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MPS officials: Referendum spending plan coming, waiting on lawmakers

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(The Center Square) – Milwaukee Public School leaders are laying part of the responsibility for how they spend their new quarter-billion-dollar-per-year tax increase at the feet of the state legislature.

MPS Superintendent Keith Posley and others accused Republicans lawmakers of underfunding the city’s schools for years.

“Milwaukeeans stepped up to save our schools from a broken system that must be repaired,” Posley said. “For 16 years the state of Wisconsin has failed to adequately fund public schools. This is why we saw more than 90 school districts go to referendum yesterday.”

Posley continues to say MPS families and Milwaukee taxpayers will need to wait to see just how the city’s schools will spend the money. He said both a new budget, and a new facilities master plan will go to the school board “soon.”

In the meantime, he repeated the line from before Tuesday’s vote about the areas where he wants to spend the money.

“Just like the referendum question stated art, music, physical education, library media specialists, smaller class size that retain highly qualified staff, counselors, social workers, and the list goes on,” Posley said.

But that’s not the only unknown.

Posley didn’t rule out another referendum in the future that would raise taxes higher. He again blamed the state legislature.

“If funding does not change at the state level, districts will be in the same situation over and over,” Posley explained. “Ninety-one districts went to referendum yesterday. So that lets you know right there that’s a funding flaw. And that has to be fixed.”

MPS’ referendum passed with 51% of the vote, with a winning margin of about 1,700 votes.

Former Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, who also spoke at Wednesday’s post-election day news conference, tried to portray the slim vote in the best light.

“I wouldn’t say that it was, you know, almost half of the people saying no to our students. It’s just people have been asked for so much already,” Barnes said. “Whether it was a city, the county, the referendum, again we’ll go to sports stadiums. People have been asked for so much.”

Both Barnes and MPS managers suggest lawmakers tap some of the state’s nearly $3 billion budget surplus to spend on schools across the state.

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