By Kim Schroeder
On May 23, 2017 progressive MPS School Board Directors proposed a modest budget amendment proposal that would have raised MPS’s lowest wage workers to $15/hour by 2022 and included raises for all MPS employees making less than $80,000 a year. The proposal recognized the hard work educators do every day, directly affecting our students. The original budget put forward by MPS administration included no raise or step increases (not even the cost of living), instead saying there needed to be a “pause” on any salary increases.
We thank Larry Miller for introducing the proposal and Tony Baez, Terry Falk, and Annie Woodward for their unwavering support for our districts lowest paid workers and front line educators. All four fought hard in the attempt to pass this modest budget amendment.
Budgets are about choices. Our school board directors had the opportunity to choose our classrooms and our students. We know that the MPS budget is stretched thin, but we also know that investing in the frontline of care for our students strengthens our schools.
On May 23, school board directors Michael Bonds, Wendell Harris, Paula Phillips, Mark Sain, and Carol Voss voted not to support the amendment and instead revisit the budget during a work session in October. October is too late. . Educators across MPS are now faced with deciding whether they can afford to stay in the district.
Milwaukee Public Schools is the largest employer in the city of Milwaukee. School Board Directors who campaigned as progressives in support of a $15 minimum wage need to stay true to their promise to educators. The Milwaukee County Board had the courage to pass a living wage ordinance for all county employees to be paid a minimum of $15 per hour by 2021. But, thousands of Milwaukee Public School educators are left behind, unable to meet their basic needs.
School Board Director Wendell Harris has continued to let us down. Although he said he supported raises for MPS employees, he flip-flopped on his position, stabbing MPS educators and students in the back. He ran for office as a champion of public schools and our students. His actions show he is anything but.
Investing in the frontline of our classrooms should be a priority. Together MTEA’s members will join with our colleagues across MPS to continue push for steps and raises.
Please reach out the school board directors who voted against the amendment. (Bonds, Harris, Phillips, Sain, and Voss). Let them know that you are outraged at, their unwillingness to prioritize attracting and retaining great educators. They need to put forward a bold budget initiative that invests in the districts most valuable resource–educators. And they need to do it now.
We need a budget that funds the frontline of our classrooms – not one that puts our educators as an afterthought.
Wendell J. Harris, Sr