MILWAUKEE – The average Milwaukee Public Schools teacher was absent from the classroom over 9 percent of the time during the 2010-11 school year. The district’s 5,241 teachers took a whopping 92,691 days off last year – in the form of sick days, personal leave, “convention” leave and “incentive” leave – which resulted in a $11.9 million expense for substitute teachers.
That’s just one of numerous findings from EAGnews.org‘s new analysis of the 2010-2011 teachers’ contract agreement between the district and its teachers union, the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association.
Using figures obtained directly from the district through Freedom of Information requests, EAGnews.org discovered the teacher union’s contract contains many hidden costs, which have directly contributed to MPS’ severe budget woes.
The numbers are shocking.
“Step” raises – given for a teacher’s years of service, not effectiveness – cost taxpayers $5.5 million last school year. “Lump sum raises” cost another $10.4 million.
MTEA members did not contribute anything to their health insurance plans or their retirement pensions, resulting in bills to taxpayers of $128 million and $56 million respectively.
While Gov. Scott Walker’s budget reforms now require school employees to pay a portion of both of these items, MPS extended its contract with teachers’ union members prior to the reforms passing. And that haste is generating millions in waste.
MPS spent nearly $2 million to compensate teachers for monitoring the lunch room in elementary schools.
Milwaukee schools also provide for teachers who want to retire early – at age 62 – but don’t yet qualify for their full pension, which begins at age 65. MTEA’s contract requires taxpayers to pay the difference of the pension teachers will receive at 65 and the one they receive a lower rate for retiring early. Milwaukee taxpayers spent $15.6 million on that perk last year.
The district also paid out $709,306 for unused sick days.
The full EAGnews.org report contains more examples of ridiculous spending, including payouts to teachers who monitor bus loading or fill-in for absent colleagues.
After reading the full report, taxpayers will conclude that excessive union labor costs are a major reason why Milwaukee Public Schools officials have been forced to lay off hundreds of teachers, increase class sizes, and reduce academic offerings for students.
Like too many other school districts, Milwaukee recklessly spends taxpayers’ money to make school employee unions happy and maintain “labor peace.” It’s no wonder Milwaukee Public Schools are facing a financial crisis. The district’s focus is on pleasing the adults, when it should be on educating students.
MTEA’s current contract runs through the 2012-2013 school year.