MPS board members don’t understand basic business principles


Today the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ran another story about the Milwaukee Public Schools budget for next year. I’ve pointed out recently that MPS expects a drop in enrollment of almost 5%. Yet spending is going up 1.5%. That’s a gap of 6.5% that they can’t explain.

But if you want to know why MPS is so bad at managing its money, it takes only this statement from a school board member to show you why:

Cutting the budget is not as easy as many people think, board member Terry Falk said; declining enrollment does not mean declining expenses, and steps such as closing more schools are not as simple or wise as they might seem at first.

Should we invite Terry Falk to the real word? Hello? Fewer children means fewer classrooms, fewer teachers, less busing, less security, less food… I bet I could come up with a list of 100 costs that decline each time the district has one less student.

But the fact that the school board members can’t understand this basic business concept (that certain costs fall when there is lower revenue, or in this case, fewer children) illustrates all that is wrong with MPS.

But there’s more fancy math going on. Do you realize that for some of those students who don’t attend MPS, the district still gets money from the state for them? That’s right. Students in the voucher program only take a portion of their allotted money with them to the voucher school, and the rest of the money stays in MPS even though they don’t have to educate the child.

Could the leaders of Milwaukee Public Schools be any more incompetent?

4 thoughts on “MPS board members don’t understand basic business principles

  1. You are grossly over-simplifying the impact of declining enrollment.

    A few examples:

    It costs the same to heat a building, no matter how many students are in the building. Heating costs are going up much faster than 1.5% a year.

    In a similar manner, the QEO all but demands that teacher compensation goes up by a minimum of 3.8% and less students does not directly translate to less students in a 1-1 or even 1-22 manner. It depends on where the students are in terms of both grade and school.

    Student/teacher ratios create interesting situations. Let’s use SAGE classrooms as an example. The state program provides $2,000 per low income student enrolled in a SAFE contract school with 15/1 teacher ratios. In an ideal world, the students at every SAGE eligible grade level would be distributed in such a way that there were exactly 15 students per teacher. Say a school has two second grade SAGE classes, each with 14 students. If you “lose” 13 students, you can get rid of a teacher and keep SAGE funding. But if you lose 6 students (a 21% loss), what do you do? Drop SAGE, lose SAGE money and have one class of 22? Keep SAGE and have two classes of 11 and no savings in teacher related expenses? What if you lose one or two students, what savings can you realize?

    There are 10,000 other examples that show that although money is collected (mostly) on a per pupil basis, spending does not follow a simple cost per pupil pattern.

    Your over-simplifications fan the flames of ignorance. I would expect better from someone of your training.

  2. Tracy Coenen

    You should expect the truth, which is what I offer here. Yes, there are some costs that do not go down when enrollment declines. But the vast majority do. Fewer students means fewer employees, less classroom space, and fewer supplies.

    The fact is that our schools have been completely OVERfunded for years and years. When will they cut back? MPS teachers are grossly overpaid and given far too lavish benefits. Quite simply, those things need to be cut.

    This blog is not for liberal propaganda… screaming that our children could learn if we just steal more from the taxpayers. MPS has been stealing and wasting for decades. It’s time to put a stop to this nonsense.

  3. My apologies for trying to engage you a discussion of decision making in school budget cuts.

    I didn’t realize you viewed taxation for public education as “stealing,” nor that you harbored such hostility to teachers that it blinds you to the context of salary and benefit negotiations under the QEO.

    I won’t be bothering you any more.

  4. Tracy Coenen

    The concept of taxation for public education isn’t stealing per se (although I suggest it might be wise to make the parents of children fund their schooling).

    What I do think is stealing is the amount of money that MPS absolutely wastes with nothing to show for it. We have one of the worst school districts in the nation, while our teachers are some of the highest paid. Teachers should be paid on their merit, and overall, the MPS teachers don’t merit much.

    I don’t harbor hostility toward teachers. I harbor hostility toward the overpayment of poor teachers who don’t teach the children.

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