state aid, was able to turn a $400,000 budget deficit into an estimated $1.5 million surplus by asking workers to pay more for health insurance and contribute pay toward their pensions. That district plans to hire teachers and reduce class size.

The Pewaukee School District will gain an estimated $114,599 in state aid because of enrollment increases and property value losses. The Pewaukee district was able to balance its budget for the new fiscal year without layoffs, program cuts or increasing class sizes. Employees will pay toward their pensions and pay higher insurance premiums. The district also saved $378,000 by switching insurance providers, and had double the usual number of teacher retirements, according to Assistant Superintendent John Gahan.

The Legislature included a provision in the budget that allows school districts with union contracts that extend into the new fiscal year to sign side agreements with the unions. Those agreements allow districts to increase employee benefit contributions without reopening contracts and sacrificing other existing collective bargaining terms.

A spokesman for Walker said changes to collective bargaining gave districts a way to offset state funding cuts.

“When you look at the net effect on school districts across the state, you’ve seen how the districts that have chosen to implement these reforms, such as Kaukauna, are able to keep property taxes in check, decrease class sizes, give bonuses for performance, and in some cases even hire more teachers,” spokesman Cullen Werwie said Friday. “Unfortunately, in some districts the local unions have stood in the way of implementing these job-saving reforms.”

Union rejects concession

The Milwaukee School Board asked its teachers union for a side agreement requiring teachers to contribute 5.8% of their pay toward pensions, as the teachers union contract extends through 2013. MPS Superintendent Gregory Thornton estimated the pension contribution would save about $20 million and 200 jobs.

Union officials told the Journal Sentinel they would not consider it. MPS announced 519 layoffs earlier this week, including 354 teachers.

MPS is losing an estimated $54.6 million in general state aid in the new fiscal year – a 9.3% cut.

The 2011-’13 state budget includes a provision that will allow districts to make up some of the funding cuts in the 2012-’13 fiscal year.

But school districts must hold a voter referendum to raise taxes beyond their revenue cap.

Some area school district officials said the savings included in the state’s new collective bargaining law would not offset cuts in state aid.

“We understand the $550,000 (10%) we’ll lose in state aid goes to help the state with its budget deficit,” said Glenn Schilling, superintendent of the Hartland-Lakeside School District, which will be forced to cut its property tax levy to stay under the revenue cap.

“We get the need for changes in collective bargaining,” Schilling said. “But they’re also taking money away from schools with the revenue cap, solely for property tax relief.”

Local school districts and communities should be allowed to determine property tax levies without having to go to a referendum, Schilling said Friday.

Milwaukee and Racine Unified school districts, as part of general aid cuts, will lose money because of their school voucher programs, as required by law.

The Racine Unified School District’s new Parental Choice Program will cost the district an estimated $618,400 in lost general state aid this fiscal year, according to DPI estimates. The voucher program approved as part of the state budget will allow 250 low-income students in Racine County to attend private schools with taxpayer-funded vouchers in the fall.

MPS will take an estimated $53.4 million loss in state aid for its school voucher program. The Milwaukee school choice program, in place for 20 years, offers vouchers worth $6,442 each for low-income students in Milwaukee to attend private schools at taxpayer expense. About 20,000 students enrolled in the Milwaukee program in 2010-’11.

Nearly 70% of state school districts will be eligible for special adjustment aid this year, largely because of the decrease in the state’s share of support, the DPI estimates. The special adjustment aid is intended to provide school districts with 90% of the state general aid from the previous year.

The DPI will certify 2011-’12 state aid for school districts on Oct. 15, so the estimated general aid may change.

See a district by district listing of state aid and a ranking by percentage change in aid at jsonline.com/education.

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