Art, music, physical education would get boost in MPS budget plan

MILWAUKEE – Art, music and physical education would get a boost in Milwaukee Public Schools under the Superintendent’s proposed 2012-13 budget plan.

The proposal would set new standards for the number of art, music and physical education teachers at each school.  Even the smallest schools would have a specialist teaching art, music or physical education at least one day per week.

Superintendent Gregory Thornton said the move is a step toward even further expansion of those specialty subjects in the MPS family of schools.

“A budget is more than a series of numbers. It’s a display of our priorities,” Dr. Thornton said. “And one of our highest priorities is equity: making sure that each and every one of our students is receiving a great education.”

The plan would restore specialists to some elementary schools that eliminated specialty art, music and physical education teachers amid budget constraints.

To pay for the specialists and to shield schools from some other cost shortfalls, MPS Central Services would see additional budget cuts on top of those already in place for the 2011-12 school year.

“It will be painful,” the superintendent said. “But we want to keep cuts as far away from the classroom as possible.”

Arts-focused schools would still be able to budget for additional specialty staff – and the plan does not limit the unique partnerships and other steps schools have taken to bring arts into their schools.

Studies show art and music education translate into academic benefits. And research has found that physical education can improve concentration and cut down on disruptive behavior.

Under the budget plan, the cost of special education, substitute teachers and safety aides would shift to MPS Central Services. Schools currently budget for those items individually. Student safety is critical – and schools that require safety aides will still receive them.

“These changes make better use of taxpayer dollars by increasing efficiency in Milwaukee Public Schools,” Dr. Thornton said. “Our principals can spend more time on education and less time preparing budgets.”

The ideas were first publicly discussed earlier this month before the Milwaukee Board of School Directors approved broad budget parameters for the 2012-13 school year – and a calendar for putting that budget together with public input.  (Click on the calendar link here: http://mpsportal.milwaukee.k12.wi.us/portal/server.pt/dir/reference/16331)

As the budget process moves forward, families and other community members will be asked to share their spending priorities through an online survey. That survey is expected to be announced later this month.

Spending on MPS school operations for 2012-13 is expected to be roughly in line with current year spending of roughly $944 million. But the total budget amount has not yet been finalized as administrators await exact amounts of grant funding.