MPS budget plan would cut over 400 positions, close eight schools

MILWAUKEE -- More massive cuts are expected from Milwaukee Public Schools. The district released a budget plan on Thursday, April 26th that would eliminate 400 positions and close eight schools.

The district held a school board meeting Thursday night, but the proposed budget was not on the agenda.

The district plans to slash more than 190 teachers and nearly 130 support staff in the 2012-2013 budget. MPS Superintendent Gregory Thornton says some of the positions will be reached through retirements and currently unfilled positions, but layoffs will not be avoided.

"There will be pink slips. I think they will be mitigated by one's recognizance. This time of the year, folks begin to think about their futures. (The layoffs) are not as bad as last year in terms of the number of people, but they are going to have a negative impact on the children of Milwaukee," Thornton said.

The Milwaukee Public School District says expected higher costs and fewer students are forcing them to trim their payroll. However, the district says they do plan to give specialty schools a boost and offer arts and physical education at least one day per week.

Thornton says making these cuts isn't easy. "The one that pains me the most is that I am going to be 190 classroom teachers down next year.  That's important because I believe the classroom is the most important place and we have to support that in very, very high levels and that has a direct impact on class size," Thornton said.

Milwaukee Teacher's Education Association President Bob Peterson says it will be tough but is not pointing a finger at the district. " It's disappointing that the Governor has cut essentially $90 million from what should have been given to the Milwaukee County schools and that's the largest reason we are in this dire situation," Peterson said.

The teacher's union had an option to lessen the blow - a plan to give up one week's pay next year that could have saved jobs was voted down.  "There was a vote. 42 percent said 'yes,' but 58 percent said 'no.' We're a democratic organization, and we didn't make that decision," Peterson said.

Teachers say they've given up enough, but if the budget sticks, some will be losing their jobs.

Public listening sessions on the budget are scheduled for May 8th, May 10th and May 17th.