Only in Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) is uncertainty about the future a massive problem that no one can do anything about. (Doesn’t every business face uncertainty about the future? Aren’t they unsure of how many customers they will have? Doesn’t the changing world mean that what they’re selling may have to change?)
Only in MPS does declining enrollment not save the school in any money. That’s right folks. The number of students in Milwaukee Public Schools has been declining for years. More than ten years ago, the student population in MPS hovered near 100,000. But everyone still talks about it like it is yesterday. The district has had more than 10 years to adjust spending according to enrollment. So what’s the big deal?
Now we’re lamenting the fact that student enrollment is nearing only 70,000. And there is apparently nothing the administration can do to cut costs. Why? Rob Henken, the genius who led the research project that concluded MPS is changing (oh noes!), says MPS can’t cut personnel costs when a class goes from 22 students to 18 students.
He apparently didn’t get the memo that when a district loses 30,000 students, they CAN cut 1,300 classrooms. That saves more than $130 million per year in teacher costs, not to mention the costs of operating buildings, providing supplies, buying books, having administrative staff, and the like. I just found your budget savings, MPS!!!!
And of course, there is also the fact that enrollment is unpredictable. MPS suffers a hardship because they don’t know how many students they will have in the future. MPS seems to forget that every single business does not know how many customers they will have in the future. But somehow businesses manage to create budgets every year that live within their means. MPS? Not so much.
And only in the world of MPS can you have 62% of 8th graders able to read and 40% of 8th graders able to do math, but have the superintendent say: “At the end of the day I think I have the best product in town. All I need is a level playing field.”