Budget for MHSA
We have recently received information that indicates positive budget news for all MPS specialty schools. We'd like to thank everyone for the overwhelming support. Stay tuned for future developments.
I’m writing today to express profound concern for how the budget for the 2012- 2013 impacts the program at Milwaukee High School of the Arts. I also have concerns about budgeting overall. Our MHSA SGC members believe that the combination of budgetary cuts and lack of information will produce a budget that will radically change the program at MHSA for the 2012-2013 school year. The MHSA SGC also believes that MPS needs to re-think its dependence on funding schools based on a pure per-pupil allocation without consideration to the program that the school is attempting to implement.
MPS’s budget is roughly $1.2 billion a year to educate roughly 85,000 students or about $13,000/per pupil. About $685 million is allocated to staffing schools for FY 2013. Of that, less than $300 million – only a quarter of the total funding – will be allocated to schools to provide core subject teachers, adminstrators, and secretaries for 65,000 students. That is cause for alarm.
Here is what the members on MHSA’s School Governance Council (SGC) understands from the budget materials received on Jan 26 --
- The FY12-13 budgets indicate that many positions will be re-centralized ( safety, special ed, guidance, art, music, etc.), so board allocations to the schools are reduced. While the district asserts that this will not reduce teacher allocation for school in fact it does just that. According to information posted on the portal, MHSA would stand to lose 7 teachers for 2012-2013. As we are already planning to take in between 50 and 120 additional students, any cuts in teaching staff would be disastrous.
- Schools that have maintained specialty staff by overloading regular classrooms are penalized in the proposed allocation of centrally funded arts/music/phys ed/safety positions. This also penalizes schools that did not require as many safety aides as the average school.
- Allocation of high school guidance is all over the map. MHSA is allocated one for the entire high school of 921+ students, some had one for every 416 students, and the average was 505 students per counselor. We have heard that this was an error, but documents posted to the MPS portal as of Feb. 1 still show this to be the case.
- The issue of actual per pupil funding is problematic. This year (2011-2012), MHSA was allocated to take 881 students, but overenrolled to 921 in order to retain staff and avoid cuts. At this point in the year, the promised funding for those students has been pulled from the MHSA budget.
- PLAN loan and deficit repayment are evidence of fiscal mismanagement at the district level.
According to documents on the MPS Portal, the PLAN (Project Loan Acquistion Network) ‘loan’ payback charged to MHSA for 2012 - 2013 is $69,220, or roughly the loss of one staff position. Our understanding is that PLAN was funded by schools that didn’t use their board allocation. Some of these schools no longer even exist. We have been told in the past by Central Office that PLAN has been disbanded, yet we still ‘owe’ $600,000 for money used to support MHSA’s program during the 2000’s.
Our principal was told that MHSA's current year budget is being cut by 8%, but the cut will not post to school's budget until June, thereby upping the school's “deficit” by approximately $400,000. No reason for this was given to the MHSA principal. The FY 2011-12 budget adopted by MHSA was balanced at the start of the school year. A document posted on the MPS portal claims that the MHSA FY2011 deficit is $359,000. The only plausible explanation of our current “deficit” is a retraction without notice of additional funds allocated to the school by having more students than originally budgeted at the start of the 2011-2012 school year.
Most troubling is the MPS communication failures when principals and parents ask questions when confronted with confusing documents. It is not clear to whom one can address his/her concerns.
It is no secret that running an urban public school district is a challenge in today’s world, and there are good arguments for better funding formulas from the State of Wisconsin, improved efficiencies in MPS, and rationalization of costs where possible - but the challenge is made even more difficult with budget proposals and directives seem to unfairly target successful schools. Such is the case with MHSA.
Please add your voice to ours in asking the Superintendent and MPS Administration to clarify their budget directions and improve their process, so we have an accurate picture of the challenge ahead for MHSA.