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Larry Miller is the president of the Milwaukee Board of School Directors.
Over the past several months, we have had an unprecedented conversation in the City of Milwaukee about the future of our children. Thousands of you have spoken through surveys, hundreds have attended community meetings across the city and answered questions directly over the phone and a task force of leaders representing voices from all across Milwaukee dedicated their time to discuss the difficult challenges facing our schools.
We owe all of you a debt of gratitude for your time and thoughtfulness in these important discussions. Thank you.
The outpouring of support for Milwaukee’s children has been overwhelming. The direction to be wise in the use of resources has been pronounced and your voice has been made clear: “Do what is necessary to support our children, do what is needed to support our students.”
On Thursday, December 19, the Milwaukee Board of School Directors took that direction and voted to place a referendum question on the April 7, 2020, Spring Election ballot that will increase the resources available to MPS students by $87 million.
Because we share the concern of implementing a model that is sensitive to taxpayers, revenue limit authority — the amount of total resources available to students — would be phased in over a four-year period. This is a model that has been used in other districts and allows for a fair balance of local and state support. If the referendum is passed, property taxes on a $100,000 home would increase by $160 in 2020, with a forecast that that level of tax support for the referendum would be maintained and would not increase during the second, third and fourth years of the phase in.
In our community conversations, we talked about the wonderful strength of our students and discussed the fantastic programs that are currently available to our children. We also had an honest discussion about the many areas of need and the additional support that we all want to provide for our students.
The ballot question states that referendum funds will be used to sustain and expand educational programming, which allows the school district to prioritize funds toward a number of areas. The ballot question also specifies that funds will be used to offer more career and technical education programs, to attract and retain certified educators and to expand art, music, physical education and language programs.
What we have before us is an opportunity that we have not had in a generation.
We have an opportunity to join together as a community and to use our collective power, effort and resources to improve the lives of our children. We have an opportunity to make our city stronger.