MPS announces no teacher layoffs due to health cost savings

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MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee Public Schools officials have announced no teacher layoffs in advance of the 2012-2013 school year, due to better-than-expected health cost savings from employee contracts negotiated back in 2010.

MPS says the health cost savings combined with expected retirements will avoid layoffs.

With non-teaching staff included, the district laid off a total of four employees as of July 1st, 2012.

The news of no teacher layoffs comes after two years of significant staff layoffs, including 482 teacher layoffs in June/July 2010 and 354 teacher layoffs in June/July 2011.

Health care savings – including selecting a new third-party health plan administrator, negotiating better pricing and employee premium contributions all without sacrificing the quality of the benefit package – allowed the district to restore 88 teaching positions that were initially proposed to be cut in the 2012-13 budget.

"We are able to negotiate structural changes in our benefit package. We`re able to see the dividends in which it actually has produced for us and we're able to position ourselves economically for sustainability into the future," MPS Superintendent Gregory Thornton said.

The budget’s initial projection of 233 position reductions was brought down to 146. As of July 2, 223 of the district’s roughly 5,000 teachers retired in 2012.

Thornton said $1 million worth of cuts were made at MPS' central office.

"(This) provided infrastructure necessary to provide young people to be successful in the classroom," Thornton said.

While no teachers are being laid off, there will be fewer teaching positions due to the pressures of higher costs, largely flat revenues and a projected 1% decline in enrollment.

A larger wave of retirements is expected by the end of the 2012-13 school year as the aging baby boom generation continues to leave the workforce. MPS officials say 700 to 900 retirements are expected next year. That transition is expected to create a significant need to hire teachers in Milwaukee Public Schools.

The Milwaukee Teacher's Education Association did not return calls for comment on this story Wednesday evening.

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