The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Govt. calls for MPS reforms

  • Milwaukee Public Schools may adopt year-round schedule.
  • Discussed by Superintendent but not officially proposed.
  • Any further changes or discussion go through the school board.

By Tony DiZinno

[email protected]

By Tony DiZinno

[email protected]

Milwaukee Public Schools may be in line for sweeping reforms, after a 104-page report released April 9 indicated more than $100 million in wasteful spending.

The MPS review, jointly issued by Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Gov. Jim Doyle, focused more on the financial aspects of MPS's current situation than on the educational ones.

"MPS is facing tremendous

academic and financial challenges, but we also have historic opportunities to work together to reform and improve academic achievement in the state's largest school district," Doyle said in a press release.

Barrett said within the same release that improving the financial structure of MPS goes a long way toward the necessary educational reforms.

"Our paramount concern is improving the academic achievement in MPS," Barrett said. "We need to get MPS' fiscal house in order to free up resources to help improve academic outcomes."

Jodie Tabak, a spokeswoman for the mayor's office, said the report was the best indication of what precisely needs to happen for MPS to improve its situation.

"It is the most up-to-date information," Tabak said. "Everything listed in the report needs to be addressed."

Tabak also said the report was designed to be a wake-up call for MPS, which she said faces a serious long-term financial problem if not addressed.

Carla Vigue, a spokeswoman from the governor's office, said the governor issued the report to help further the progress of the state's largest school district.

"The community really needs to discuss this issue now," Vigue said. "I hope that Milwaukee

becomes a real leader in heading this challenge."

The report indicated that a combination of escalating expenses ($110 to $160 million estimated for the next five years) coupled with enrollment declines (roughly 2 percent annually) could lead to a financial shortfall of $200 million.

It said MPS's budget in the 2008 fiscal year was $1.2 billion, equating to roughly $13,400 spent per student each year. About one-third of that, $405 million, was estimated in the scope of the review.

While nearly $400 million was spent on non-instructional services (food service, maintenance, administration), only $51.8

million was spent on general supplies and textbooks.

About $21.9 million was spent annually on office, janitorial and IT supplies, and office and school room furniture. The most expensive office supply was a pencil sharpener that cost more than $100.

The report recommended MPS organize contracts with vendors as opposed to buying products individually, and compare prices before purchasing right away, saying it could save between $58 and $103 million.

There are five major agendas of the MPS Innovation and Improvement Initiative, the title of the report, as spearheaded by Barrett and Doyle.

The two recommended to leverage and secure federal funds, increase fiscal accountability and transparency of the MPS administration, correct the state funding flaw for the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program and design a specific plan to put into action to accomplish the necessary changes.

MPS has no say over future actions with regards to this report, according to Roseann St. Aubin, a spokeswoman for MPS. Future reforms she said, are done by the MPS School Board.

"The board will be the final decision makers, not the superintendent," St. Aubin said.

School Board President Peter Blewett was unavailable for comment. St. Aubin said Blewett is likely to make some tough decisions regarding how the board will provide the necessary budget cuts.

"We can't verify information within the report, because it was not our report," St. Aubin said. "It is a complicated process of determining how the changes will go through the board."

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