The proposed budget was released by Superintendent Carlton Jenkins at Monday night’s school board meeting. The budget proposes a base wage increase of 2% for all school staff. Additionally, an average of 2% raises will be given to staff through “steps and lanes,” which are raises based on experience. At Monday’s meeting, Superintendent Jenkins lauded the work of teachers and staff at the schools.
“At MMSD, we know that the success of our students is based on, in large part, our world class educators and staff who make our schools what they are. They are special, and have always been special. We are committed to bringing in a diverse group of staff, so our schools look like our community. We also continue to provide competitive wages and benefits in order to ensure we can attract and retain top educators,” Jenkins says.
The 2022/2023 budget is about $5 million more than it was last year.
But schools are still struggling with staffing issues across the county, and Madison is no exception. Savion Castro is the Vice President of the Madison Metro School Board. He says they are doing everything they can to keep staff on board.
“We’re looking at things like expanding and permanently implementing paid mental health days. We are continuing to provide relevant and necessary professional development so that our schools continue to be welcoming to all of our students. Our healthcare is one of the most competitive healthcare options from an employer in the region. I think continuing to have schools that are on a mission where everyone can feel welcome and involved in that school’s mission means a lot,” Castro says.
But the union representing Madison’s teachers, Madison Teachers Inc, or MTI, says that they are disappointed with the low pay increase for teachers across the district.
In a statement yesterday, MTI called the 2% base wage increase disappointing. It’s less than half than the maximum amount allowed under state law of 4.7%. MTI says nearby school districts like Waunakee and Sun Prairie started their pay raise negotiations at at least 4.6%.
Michael Jones is the President of MTI. He says the increase is not enough to attract and retain enough staff.
“At the board meeting it sounds all and good when you say ‘hey we’re giving everyone a 4% raise.’ But when you actually break it down, and look at the rate of inflation and the cost of living adjustment, you are still underpaying employees and they will continue to not be able to keep up with the rates of inflation in terms of actually being able to afford to live in Madison,” Jones says.
Castro says that the issue is not one that is unique to Madison.
“Almost every public school district is in a hard spot, especially when you look at how the federal dollars are one-time monies. It’s hard to address some of the long term, systemic needs when we can’t sustain that level of investment past 2024,” Castro says.
Jones says that he doesn’t necessarily disagree with Castro, but the district can still do more to attract new staff.
“To be fair, this hasn’t been the case in a lot of districts across the country, and a lot of districts across Wisconsin. Madison is not some sort of unique experience, but it is still very true that we are experiencing this teacher exodus that’s been going on for more than a few years, even before COVID, just because of the state of education in Wisconsin and how we treat our workers and fund our system on a whole,” Jones says.
MTI did point out that there were many things in the proposed budget that they fully supported. One such item is the expansion of all day 4K programs. Under the proposed budget, the district would add 14 new sections across eight locations around Madison.
The proposed budget also includes increased funding for social workers throughout the district. According to the budget, the National Association of Social Workers recommends a ratio of students to social workers in a district of 250:1. But in Madison schools, that ratio is around 592:1, more than double the recommended level.
To combat this, the district plans to increase the budget for social workers district-wide by over 10%. The district says that this will allow them to hire more social workers, getting closer to lowering the student to social worker ratio.
The Madison school board is slated to approve next year’s budget in June.
Photo courtesy: Kyo Azuma / UNSPLASH