Teachers, supporters picket amid looming MPS deficit: ‘Millions of dollars can be re-appropriated’

MILWAUKEE -- Teachers and community members took to the picket line Tuesday, April 24 ahead of a Milwaukee Public Schools' board meeting -- in an effort to bring attention to planned cuts amid a more than $30 million budget deficit.

Hundreds took part in the demonstration -- with teachers unhappy with some of the proposals to close the budget gap. The demonstration extended for several blocks on Tuesday evening, as teachers, union members and their supporters gathered to demand that cuts don't impact the classroom. It started on the sidewalk, but spilled into the street.

Vliet Street was shut down for three blocks to make room for the educators fearful of the looming cuts.

"These supporters are here to say we're not here to back down on our demands for our students," said Amy Mizialko, META VP.

MPS is facing a more than $30 million budget deficit amid a perfect storm of challenges that include falling enrollment, rising costs and increased health care and pension costs.

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Some of the ideas floated by the district already have included increases in health care costs and slashing transportation.

Union leaders say they're not on board.

"There are items, there are lines in this budget, there are contract lines -- there are consultants that this board of education regularly flies in from out-of-state. There are millions of dollars that can be re-appropriated to handle the deficit in the short term that do not harm students and do not harm educators," said Mizialko.

"It's really a shame they are cutting public education. They should be trying to grow it more to it than take away from it," said Margarita Drumgoole, parent.

"Something needs to be done. Something needs to be done about why we keep losing students," a teacher said.

During the board meeting Tuesday night, nothing budget-related will be decided. It's expected we'll learn more about the district's plans to close the deficit when the formal budget is released on Friday. There will be a chance to review it and make amendments with the hope of passing it in May.