Current State Spending for Milwaukee Unsustainable without Changes
Photo courtesy of Northwestern Mutual
I wrote the following column for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which was published on July 10:
Recent complaints from Milwaukee leaders about their lack of state funding are misguided and lack perspective. One Milwaukee alderman claimed that Milwaukee gets mere "peanuts" in funding. Another Milwaukee leader told state legislators to "leave us alone." They can't have it both ways.
In 2015, state taxpayers invested over $1 billion in Milwaukee. That amount does not include medical assistance benefits or transportation dollars. If Milwaukee was a single government program, it would be the third largest expenditure in the state, behind K-12 education and medical assistance. If you include MA and transportation, that billion-dollar amount skyrockets.
Aside from the constant complaints, what do we get for our billion-dollar investment? It seems like more costs to state taxpayers.
The $600 million that the state gives Milwaukee Public Schools has given us a school district in which 75% of elementary schools fail to meet expectations, 86% of students aren't proficient in reading and 93% of students aren't proficient at math. Two schools had nobody proficient in math. This is unacceptable.
MPS has performed so badly for so long that almost 20 years ago, Gov. Tommy Thompson proposed the state take it over. The plan didn't pass, but MPS promised improvement. In 2009, Gov. Jim Doyle and Mayor Tom Barrett said that MPS performance was unacceptable, and proposed a mayoral takeover. Again, despite promises, there was little to no improvement. And this year, when a plan to remove the worst performing schools from MPS passed, people cried about a takeover, and we have been promised improvement, again.
The answer is not, and cannot be, more money. That isn't fair to state taxpayers who have spent $12.5 billion on broken MPS promises...