In recent weeks, the cuts made to the Milwaukee Public School District's FY2012 budget have garnered a great deal of attention
Shrinking 13.5%, the new MPS budget is $182,467,850 less than FY2011. As a result of significant cuts in state aid, and the loss of one-time federal stimulus funds, MPS is preparing to eliminate about 989 full-time positions.
Because numerous positions are vacant, 989 people will not be laid-off, but outgoing president of the Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association (MTEA), Mike Langyel "estimated more than 200 teachers would be laid off if (Superintendent) Thornton's budget proposal is approved."
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
highlighted how the MPS budget proposal would eliminate 85 full time art, music, and gym teachers.
But what about all those savings from the Budget Repair Bill that were supposed to supplement the budget cuts?
When asked about whether the 5.8% contributions to pensions and 12% to healthcare outlined in Walker's bill could potentially save money and jobs, incoming MTEA president Bob Peterson sidestepped the question alleging that amending the current contract would allow the Budget Repair Bill to go into effect and "that doesn't help serve anyone."
But how much could MPS save if pension and healthcare contributions on the scale of the Walker bill were enacted?
According to MPS
, the district could save a total of $24,238,335 in pension concessions alone ($4,547,281 from staff on the City of Milwaukee Pension Plan and $19,691,054 from teachers on the state's Wisconsin Retirement System).
With average salary at $59,500 and a 69.9% categorical benefit rate in 2012, the average total compensation for MPS teachers comes to $101,090.50. With just pension savings alone, MPS could save 239 "average" full-time teaching jobs.
As for the healthcare contributions, an MPS document explains that "the 12% in benefits does not apply as this is not our health care benefit plan, it is the state’s."
Currently, the full cost of health insurance premiums are covered by the school district. In August 2011 MPS teachers will begin paying 1% for single coverage and 2% for family coverage. But hypothetically, when one attempts to roughly calculate the cost of health insurance (11% ofalmost $205 million in FY2011
), MPS could potentially save $22.5 million more if teacher's paid a full 12% of healthcare premiums.
$22.5 million in savings from healthcare contributions would save 222 additional "average" full-time teaching positions.
According to these calculations, MPS could save up to 461 teaching jobs or upwards of $46 million if the district could utilize the pension and healthcare concessions from the Budget Repair Bill.
As MPS prepares to lay off teachers, will students, teachers, parents, and taxpayers see past the anti-Walker rhetoric of "extreme cuts" and ask the tough questions of Superintendent Greg Thornton and MTEA President Bob Peterson?
Why will MPS and MTEA tolerate laying off teachers before making common sense concessions that would save MPS money and in turn save teaching jobs?
After all, is it about the students and providing a quality education, or about MTEA garnering union dues for two more years?