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Milwaukee teachers intensify struggle over budget cuts

Commentary by Isabella Beaupré |
April 14, 2018
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Milwaukee, WI - The Milwaukee Teachers Education Association (MTEA) has been fighting budget cuts and downgrades to public schools for years. Governor Scott Walker has been ruthlessly destroying the school system inch by inch and dollar by dollar. It is no exaggeration to say that every student, teacher, classroom and school connected to the Milwaukee Public School system (MPS) has been negatively affected. With hundreds of dedicated members spanning every school in the district, the MTEA has proven itself to be a committed and powerful force for justice within MPS. A force, it should be added, that is more necessary than ever as the school board releases a proposal for the upcoming fiscal period. The cuts are enormous and heartbreaking.

The proposal includes: a 5% overall cut to every single school (on top of additional cuts to student services); $17 million in cuts to worker health insurance and other benefits (which will translate to premium increases, copay increases and the carving out of spouses who were previously covered); the threat to entertain proposals from privatizers and more.

As of now, the MPS board has refused to consider the any of the following demands from their workers: the opportunity for educational assistants and educational support professionals to work more hours (something these workers have listed as something they must have in order to better serve their students’ needs); a pay increase to keep up with inflation and the increased cost of living in Milwaukee; and, most importantly, health insurance options for full-time substitute teachers. Substitutes are not currently offered any benefits at all. Teachers across the district have also requested to limit the excessive staff meetings in favor of more time to meet with students and parents and prepare for class-time activities. This has also been denied by the board.

The MTEA has been meeting regularly to discuss strategies for fighting these outrageous cuts. As teachers’ unions across the country strike for better wages, new classroom materials and expanded benefits, it would be a victory to see MPS teachers join the movement. Milwaukee students deserve more than their spineless books held together with duct tape and binder clips. Milwaukee teachers deserve to spend their paychecks on themselves, not on pencils and paper for their classrooms. “Milwaukee Public Schools deserves a budget that honors the classroom,” not one that spits in the faces of every student and education worker.

Keep your eyes on Milwaukee! Stand with MPS students and workers!