A ways back I compared public support for the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) to students in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP). Though not the perfect (and unattainable) “apples-to-apples” comparison, I came up with something reasonably logical. What follows is an updated comparison that includes independent charter schools in Milwaukee, as well as MPS and the MPCP.
First, MPS. According to the district’s 2013 proposed budget the final adopted total district budget in 2012 (excluding carryover funds) was $1,188,160,523. Within that number:
- $17,952,177 goes to non-public schools.
- $20,868,734 (excluding carryover funds) goes to the extension fund. The extension fund is for public recreation and facilities that serve the broader community.
- $7,060,441 comes from private grants.
Subtracting the non-public schools allocation, the extension fund, and private grants from the MPS budget brings the relevant 2012 MPS budget number to $1,142,279,171. Dividing that number by the number of MPS pupils, 86,089, (MPS grand total excluding students leaving MPS via the chapter 220 program) puts the 2012 comparative per-pupil public support of MPS at $13,269.
What about independent charters? Under state statute, independent charter schools in Milwaukee (those authorized by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and the City of Milwaukee) receive $7,775 from an equal percentage aid reduction to every school district in the state. In practice, this means Milwaukee’s independent charter schools receive $6,663 per-pupil from property taxpayers outside Milwaukee, and $1,112 per-pupil from Milwaukee property taxpayers.
Milwaukee’s independent charter schools also received $5,401,783 in federal funds in 2012. Though the actual per-pupil number varies by school, the average per-pupil federal funding of independent charter pupils last year was $838. This puts the comparative per-pupil public support of independent charter schools at $8,613.
Students using the MPCP, or choice, receive the lesser of $6,442 or a school’s actual audited per-pupil cost. About two-thirds of that payment comes from the state in the form of General Purpose Revenue and state aids. The rest comes from a reduction in state aid to MPS, which is offset dollar-for-dollar by local property taxes. Students using the MPCP also receive federal funding that averages out to $603 per-pupil. This puts the comparative per-pupil public support of MPCP students at $7,045.
Below is a breakdown of per-pupil public support for different types of Milwaukee schools by source.
- MPS – $8,319
- Charter – $6,663
- Choice - $4,226
- MPS – $2,605
- Charter – $1,112
- Choice – $2,216
- MPS – $2,345
- Charter – $838
- Choice – $603
Total (excluding private fundraising)
- MPS – $13,269
- Charter – $8,613
- Choice – $7,045
Though these numbers are important in establishing where public education money is going in Milwaukee, they should be taken with a grain of salt. In eight years of tracking MPS budgets I have never found convincing evidence that MPS’ support number is inflated by irresponsible spending. I have found convincing evidence that MPS, charters, and private schools in the MPCP all face unique compliance, legacy, human capital, and facility costs. These unique costs are what determine the resources a school actually has to spend on pupils, which, is a far more important number.