South Milwaukee school board proposes cutting music, at-risk teaching positions

Unless the South Milwaukee school district realizes $600,000 in “Reductions in Salary in Benefits,” (which is code for the district’s employees taking pay and benefit cuts) the School Board has proposed drastic cuts to balance the district’s budget, including cutting one full time orchestra position, resulting in the elimination of the fifth grade orchestra, while also reducing music lessons for students in grades 6-12. In addition, the school board is recommending raising student fees by 5 dollars and athletic fees by 25 dollars, and the increase to athletic fees will raise the per sport fee to $100 and raise the family caps to $275 for 1 student, $450 for 2 students, and $625 for 3 or more students.

In moving to eliminate the fifth grade orchestra entirely, the school board noted district administration is working with the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music and the South Milwaukee recreation department to create opportunities for students to be involved with orchestra outside of the school day, resulting in an additional cost to the students/families and not the district, because after all, parents will have plenty of extra money to spend on private music lessons for their child after they’ve paid their increased student and athletic fees!

However, perhaps the most galling of all the cuts (as if cutting opportunities for music education wasn’t galling enough), the school board is considering cutting at at-risk teaching position for students who are most at-risk of dropping out of school. In making the recommendation, district administration notes (emphasis mine), “recommendation will focus the at-risk staff to 9th and 10th grade students, increase the class size in the at-risk classes and reduce the number of sections available for the three areas from 24 to 12, thereby reducing the number of opportunities for at-risk students. This may result in less academic improvement for students as well as increased disciplinary issues.

Hmm…..I wonder why that language sounds familiar. Oh wait, perhaps it’s because the district recommended cutting the exact same position last year, only to be met by a fierce outcry from parents, teachers, and students alike. It seems odd to me that the South Milwaukee school board clearly didn’t get the message from students, teachers, and parents last year, because they’re back to their old tricks, at the expense of the very students who need the district’s help the most. Hopefully this year’s round of budget cuts will be enough to spur some concerned parent to consider running for the school board next year, because South Milwaukee’s students could sure use someone on the school board that’s got their best interests at heart.

At the rate the South Milwaukee school board is going, they’ll keep cutting and cutting until they’ve cut straight down to the bone, and they’ll be left with a district full of students who’ve learned facts and figures and how to take standardized tests, but who weren’t given an opportunity to learn how to create and think.

Here’s a more extensive list of the cuts being proposed:

  • Eliminate 1.0 Orchestra Position (eliminates 5th grade program)
  • Increase Student Fees by $5
  • Increase Athletic Fees by $25
  • Eliminate Orchestra
  • Eliminate 1.0 Vocal Music Position
  • Reduce Secretary Time
  • Eliminate 1.0 Paraprofessional Aide Position
  • Eliminate 1.0 FTE HS Special Education Teacher Position
  • Reduce .66 FTE HS Business Ed. Teacher Position
  • Reduce .40 Elementary Guidance Counselor Position
  • Eliminate 1.0 HS FCS Teacher Position
  • Reduce 1.0 HS At-Risk Teacher Position
  • Eliminate Golf

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35 thoughts on “South Milwaukee school board proposes cutting music, at-risk teaching positions

  1. Yeah…that’s a good idea. As if there aren’t enough kids in SM acting like little thugs. Let’s just take away good programs that keeps some of the good kids busy so they can follow suit after the rotten kids.

    1. It really seems counterintuitive to me to attempt to eliminate a program designed to help the students that are most in need of help.

      1. Yeah…I guess I didn’t sound so sympathetic. I’m a big fan of music for kids and that’s really what I focused on. My daughter was a “band geek” (her words) and she loved it. I’m worried about what will happen to the kids who love music like my daughter did in HS if it is eliminated. What will they do with their extra time?

        Honestly…I am not sure about the “at risk” classes. I see the kids around here and they are rotten as can be…BECAUSE…their parents are as rotten as can be. Maybe one of these classes will help a small percentage but I guess they are weighing whether it’s worth it. I personally think if the parents aren’t going to do anything with the kids at home (like make them behave like civilized people) they aren’t going to benefit much from the “at risk” programs in school. I don’t know…maybe I’m wrong.

        1. The ironic thin is that in other blogs at other times some parents are complaining that the teachers are just giving too much homework and there is not enough free time. (Mean Teachers!) Now, if we cut an activity and they get free time, they are suddenly going to use that free time to cause trouble. So what is it? Free time = Good or Free time = Bad, or is it just whatever your special interest it?

          Anon, it would be interesting to ask your daughter what percentage of her band practiced outside of class. My experience has been that the ones that are “into” music, would probably not be acting rotten anyway.

  2. It’s sad that public schools are being so profoundly effected by budget cuts. They’re one of the best investments our nation came make in its own future.

    1. Best investments? In theory that would be correct but since we spent 10x more than any other country and are not even ranked in the top 10 world wide!

  3. The school administration has made these proposals not the board. The board will discuss the proposals tonight.

    There has been a systematic undermining of children who want to enroll in the high school for the last five years with the addition of block scheduling, adding a required career class, and also brainwashing to choose a career path in 9th grade. Most kids have been counseled not to take music because it “is not part of their career path or won’t help them get into college” and have led to a great decline in numbers.

    The middle school has been killing music from the bottom out by adding a spanish vs music conflict, now offering kids the “choice to take music or spanish in 7th and 8th grade” No greater way to kill the program than from the bottom out.

    I try not to be suspicious, but it is awfully ironic.

    1. The administration may have made the proposals, but I’m willing to bet the school board wasn’t ignorant of the proposals before they were made. I get the distinct impression our board is more interested in doing what the administration wants than they are in doing what’s right or in acting independently.

        1. Pat, I haven’t talked to a school board member, because I really fail to see the point. Year after year, the board starts cutting at the bottom and working their way up (the same point I made at the board meeting on Wednesday), and that type of cutting affects students the most. Case in point is last year, when the board froze administrator salaries after they gave administrators a pay raise.

    2. I would also like to mention that an option that used to be available to music students was to take gym in the summer to allow for the block conflicts. When I asked about this last year I was told that it was no longer available except for remedial purposes. I asked if it was because of budget cuts and I was told it was for budget and political reasons. Now why would a guidance counselor tell me that?

  4. I did forget to plug, if you have concerns with the way SM Schools are heading, join the facebook group Forward South Milwaukee to see what you can do.

  5. Always a lot of talk about cutting “at-risk” programs. Lets talk about all the advanced, college level/preparation, languages, etc. that have faded into nothing. Let’s face it, music is an ACTIVITY. Note the first paragraph talks about the fees for sports. What are the fees for music? Are they getting a free ride? Could cutting down on trips and having the parents kick in something like the sports parents do help save music. (Note, the article states only orchestra is under consideration. Band is still there for Anon’s daughter).

  6. I guess the real question here is why are they $600,000 short again and come up short year after year? What’s the root cause here? What costs have skyrocketed in the last year to cause this drastic shortfall?

    They could reduce costs of employee benefits (i.e. health carrier) with little to no reduction in actual benefits you know.

      1. Thank you for saying it. We went through quite a bit last year not knowing if E.W. would have a principal this year. Everything came back to budget, budget, budget. It amazes me sometimes how differently affected all of the schools are. Some schools are at poverty rate while others are not; E.W. lacks in many aspects but is also apart of the highest paid tax dollar area. Now on top of all of this, the article stated something about meeting standards with test scores, but changing the curriculum the way they have most parents do not even understand what is going on anymore. Something has to give, however it does not seem like voices mean to much at this point. They are going to do what they have to for their own safety.

  7. Actually music is more than an activity, it is legislated by the no child left behind act which includes arts education. It is also is legislated by the state to provide a music education.

    The root cause is that expenses don’t meet revenues.
    Three legged stool formula that was enacted in 1993.
    1. Guarantee of 3.8% salary and benefits increase to avoid arbitration.
    2. Revenue Caps which ours was frozen at 2.3%
    3. Promise of 2/3 funding by the state – which they have never funded at 100%

    The only solution that they have entertained is cutting programs and staff because of stubborn attitudes.

    1. You need a language, along with math, science, history, etc. to get into and graduate from college. You do not need music/art/sports.

      1. Assuming you do not work in government, how much raise did get this year. In fact, even if you were retire on Social Security, I’ll bet you didn’t come close to that. Unfortunately, going after the school board isn’t helping. The STATE needs to drop arbitrary raises and pay for performance. Tonight’s little venting session doesn’t do a d*** bit of good and makes you look like a Tea Partier.

      2. Um, I believe what this means in English is that school TAX increases are limited to 2.3%. Thank goodness for that otherwise the powers that be would be trying to “save the music” by even more taxes. Again, how much did your net income go up this year? It would make more sense if the limits were tied to the average income of the TAXPAYERS.

      3. Well of course we didn’t get what was promised. That surprised who? If I were supposed to be getting a payment that I knew I wasn’t going to fully receive, I would not budget the full amount in. It’s a skill called budgeting and it’s why my head is still above water.

      1. Argueably getting into college with the help or art, music, and sports largely depends on the competitive nature of the school one wishes to attend and may also be tied into how many scholarships and aid they receive.

        Ummmmm… I think the people speaking at the open forum was part of a plea from kids and community members to save music not to protest taxes which are what tea parties have been about.

        And you will not receive any arguement from me on pay for performance and common sense salary and benefit solutions. If we could get everyone to work toward a colloborative solution that benefits the kids, then everyone wins.

        Thanks for your feedback.

  8. The issue is so much bigger than music, come and see for yourself tonight at 6:30 p.m. at the PAC.

    1. You’re absolutely right; the issue is much, much bigger than music. It’s about the administration and school board consistently approving cuts that start at the bottom and work their way up, instead of the other way around. Cutting from the bottom up has the most direct impact on students, and that’s why the cuts proposed by administration simply don’t make sense.

  9. Just heard on the news…. Milwaukee’s various magnet “schools for the arts” are having budget problems too. One main reason is declining enrollment. THERE’S THE ANSWER FOR US. For those that want/need the arts in suburbs, enroll in the schools that specialize in them. Benefits:

    1. Specialized schools should be able to have a much better program in their specialization than having separate programs all over the place.

    2. The Milwaukee arts schools are saved

    3. The suburban parents who want the arts available can send their kids there

    4. Taxpayers are saved a lot more than the cost of one orchestra teacher.

  10. As evidenced by tonight’s turnout, our music program is strong. We have nearly 800 students enrolled in music in the secondary campus. Our total K-12 district is 3000. It is not an interest issue, it is a funding issue. Join Forward South Milwaukee on Facebook, become aware of the problem. We are hosting an educational meeting on March 15 at the Grant Park Clubhouse. All are welcome. Save your property values, save your community!

  11. South Milwaukee has suffered cuts of over 70 positions in the last 10 years, that equates to closing Blakewood school. We have one librarian and one nurse for the entire district (6 schools) SM has trimmed non-essential positions that do not touch children – there is nothing left to cut – now entire programs are at risk.

    Watch Madison School District struggle in the next week with their obvious first round of deep budget cuts ($30 million) – lucky for them, they are only just now cutting nurses, secretaries, custodians, groundskeeping, librarians, postage, and copy supplies. Three elementary schools are slated to be closed. We went through those cuts years ago.

    1. Rocket Mom, you’re absolutely right that there is nothing left to cut, but I have to disagree that the district has trimmed non-essential positions. I haven’t seen many administrator positions cut over the past few years, and I’d argue administrators making six figures (or near that) are less essential than guidance counselors, gym teachers, librarians, etc.

      1. Zach, I agree that administration could be trimmed, but not eliminated all together. Someone has to do payroll, HR, comptrolling, and be the CEO spokesperson, “show face” at the numerous school events, graduations, and to deal with the press 24/7 when there is a crisis. Would you be willing to do that for your company on your salary? Be on call 24/7, go to every company picnic, golf outing, Charity campaign, etc.? It’s more than just sitting at their desks.

        1. Rocket Mom, I’m not advocating for completely eliminating the administration; I simply think there’s some trimming that could be done there. After all, every year it seems the budget cuts proposed by the district’s administration (and typically enacted by the school board) start at the bottom with teachers and support staff and work their way up to the top.

          Why not start from the top down instead?

  12. There won’t be much left to cut in the future, and the South Milwaukee school district runs the very real risk of losing students to districts that aren’t cutting music, business education, sports, and at-risk programs.

  13. Libby, that’s exactly my point. The district is cutting down to the bone, and soon there won’t be much left that will make the district desirable to parents and students who want to get the most well-rounded education possible.

  14. hey, i heard theres a war. maybe some of these kids can sign up to help stabilize the middle east to siphon oil out (to run your insanely inefficient fossil fuel standard of living) and, sooner or later, eastern africa.

    kids can learn art and music on their own a majority of the time.
    plenty of kids do it and pursue it outside of institutional spheres.

    ive been into both my entire life and the public schools attempt at “teaching” both is bush league at best.

    1. I don’t think schools are the end all, be all when it comes to music education, but I can speak from experience when I say that if not for the music program at my stepdaughter’s school, she wouldn’t have gained a love for the violin. Schools may not provide the best quality music education around, but their programs do serve a valuable purpose when it comes to opening those doors for children.

  15. im a student at a highschool and play several instruments i am doing a school research paper on cutting music programs in schools i need graphs on this topic email HELP OUT PLEASE! email them to me at!

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