Op Ed

All Children Deserve Great Schools

We seek fair funding of MPS. And ask the media not to sensationalize the issue.

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Student. Photo from MPS.

Student.

Shorewood, Mequon, Wauwatosa, Elmbrook, River Hills, Fox Point, Glendale.

Take your pick of suburban Milwaukee communities: students in public schools have access to full-time art, music and phy-ed teachers, librarians, nurses, social workers, counselors and support staff to maximize their opportunity to succeed.

And every one of those students deserves the opportunity that a great public school education can provide.

And so do our kids who attend public schools in the City of Milwaukee.

We are the very proud parents of MPS students at Academia de Lenguaje Y Bellas Artes (ALBA), Burbank Elementary, Craig Montessori, and Zablocki Community schools. These schools are great communities with wonderful staff and parents who are committed to the success of our kids.

Yet each of our schools lacks many of the fundamental resources needed to give our kids the opportunities they need and deserve.

At ALBA, there is only enough funding to provide our kids with physical education every other week. Craig hasn’t had a full-time music teacher for five years. Zablocki doesn’t have a librarian and only has a nurse in the morning.

At ALBA and Burbank it is common to have classes with 32-35 students, and in many cases there is no paraprofessional to assist teachers to adequately serve every student in overcrowded classrooms.

These are only a few examples of the lack of resources and services in each of these schools, and these issues impact each of the 75,000 students in every MPS school.

The reason our schools face such inequities is not a secret: MPS students face a severe per pupil funding gap compared to their suburban neighbors.

According to a community taskforce assembled by MPS to examine the needs of our students, MPS would need to raise the Base Revenue Limit between $1,500 and $5,000 per-student, per year, to meet the funding levels of Shorewood, Fox Point, Nicolet and other surrounding districts. That would mean a total annual increase between $113 and $400 million to the MPS budget.

That taskforce recently heard from a financial adviser on some potential costs of a referendum to provide our students with more resources. Those numbers ranged from about $80 million to $640 million.

The next day, the Journal Sentinel ran a story that sought to sensationalize the higher end of these numbers while barely mentioning the smaller options of $83-186 million that are much more likely to earn the support of voters.

We are working class parents and property taxpayers. While we want to close the enormous opportunity gap that exists between MPS students and their neighbors, we know we can’t close that gap in its entirety without fixing the broken state funding formula Madison politicians have failed to address. But our community has a chance right now to close many of those gaps at a cost that is reasonable to taxpayers and essential to our students.

That’s why we are asking the taskforce, MPS Administration and the Milwaukee Board of School Directors to listen to the public about what services we need and what price tag we’ll tolerate, and then place a referendum on the April 7 ballot that will transform our schools by reducing class sizes and providing our kids with significantly more access to the well-rounded education they deserve.

By Carrie Bickerstaff, MPS Parent, Zablocki Community School, Jerilyn McLaurin, MPS Parent, Burbank Elementary & MacDowell Montessori, Cristina Del Razo Salazar, MPS Parent, ALBA Elementary, Danae Toombs, MPS Parent, Craig Montessori

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Categories: Education, Politics

3 thoughts on “Op Ed: All Children Deserve Great Schools”

  1. sbaldwin001 says:

    I would love to see more resources go to MPS students, but it is hard to trust a district that has financial sustainability problems, a teacher compensation package in the state’s top 10%, a recently enacted salary increase schedule and is now asking residents of one of America’s poorest cities for more money.

  2. mkwagner says:

    sbaldwin001, your comment demonstrates that you fail to understand the problems facing MPS. Why does MPS have financial stability issues? It is not because teachers are over paid, because they are not. It is because of the ways public education is funded in this state. MPS saw substantial funding cuts during the Walker administration. On top of that, the funding for Choice Schools is taken from MPS. Public education that relies predominantly on property tax revenue inherently discriminates against urban and rural school districts. School funding is still caught the vestiges of racialized zoning and segregated housing policies. Our schools are as segregated today as they were at any time in the past. So too, the pathetic attempts at integration, the onus fell predominantly on communities with the fewest resources. Until we accept that all children deserve an education that maximizes their potential regardless of where they live, we will continue to see urban AND rural school children lose out. What’s more, this will only hamper our ability to compete in the global market.

  3. sbaldwin001 says:

    mkwagner, So you are saying that MPS has been a model of financial responsibility? I am not certain everyone would agree. Even school board members are worrying out loud about the approaching iceberg. I take your points about inherent discrimination of urban and rural districts, and I share your concerns about segregation. I wish charter and voucher schools were not necessary, but data is showing they are needed to spur improvement in the public system. My overall point is that I think Milwaukee residents would support assistance for MPS students but not for a bailout of the district.

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