Passing Notes: Milwaukee Educators Are Gunning For Positions

Sep 29, 2017

Every few weeks, WUWM education reporter Rachel Morello opens up her notebook to give us the scoop about what’s happening in schools around the greater Milwaukee area. Test your knowledge of headlines big and small with her education news quiz.

Today marks the last Friday in September, and roughly the end of the first month of school. Can you believe it?

A lot has happened in the few short weeks since classes started in schools around Milwaukee.

This week’s roundup is a quick one, as the month comes to a close.

Teaching, Leading, Running

Wisconsin’s race for governor in 2018 has already been in the news for some time. Republican Gov. Scott Walker plans to run for a third term, and he’s already being challenged by many other political players…

…including one prominent, local education leader. Can you guess who that is?

Credit Eric Thayer/Getty Images

State superintendent Tony Evers announced his candidacy for governor back in August. He’s running as a Democrat – although in his post as Wisconsin’s schools chief, he’s technically non-partisan.

Evers’ campaign puts him in in a really interesting position, because in his current role he already has a statewide platform from which he can talk to people – albeit, on a very specific set of issues.

For example, Evers gave his annual “State of Education” speech this week. As he has done in the past, he advocated for more funding for public schools. But interestingly, one way he suggested making space for those funds is by fixing the way the state funds roads projects and transportation – an issue that has been a big question in front of Walker and state lawmakers of late.

That’s just one example of how Evers has already found some clever ways to do his current job but also sort of campaign at the same time. It will be interesting to watch him try to balance wearing both hats.

Cutting Costs in MPS

As the state wraps up its biennial budget process, Wisconsin’s public school districts will take final numbers into account and do their own fall “budget adjustments.”

As part of that process, at the end of last week, select Milwaukee Public Schools staff started receiving ___________.

Can you fill in the blank? Is it…

1.Bonuses

2.Extra classroom supplies

3.Transfer letters

We did some reporting in May about the preliminary MPS budget. Back then, district officials projected less money for school operations (things like individual school budgets and classroom spending)…which meant position cuts.

MPS had anticipated they’d need to eliminate about 194 positions in the 2018 budget – although they thought most would fade away through vacancies and retirements, not layoffs.

But, that was before district finance officials found they’d need to cut an additional $19 million dollars in spending – because of a loss of revenue and higher than expected pension and medical costs.

So teachers and other staff were to begin receiving transfer letters last week Friday. MPS superintendent Darienne Driver told her board they’d tried to force many of the cuts from within central administration – but that there would be some positions within schools impacted.

“Our best efforts are always to start in central office and figure out what are those things that we can cut before we have to affect schools,” Driver told a committee of the Milwaukee School Board last Thursday. “But the reality is, most of our budget sits in our schools.”

“We have truly put our resources in the schools. There is going to be that disruption anytime there is movement of staff. But we always try our best to make sure that the pain is felt here first,” she continued.

Driver said those folks working in schools would have the opportunity to move to other posts in the district.

The federal budget for education has yet to be passed -- and U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy Devos has also proposed cuts there. So, districts like MPS could be looking at an even tighter financial situation once the impacts from that budget come down.

What's Coming Up?

For students, October means homecoming, some state testing and potentially a few days off for parent-teacher conferences. For schools and districts, the bigger news is state report cards. Wisconsin's Department of Public Instruction usually releases those "grades" in the fall. 

While we eagerly await those results, let me know if anything new or interesting is happening in your area -- and submit your questions about what you'd like to know about education in southeastern Wisconsin below. 

_