No one is really solving the money problems at Milwaukee Public Schools, but finally the school board is at least talking sense about some of the costs. Last night the school board made it clear that if MPS teachers want the district to restore teaching positions (particularly in elective-type areas like art and music), they would have to help the district cut costs.

The teachers in MPS are overpaid, thanks to the hard work of their union. The problem with MPS is not “lack of funding” which is often cited. It’s the employee costs. In March it was reported that the average MPS teacher salary is $56,500, with an average benefits package of $43,505,  for total average compensation of $100,005 per teacher. That’s simply more than the job is worth, and more than the district can afford. While employees everywhere are taking cuts in pay and benefits, the teachers of MPS keep being given more and more.

If MPS wants to survive, the administration needs to come into reality. Spending needs to be brought in line with the resources, just like every family and private business is forced to do.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is reporting that last night the MPS school board offered the teachers a chance to have layoffs scaled back if they did a few things:

The district will still overspend by a mile, but this is a start. MPS is still going to spend more than $16,000 per student next school year…. yet they still can’t produce students who can read and do math.

I don’t think taxpayers have any idea what wasteful spending MPS does. One reader of this blog broke it down in the comments of another article on this site. I’m going to refine those numbers a little. MPS is going to have 80,228 students next year. Assuming 30 students per classroom, that gives us 2,674 classrooms. With the MPS budget of over $1.3 billion, that’s spends over $490,000 per classroom. How could $490,000 be spent? Keeping teacher compensation at the current outrageous $100,000, that leaves $390,000 to spend on all the other needs for the students:

  • Books – $10,000 per classroom
  • Breakfast and lunch for all children – $50,000 (and that would spend $9.25 per child per day, which is far more than necessary)
  • Computer for each child – $30,000
  • School supplies for each child and classroom needs – $15,000 (way more than necessary, but work with me on this)
  • Renting a classroom with utilities and internet – $60,000 (way more than necessary again, but I’m just playing it safe)
  • Transportation? Nope. This is an urban area. Classrooms will be in walking distance for everyone! No more buses. Wheeee!

This still leaves $225,000 unspent. This is an astronomical amount, and all needs have been filled for all children in this classroom. Let’s think about other expenses:

  • We need some administration to take care of paperwork. One person at $100,000 (includes salary and benefits) should be able to oversee at least 5 classrooms, don’t you think? That’s $20,000 per classroom on the administrator.
  • Maybe we need secretarial help as well. Let’s say one person at $50,000 (includes salary and benefits) for every 5 classrooms. That’s $10,000 per classroom.
  • How about a library and some musical instruments? Let’s say that for every 5 classrooms, we need to spend $100,000 per year for those needs.  That’s $20,000 per classroom.
  • Of course we need equipment for some physical education too. How about $50,000 per year for 5 classrooms. That should buy quite a bit of equipment, don’t you think? That’s $10,000 per classroom.
  • The kids also need some fully funded field trips. How about if we give each classroom $20,000 to spend on field trips each year? That ought to buy some very nice outings

This is an additional $80,000 per classroom spent on all the extras, leaving us with $145,000 unspent per classroom. There will be “special needs” children in the district who need additional care, supervision, and resources. But guess what? I’ve got $145,000 left over per classroom, and 2,733 classrooms…. which means almost $388 million district-wide is our surplus even after using the outrageously high spending estimates above. I’ve factored in plenty of spending that isn’t necessary and is likely well beyond what would be needed for each classroom.

This simple exercise makes it painfully clear how bad MPS is wasting taxpayer money. It’s time to force the administrators to get their heads out of their asses and start doing right by the taxpayers and the students. Quit wasting our money on a system that doesn’t educate children. MPS is broken. Time to fix it.


  1. Purpleslog 05/18/2010 at 4:47 pm - Reply

    You much improved the spending problem over what I did!

    This needs to be pointed whenever the call goes for more money/revenue/taxes for MPS.

    The school board and administration need to expand their thinking.

    The type of education system described above would be cheaper for taxpayers and materially for the students.

  2. […] (a Forensic Accountant) cleaned it up and improved upon the point I was trying to make with the post: I don’t think taxpayers have any idea what wasteful spending MPS does. One reader of this blog […]

  3. […] average teacher in MPS is receiving a compensation package of $105,000 per year as detailed here, while students remain unable to read and do basic math. (And it’s not because Milwaukee is […]

  4. Dan 02/18/2011 at 4:37 pm - Reply

    “More than the job is worth,” you say? How are you calculating that? I know HVAC contractors who make more than 100,000 a year, and I certainly think the work our teachers do is at least as important as keeping my house at a balmy 68 year-round.

    Public school teachers don’t just make sure our kids master the 3 R’s (though that’s hard enough as it is) – they’re on the front lines of making sure this country lives up to its promise of being a place where everyone has a shot. America didn’t become the land of opportunity just because of capitalism – it’s because of the blend of capitalism and excellent public education. We’ve lost that second part in the past 30 years, and the only way we’ll get it back is ensuring our most talented leaders see education as a viable field.

    Unions aren’t the root of the problem here – tenure and “last in / first out” are. We don’t need to attack the compensation of those who are doing great things for our kids – we need to be able to remove those who aren’t.

  5. Tracy Coenen 02/18/2011 at 5:15 pm - Reply

    Dan – I am basing my opinion of what the job is worth on a comparison to other professional jobs.

    Unions directly support the two problems you note, tenure and last in first out.

  6. gsh 02/19/2011 at 10:56 am - Reply

    What no one is talking about is that we have also had a generation of teachers who have retired early, and still gotten the juicy teacher’s retirement benefits. Then they go back to work at the same job, making the same pay, and work for a few years to qualify for Social Security. But they call people who don’t want their taxes hiked “greedy”.

  7. […] go in MPS? I have no idea. The average classroom in MPS accounts for about $500,000 of spending. Check out how I think this money could be spent (starts about halfway down the article). I gave each classroom all kinds of resources and […]

  8. […] you’re interested in how wasteful Milwaukee Public Schools is with taxpayer money, take a look at this article I wrote. The district spends an average of $490,000 per classroom per school year. See what $490,000 could […]

Leave a Reply