Educate All Students, Support Public Education

March 7, 2019

Disturbing Numbers Presented at MPS Candidate Forum

Filed under: Elections,MPS — millerlf @ 8:30 am

Last night I attended a forum where all school board candidates for the upcoming April 2nd election presented their ideas. It became clear to me that this is a qualified field of candidates and that the new board will be well served.

At the same time, I would be remiss not to raise a major concern I have with one candidate’s narrative concerning MPS’s per student expenditure. These were comments made by Kathryn Gabor, who is running in the eighth district. This is unfortunate because Kathryn is someone I respect and have worked with recently to strengthen our Montessori program.

She stated that MPS receives over $15,000 per student. This is a number that has been used in the past by Republicans, the MMAC and voucher proponents. It has been used to say that MPS has plenty of money, needs no more and is misusing its funds. The MPS board and administration has pushed against this fallacious representation of our budget for years. Except for ongoing attacks by the ultra right-wing MacIver Institute, we have not heard use of these numbers for a long time.

How was the $15,000 per student notion arrived at? If you take last year’s $1.2 billion budget and divide by the number of students in MPS, it comes out to approximately $15,000 per student. There are many problems with this approach. First, MPS is the LEA (Local Education Agency) for Milwaukee. This means that federal and state funding that goes to private schools, most of them being voucher schools, is channeled through us.

Each year millions of dollars designated for private school children, first comes to us. We are then mandated, by law, to disperse these funds to the scores of private schools in Milwaukee. This includes Title 1 dollars, for low income students. It also includes the other Federal “Title” money that is designated for private schools. Money for private school busing, wraparound services, special ed services, food service, and much more first comes to MPS and is then dispersed to the large number of private schools in Milwaukee.

All of these millions of dollars are part of that $1.2 billion figure.

Also, part of that $1.2 billion figure is the MPS “Extension Fund.” These are millions in funding designated for use for all Milwaukee children and families, not just for students attending Milwaukee Public Schools. This is money for playgrounds, recreation programs and utilities, summer activities, wraparound programs, arts and humanities programs and home instruction for parents and preschool children.

Also, each year the MPS board designates money that can only be spent on construction and facilities. This is money gained from bonding and through designated taxing authority. These millions are also part of that $1.2 billion-dollar figure.

Taking these numbers into account leaves the per pupil expenditure for MPS much closer to $10,000.

The careless and irresponsible use of the $15,000 figure by the MacIver Institute is an attempt to resurrect the notion from the past that MPS and public education should be diminished and replaced with the private voucher system. An ultra right-wing group like the MacIver Institute is more than willing to spew lies about MPS and public education. But the Milwaukee voters and Wisconsin taxpayers need to know the truth about this narrative.

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