Leaders with the union for Milwaukee Public Schools teachers are drawing a line in the sand over proposed MPS budget cuts, a line that one education analyst says is an implication of a future strike or other work action.
Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association Vice President Amy Mizialko shared the video below asking members of her union to sign a pledge to be shared in coming days, one that guarantees "their commitment to act this May."
"We are asking every educator in every Milwaukee public school to search your conscience and consider how far each of you is willing to go to guarantee a just budget for students and educators," Mizialko said in the video, which you can see below. It comes one day before a public hearing on the budget Thursday night at 5:30 at MPS Central Services on the 5200 block of West Vliet Street.
"Our students cannot sustain one more loss...your signatures are your commitment to take bold action."
When asked on whether there could possibly be a strike or work action at MPS, Marquette Law School Senior Fellow in Law and Public Policy Alan Borsuk gave WTMJ's John Mercure a clear "yes."
"It doesn't specifically say strike and job action, but it's certainly the implication. This is definitely an escalation of the tension in an already-very tense and difficult situation."
The budget MPS is proposing involves not just a five percent overall budget, but a central office budget cut of 15 percent and what equates to about 80 lost jobs for next year.
Mizialko outlined other issues her unions sees in that budget.
"Substitute teachers must be respected with health care benefits," she explains. "Teachers and educational assistants must be given the time that they need to meet students' needs. We know attacks are coming. It will be no surprise to you that (Milwaukee Public Schools Board) Director Michael Bonds wants to take away dollars set aside for modest cost-of-living raises for public education workers, and the chief financial officer has a health insurance presentation that clearly puts our health care in question yet again."
Borsuk also sees the challenges teachers have had with class sizes and potential loss of supply funding.
"They certainly don't help," Borsuk told John.
"The union has been worrying about larger class sizes. That makes sense. Fewer teachers, same number of kids, larger class sizes overall. Fewer adults in the buildings in some cases, fewer aides, jst in general. They have a serious cut in office supplies, classroom supplies in the budget. You say, 'Man, I need 300 sheets of paper. Am I going to be able to get them?' "
When asked if it would be proper to halt the proposed two percent raise for teachers in the budget, Borsuk said the board is committed to still offering that raise.
"It's certainly a good question. They've got big financial problems. You do have to keep it in the context of needing to retain teachers in the district versus having them go elsewhere. You also have to consider the services to kids, classes getting bigger, whatever, and say people have a lot of options these days. They don't have to go to MPS if they live in the city."
"For our young people across the city, they obviously need every single opportunity they can to learn and to grow. Teachers going on strike obviously impacts that," Alderman Cavalier Johnson later told John on Wisconsin's Afternoon News.
"At the same time, we've got to make sure we're doing all that we can to maintain quality instruction in our classrooms."
WTMJ has reached out to both MPS and the MTEA for comment on this story.
Read Mizialko's comments in full below:
"Good evening everyone. My name is Amy Mizialko. I am MTEA Vice President. As you know, outgoing (MPS) Superintendent Darienne Driver released her proposed budget last Friday. The proposed budget has several problems and it is insufficent for students and educators."
"This budget still has five percent cuts for each of our schools and they must be removed. Our students cannot sustain one more loss."
"Substitute teachers must be respected with health care benefits. Teachers and educational assistants must be given the time that they need to meet students' needs. We know attacks are coming. It will be no surprise to you that (Milwaukee Public Schools Board) Director Michael Bonds wants to take away dollars set aside for modest cost-of-living raises for public education workers, and the chief financial officer has a health insurance presentation that clearly puts our health care in question yet again.
"(On Wednesday night,) the MTEA executive board voted to authorize the MTEA President to set a deadline for the school board to produce a fair and just budget this May."
"We are asking every educator in every Milwaukee public school to search your conscience and consider how far each of you is willing to go to guarantee a just budget for students and educators. We are asking every educator to sign and pledge their commitment to act this May. Your signatures are your commitment to take bold action. Pledges will be in schools this week. Work with your regular MTEA contact to get the pledge, so you can move it in your building.
"We live in Act 10 Wisconsin where the deck has been stacked against our students, against educators and against our community. But MTEA/MPS family, I believe, in the educators of this district. I believe in the students and families of this city. And I believe that we're willing to do what it takes to get what students and educators deserve. Thank you."