Tuesday, June 28, 2011

What comes after

Governor Scott Walker has now signed Wisconsin's 2011-13 budget into law. We have spent so much energy before the signing to lobby at both the state and federal levels for continued resources for our district.  I am taking a moment now to address what comes after.

The immediate fallout from this budget for MPS will be staffing adjustments. We have been warning for months that we will not be able to take an $84 million cut in state aid without the loss of jobs.  This week, we will send out layoff notices.   Meantime, we have asked the teachers' union to discuss pension contributions of up to 5.8% in the hope that we can restore funding to our budget to, in turn, restore some of the jobs. MPS teachers have been good partners. As a result of provisions in the MTEA contract signed last fall, the district has saved in excess of $3 million a month on health care costs.   But the district's needs are growing.  I believe we can all agree that our world has changed dramatically since we negotiated contracts last fall.

State Superintendent of Schools Tony Evers is also thinking about the next steps.  He issued a statement this week that says it is time to rally around our students and our schools. In past months I have been impressed with how boldly he cried out for support of public education while the state budget debate so polarized legislators.

Evers' latest statement shows he has already turned his attention to a new battle, a fight to address the flawed state system for funding Wisconsin's schools.  His full statement is here, but here's a quote:    "One step we can take that will build a better future is to improve the fairness and transparency of our school finance system.  It is broken.  Before the next state budget in two years, we can fix our school finance system by adopting my Fair Funding for Our Future recommendations."

I also think it is worthwhile to see a 10-minute WISN-TV interview on the newly passed state budget.  It featured the Governor and State Senator Lena Taylor, and aired Monday morning, June 27. You can find it here.  Senator Taylor did a great job.   She set a tone for continued dialogue that includes a healthy dose of both skepticism and respect.  This is also a part of what comes next:  respectfully continuing the fight for resources to make things better for all kids.