A proposal under consideration at Milwaukee Public Schools would eliminate school bus service for about 1,000 students of specialty schools in the district.
City-wide specialty schools at MPS currently accept students no matter where they live in the city. But under this proposal, students who live more than seven miles away would no longer have access to a school bus.
"Our kids matter and we care about their education," said Paul Post, who is a parent and PTA member at the Milwaukee French Immersion School, one of the schools included in this proposal.
He says students there learn French before they learn English, something he says is hard to find in a public school setting, which is why he says a lot of parents choose to send their children there.
According to Post, about 80 students at the school live more than seven miles away, so if this proposal passes, they would lose access to a school bus.
"We have heard from families who both parents work, they don't have any other option other than busing," he said.
While he says he lives within the boundary, he is also worried about what the school may have to cut in order to make up for a lower enrollment.
French Immersion is one of 23 city-wide specialty schools affected by this proposal, with about 800 students total who live more than seven miles away.
At six of the schools, more than one in four students would not be able to ride the bus if the proposal passes. Those schools include Bradley Tech High School, Fratney, Lincoln Middle School, Riverside High School, Spanish Immersion and Italian Immersion-Victory.
The district is also considering eliminating transportation for 200 students of arts specialty schools, including Elm Creative Arts, Milwaukee Parkside and Kluge Elementary.
"One of the highlights of the school is the diversity of our population," said Post. "If you put a geographic boundary around who can make it to the school, we are just re-segregating our schools."
A spokesperson from the district sent a statement saying:
"The overall Superintendent’s Proposed Budget – which is being developed within the parameters the Board approved – will be presented to the Board in early May. We are still finalizing the proposed budget and I would be cautious about assuming what will actually be contained in the final document that goes to the Board of School Directors. If this item moves forward, we look forward to additional conversations with families and the community."
Post says they are just hoping to be part of the conversation.
"There are actual people who are going to be impacted by what they're proposing," he said.
According to data provided by the school district, only 31 percent of the district's student population attend city-wide specialty schools. But the transportation expenses for these schools make up nearly half of non-mandatory transportation costs for the district.
The school board is expected to discuss the budget during a meeting Tuesday evening. Two of the board members are planning to introduce a motion that would add to the parameters of next year's budget.
Included in those parameters:
- Cost-of-living raises across all bargaining groups (2.13%)
- Fund the Road to $15 and expedite the timeline for implementation
- $0 cuts to schools
- Strategic approach to Central Services budget cuts proposed at 15%
- No change to healthcare
- Process for long-term budget planning
But in order to fund those parameters, the motion says the money will come from money used for busing, contract services and construction.