As the debate continues over the anticipated funding cuts coming to the Milwaukee Public School system, a lot of the blame for funding shortfalls has been placed squarely on the shoulders of public school teachers.
To be sure the compensation packages for teachers – especially those who've worked in the district for a long time – do play a part in the discussion. But for the focus and blame to be solely on how much teachers in MPS make is unfair and unproductive. I've made a fair amount of noise over the past several years about an issue no one else seems to want to discuss when it comes to cuts within MPS: administrative staff in central office.
I live a half block north of MPS central office and it's always surprised me how many people actually work there. When my wife Jenny started working within MPS I learned a lot more about the infrastructure that runs MPS and I've come to see it for what a bureaucratic nightmare it is.
It's been frustrating for me to see the "boots on the ground" teachers and others who work in the classrooms across Milwaukee to be vilified while central office staff always seem to escape the budget cuts. While we've been happy to cut 1000's of teachers over the past few years, the staff within central office has remained largely untouched. They're not part of the "evil teachers union" after all.
So I did some looking around to see if there was any "fat to cut" in central office. After all, if we're going to have a serious conversation about tackling the budget issues around MPS, we have to take a look for ways to "cut the fat" in every area of MPS – not just teachers, staff represented by unions and other support staff that play vital roles in the classrooms of Milwaukee's public schools.
While a lot has been made about the fact that the average teacher "makes" over $100k when you include benefits, a lot of people may be interested to find out that non-union "administrators" in MPS central office make nearly $100K as well.
And that doesn't even include benefits. The average annual salary of just the 52 people labeled as "central office administration" is $78,610. Throw in their fringe benefits of $44,600 per year, and their average annual compensation is a whopping $123,200. There are at least 28 people in MPS central office with the title of "administrator" who make over $100,000/year excluding benefits.
The average annual salary of the 100 people in MPS who answer to the title of "Director of Instruction/Program Supervisor" is over $77,000 with a similarly handsome compensation package as their "administration" counterparts in central office.
In fact, there are at least 85 people employed by MPS central office who are not union workers that make over $100,000 per year in wages. That's an astonishing number and outside of a company in an area like the financial sector, I can't imagine there are a lot of companies in Milwaukee that can match that kind of high end compensation for such a large number of people.
If you exclude Principals and Assistant Principals from the data for a moment and combine the cost of fringe benefits and salary for the remaining administrators, 120 of the 154 "administration" staff in MPS central office get more than $100,000/year in compensation. 78% of the "administration" has a compensation package of more than $100k! That's a remarkable number folks. Superintendent Thornton's compensation package: $343,000/year.
By my calculations the total compensation for 154 "administrators" in the Milwaukee Public School system is $19,709,540.
Think about that for a second. $20 million per year for about 150 people. This is something that needs to be considered when we're talking about firing teachers and support staff because we're "out of money".
So when politicians and those in the media talk about "sharing the load" to get the MPS budget back on track, why aren't they asking this huge population of central office staff to share in the cuts as well? Why the focus on just teachers?
If we're going to be cutting nearly 1,000 teaching positions to deal with a budget shortfall for 2011/2012 are there any plans to cut some staff from central office as well? Do we really need 100 "program supervisors" if we have 1,000 fewer teachers and 1,000's of fewer students in MPS because more of them will be going to voucher schools instead?
I should be clear that I hold no ill will towards any of the people who work in MPS central office… except for the ones who speed down my street when they leave work that is.
I'm sure they're all nice enough people. But this isn't about who's nice and who's not. We fired the teacher of the year in Wisconsin last year for crying out loud due to budget cuts and so her older coworkers could get cheap Viagra!
It's about the facts that not a lot of people seem to be aware of. Specifically, there are an awful lot of people who work in MPS that make a heck of a lot of money and have to a large degree avoided any cuts that the rest of the employees in the district have been dealing with for years.
There are literally hundreds of people working in the central office of Milwaukee Public Schools with compensation packages well over $100,000 per year. Hundreds of people making hundreds of thousands of dollars every year.
(You can find all the data I used for this post on the very helpful website of the Department of Public Instruction. I posted a shorter version of the spreadsheet with just the people in Milwaukee (and with names taken out) over on this google docs space.)