Report shows significant reforms undertaken to meet MPS’ financial challenges

District has reduced long-term liability by $1.4 billion and cut nearly $400 million from short-term costs, but challenges remain

MILWAUKEE – A new report released Friday by the Public Policy Forum shows the significant reforms Milwaukee Public Schools has undertaken to meet significant fiscal challenges that faced the district in recent years.

Rising health care costs, increased legacy costs for retirees, the financial effects of declining enrollment and the district’s dependency on aid from the state and federal governments created a difficult situation facing the Board and Superintendent Gregory Thornton when he arrived in the summer of 2010.

The Board and superintendent have taken those challenges head on. Since the 2010-11 budget was passed in 2010, Milwaukee Public Schools has taken the following actions resulting in roughly $400 million in short-term savings – and a cut in long-term liability of $1.4 billion:

– Negotiated employee contracts that included a redesign of health care plans and greater employee contributions to health care costs with a projected overall savings of $150 million

– Approved significant changes to benefits once contracts expire that are expected to save $188.7 million through 2017

– Rebid transportation contracts, generating $2.2 million in savings

– Cut more than $10 million from Central Services costs to focus on classrooms

– Closed more than a dozen underperforming or under-enrolled schools

– Replicated or expanded high-performing and popular schools

As the PPF report notes, challenges remain. In spite of those challenges, Milwaukee Public Schools remains committed to educating all children in Milwaukee, regardless of income level, racial/ethnic background or special need.

Milwaukee Public Schools is Wisconsin’s largest school district, serving nearly 80,000 students in more than 160 schools across the city. U.S. News and World Report named MPS’ Rufus King International School and Ronald Wilson Reagan College Preparatory High School the two best high schools in the state and among the 200 best in the country in 2012. In the past year, Milwaukee Public Schools posted a growing graduation rate 17 points higher than the rate for 2000.