Educate All Students: Larry Miller's Blog

June 11, 2015

Lawmakers deal MPS deathblow

Filed under: MPS Takeover,Wisc Budget Bill — millerlf @ 12:21 pm

HALL MONITOR — Lawmakers deal MPS deathblow

By Jay Bullock June 1, 2015 Bayview Compass
See blog at: http://bayviewcompass.com/category/hall-monitor/

After Wisconsin’s Joint Finance Committee finished its late-night work on education funding last month, I posted this line from Shakespeare to Facebook, spoken by Romeo’s friend Mercutio, “Ask for me tomorrow, and you shall find me a grave man. I am peppered, I warrant, for this world.”

Mercutio has just been stabbed and he staggers offstage to die a few lines later.

It was, I thought, the only fitting response to the committee’s votes—and here I do not exaggerate—to bankrupt the Milwaukee Public Schools if its plan works as designed.

The JFC’s education policy hacks and slashes at MPS and public schools around the state, via a massive expansion of statewide private school vouchers, tight limits on how MPS deals with empty (or partly empty) school buildings, and even meddling in how some school boards are constituted.

But the deathblow is a plan to take schools from MPS and give them—buildings, contents, and students (but not the teachers!)—to voucher school operators or charter school programs. The plan would take up to three schools a year in the first two years, and up to five schools a year after that.

It’s the loss of funds from those students that will do the real damage. All of us in MPS, from Superintendent Darienne Driver to folks like me in classrooms, know that it won’t take much of a fiscal hit to send us into a spiral of default and dissolution. Driver who told a local TV program that MPS wouldn’t survive this plan.

Bay View resident and citywide MPS school board representative Terry Falk told me, “We can’t lose 20 schools and survive. Can we lose five schools? I don’t know.”

Like any longstanding organization such as General Motors or Ford, Falk suggested, MPS has legacy retiree-costs that make it uncompetitive with upstarts. Think Toyota or Volkswagen. When foreign automakers opened U.S. plants 20 or 30 years ago, Falk said, their cars could be made more cheaply because they didn’t have decades of retirees to support. The same is true for MPS when compared to new voucher or charter schools.

MPS enrolled 100,000 or more students for many years and had enough teachers to educate all of them. At that time, the district encouraged those teachers to retire early by offering a supplemental pension and retiree health insurance.
“People ask, ‘Why were you so foolish?,’” said Falk, who was an MPS teacher back in those heady days of high enrollment. “Actuarially, it was the correct decision.”

In other words, the district’s bean counters said it was cheaper to pay low salaries for young teachers than to pay high salaries for veteran teachers, including the retirement costs. With today’s high insurance premiums, that sounds crazy now, but a couple of decades ago it was not that expensive to provide insurance to retirees.

“It was an economic incentive for the district for teachers to retire at 55,” Falk said. However, MPS is still supporting many of those teachers, and it needs to plan budgets with funding for retirements among the current staff.
Today MPS enrolls around 80,000 students, its population reduced by students who are enrolled in voucher schools, charter schools, inter-district schools through open enrollment, and other programs that take students out of MPS’s traditional public schools. The lower the district’s enrollment, the greater the share of per-pupil funding that must go to those legacy costs. That means fewer funds for the schools, yet currents students still need to be taught.
“If we had 100,000 kids today, it wouldn’t be a problem,” Falk said.

But we don’t, and that is a problem.

Milwaukee’s Public Policy Forum issued a 2012 report about changes MPS enacted after the state’s Act 10 legislation gave districts power to impose change without negotiating with its unions. “We cut long-term costs from $2.6 billion to $1.4 billion,” Falk said of those changes. “I didn’t like it,” he added, “but a brand new teacher in MPS in the last couple of years gets no retiree health benefits and has to teach until at least 60.”

There’s also no supplemental pension, and all of us, new or not, pay more out of pocket for our state pension and skimpier health insurance coverage.

Still, PPF levied this dire warning: “The significant decline in enrollment has made balancing the district’s budget very difficult.” Falling enrollment, they said, “paints a bleak picture for fiscal solvency.”

So how much more can enrollment drop before MPS has to default on payments or even declare bankruptcy? I didn’t get a firm number from anyone. Public Policy Forum’s president Rob Henken cautioned me that “such an analysis would be extremely difficult to do” because there are a lot of variables and moving parts involved in setting MPS’s budget.
Falk couldn’t give a sure number, either, but he offered a guess. “We’re only talking about a few thousand students. That might make the difference,” he said.

If the first three schools handed off to outside operators are large high schools—and low-performing high schools are a constant challenge here—it might take just one year to send the MPS budget into default. If they’re smaller elementary or K-8 schools, it might take a few years to hit that mark.

There are other considerations, such as how much the state or the city will care about the situation. If MPS is facing insolvency, would the city assume some or all of its legacy costs? Would the state increase the district’s revenue limit to stave off disaster?

And, if not, what then? What of the tens of thousands of students in MPS’s remaining schools when the district, like Mercutio, is peppered for this world?

I just don’t know. But it looks like we may find out, and soon.

Jay Bullock teaches English at Bay View Middle and High School and tweets as @folkbum. Email him at
mpshallmonitor@gmail.com.

Wisconsin Rapids Principal Schools Legislature on Qualified Teaching

Filed under: Educational Practices,Teaching,Wisc Budget Bill — millerlf @ 12:02 pm

Education: An endeavor to help build better lives

By Matt Renwick June 6, 2015
There are lots of occupations out there that do not demand a bachelor’s degree, including governor of Wisconsin. But teaching shouldn’t be one of them.

I was a classroom teacher for eight years, and now a school principal for just as long. Teaching is an incredibly complex and challenging craft. In my estimation, it takes at least three years of classroom experience beyond completed college experience for a teacher to become very good at his or her work. The foundational learning that occurs in undergraduate courses and during student teaching is essential. It is also only the beginning. Teaching truly is a profession that one learns as one does it, and the learning never ends.

Recently, I observed a teacher facilitate a math lesson on arrays (rows and columns of tiles to convey an equation or to form a shape). An uneducated bystander without the requisite background knowledge to understand teaching and learning would observe this lesson and probably think it was fine.

But that bystander would have no idea why. With a highly trained eye, here is what I saw:
■The intent of the lesson was clearly stated in writing, verbally and visually.
■The teacher kept the students active, allowing them to get up every 10 minutes or so between activities. This is pedagogically sound (How many people without a degree in education could accurately define “pedagogy”?).
■She used formative assessment, such as observing answers on held whiteboards, to guide her instruction and ensure that all students with a wide variety of abilities were ready for the next step.
■Small actions by the teacher avoided bigger problems with the students. For example, she used thoughtful language that focused on the positive of a student’s actions, instead of pointing out his faults and possibly causing a major behavior disruption. One wrong word could have led to 10 minutes of lost instruction.
■Wait time was given for a student who was struggling to process an answer and share it aloud.
■A clear segue between arrays and formal geometry was conveyed by the teacher only when every student was ready to cognitively make that transition.

This is only a snippet of the positive work I saw in her classroom and shared with her later that day. At our post-observation conference, I asked her how she thought she did. “Well, I wish my questions I presented for the students would have been more open-ended. I wanted to help them get to a deeper understanding of the math concept,” she said. Does this sound like someone who is less than a professional?

Teaching is a special vocation, reserved only for the very best and brightest. It takes both intelligence and empathy, a rare combination that appears regularly in our school and in many, many others in the state. To reduce our profession to something anyone can do clearly shows the ignorance of the policy-makers who somehow saw sanity in a decision they had no business addressing.

Attaining a license to teach in schools, whether public or private, shouldn’t be as easy as staying at a Holiday Inn Express. You don’t just wake up and become a highly qualified educator. It takes years of study, experience, reflection and collaboration to get to a point of excellence. Those who attempted to reduce our status as professionals did not succeed. We know better. All they did was to continue to set up public schools for failure in order to ensure privatization of public education gains momentum in Wisconsin. Education is more than just a job — it is a powerful endeavor to help build better lives.

Matt Renwick is principal of Howe Elementary School in Wisconsin Rapids.

 

Voucher Leader Jim Bender Once Again Exemplifies Double Standard

Filed under: Vouchers,Wisc Budget Bill — millerlf @ 11:52 am

In today’s MJS article on pushback to attacks on public education, Jim Bender a leader of School Choice Wisconsin (# 1 voucher industry organization in Wisconsin), said that superintendents statewide are “lobbying using state and local resources.” (See article at http://tinyurl.com/q42sq44)

This is the same voucher industry that has filled the halls of the Wisconsin state capital with bus loads of students to lobby for public funds to go to private schools. This was done on school days during school hours.

If Jim Bender really cared about educating all children, he would cut his ties with tea party politicians, the American Federation for Children and the Koch brothers. He would fight for more resources for public schools and demand real accountability.

June 4, 2015

SOS: A distress signal to parents of Wisconsin public school kids

Filed under: Education Policy,Vouchers,Wisc Budget Bill — millerlf @ 9:13 am

SOS: A distress signal to parents of Wisconsin public school kids
By Mary Young, Special to OnMilwaukee.com
Published June 3, 2015
Support Our Schools (SOS) Wauwatosa was formed in opposition to Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed public education cuts.

For years, many of we suburban moms and dads have viewed the voucher school versus public school funding debate from the outside looking in.

After all, in Wauwatosa, none of our leaders ran on a platform to siphon money away from Wauwatosa public schools and instead route it to private schools. Our Wauwatosa schools are some of the best in the state – and the nation – so it seemed impossible that our leaders would try to “fix” something that isn’t broken.

We still cannot believe what actually happened.

Despite the clear call from thousands of parents statewide – 3,000 from Wauwatosa alone – to fully-fund our public schools and remove policy items from the budget, the Wisconsin Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee (JFC) did the exact opposite.

On May 20, 2015, the JFC voted on education spending for the 2015-2017 biennium. After the vote, Sen. Leah Vukmir (R-Wauwatosa), a JFC member, said the JFC went “above and beyond restoring funds to K-12 education.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Sen. Vukmir and her JFC colleagues – including Rep. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield), who also represents Wauwatosa – reneged on their promises to support public education:

The JFC claims to have restored Gov. Walker’s $127 million cut in public school funding. This is not true. Much of this funding will pay for an expansion of the state’s funding of private and religious schools, siphoning away money from our kids’ classrooms.

The JFC also increased per-pupil payments for charter and voucher schools. This, too, will reduce general aid to public schools – and even merely “restoring” Gov. Walker’s cut to public education would have meant a decrease, once inflation is taken into account.

The JFC inserted a provision requiring public school districts to allow charter, voucher and home-schooled students to participate in sports and other extracurricular activities sponsored by the public schools – at the expense of the public school districts.

Based on applications received, 2,613 more students will be eligible for the statewide voucher program in 2015-16. Of those students, 81 percent already attend private schools.

The JFC also increased the enrollment cap on the statewide voucher program in 2016-17. The cap will increase annually for 10 years, when it will be eliminated entirely.

If enacted, the JFC’s actions will result in an overall reduction of $600 million to $800 million in state support to public education – and represents a $600 to $800 million increase in taxpayer funding for private schools.

Over the last several months, Wauwatosa parents have joined parents across Wisconsin – Republicans, Democrats and independents – to oppose Gov. Walker’s proposed cuts to public education. We formed Support Our Schools (SOS) Wauwatosa, knocked on doors, forwarded thousands of letters, made telephone calls, sent e-mails and attended legislative hearings inside and outside of our city, all in support of our public schools.

Sen. Vukmir and Rep. Kooyenga repeatedly assured SOS Wauwatosa that public school funding would not be cut and that the JFC’s work would “surpass our expectations.” They have broken their promises. After telling us that “public schools are our top priority,” they have shown that they favor private schools. No legislator in any party ran for election on such a platform. But these public officials are creating a system that prioritizes private schools over public schools.

A recent Marquette University Law School poll showed that 78% of Wisconsinites support full funding for our public schools. Yet, for the first time ever, per-pupil funding for public education in Wisconsin will be below the national average. Wisconsin’s legislators are not listening.

National media outlets are taking notice, with the Washington Post asking, “What the heck is going on with Wisconsin public education?” They ask – and we ask – because it doesn’t benefit our kids, schools or parents.

Wisconsin created its charter and voucher programs to address perceived failings in some of Milwaukee’s public schools. Whether true or not, this perception does not justify expanding the charter and voucher programs and depriving high-achieving public schools of their funding.

Studies consistently show that businesses prefer to locate where educational achievement is high. Wisconsin’s public schools are some of the country’s highest-achieving schools and provide state businesses with high-quality workers. Underfunding public schools, which educate the vast majority of the state’s residents, will damage Wisconsin’s ability to compete with other states.

Our children are our future. They deserve the quality of public education for which Wisconsin has always been known. No matter how good private schools are, they do not represent Wauwatosa – or Wausau, Eau Claire or Lake Mills. Our public schools are the bedrock of Wisconsin’s communities, and weakening our public schools will weaken our communities.

In the short term, SOS Wauwatosa and other parents’ groups across the state will advocate for changes in the JFC’s budget proposals. In the long term, we will continue our fight for adequate funding for public schools beyond the 2015-17 biennium. We are sending an “SOS” to all parents to urge legislators to do what is right for our kids, our schools and our communities.

SOS Wauwatosa commits to remaining an active, permanent nonpartisan community organization that will educate and engage the public in decisions that affect our public schools.

Response: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Op-ed

MPS is changing the status quo
By Larry Miller June 3, 2015 MJS Op-ed

Charles J. Szafir’s May 31 opinion piece contains a glaring factual error that undercuts his entire piece — and it repeats the often-used but false claim that Milwaukee Public Schools leaders believe the “status quo” is acceptable (“At MPS, the status quo is unacceptable,” Crossroads). Both claims are just plain wrong. A clear reading of the piece also calls into question the credibility of a recovery district plan that does not include some of the city’s lowest-performing schools.

First, Szafir falsely tied an analysis showing low test results in reading among schools whose students are mostly African-American and low-income to MPS when it in fact represents results from voucher and charter schools as well, as PolitiFact Wisconsin has noted.

When the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel took a closer look at data for such schools, it found that seven of the 10 lowest-performing schools in the group were, in fact, voucher schools. Of the five lowest-performing schools — schools where no students were proficient in reading — three are voucher schools.

If Szafir and his allies in the state Legislature are concerned about improving all of the low-performing schools in Milwaukee, why doesn’t their plan address low-performing voucher schools, as those schools have results that are the same or worse than those in MPS’ lowest-performing schools?

Put another way: Why is the status quo at voucher schools apparently acceptable to them?

Milwaukee Public Schools is already implementing its plans to accelerate student achievement growth, and the district is seeing early signs of success, a fact that Szafir failed to note. Specifically:
■MPS’ Commitment Schools effort to transform underperforming schools is accelerating reading and math achievement enough to narrow achievement gaps in most grades K-8.
■MPS’ GE Foundation Schools are seeing similar gains.
■MPS’ 5-in-1 collaboration at Carver Academy is improving school climate and academic outcomes.
■MPS’ work with Milwaukee Succeeds on a foundational reading pilot is seeing some encouraging early results.
■MPS’ four-year graduation rate is up slightly to 60.9% and five- and six-year rates (68.7% and 72.9%, respectively) show that significant numbers of MPS students are willing to take additional time, if necessary, to graduate.
■MPS’ eight strategic objectives — created with input from students, staff and the community — are in place to further accelerate improvement.

Szafir also plays fast and loose with facts about MPS buildings. He falsely claims that Bradley Tech High School is “operating well below capacity,” when its 2014-’15 enrollment of 889 puts it at about 95% of its capacity of 931 as identified in the district’s facilities master plan. He made a point of identifying the number of buildings his organization considers underutilized while failing to note that by his organization’s own standards, MPS has substantially more buildings that are at 100% capacity or above than are underutilized.

MPS has utilized buildings strategically to expand successful schools with waiting lists — such as Golda Meir School and Ronald Reagan College Preparatory High School — and it will continue to do so, which helps address the overcapacity issue identified above.

Of the remaining MPS school buildings not currently in use, four already have been specifically identified as sites for expansion of sought-after programs, including international baccalaureate education, language immersion and a charter school. Another nine have been declared surplus by the Milwaukee Board of School Directors and transferred to the city for redevelopment. Yet another is being redeveloped into housing.

The efforts MPS is undertaking to improve outcomes for students may not have the “flash” of plans to strip local control of schools, to transfer public buildings to private entities or to fire teachers en masse. But they are far from the “status quo” and they have the benefit of being strongly rooted in what has worked and is working to improve achievement for students in Milwaukee.

Larry Miller is vice president of the Milwaukee School Board.

May 21, 2015

Madison Legislature: Thieves in the Night

Filed under: Wisc Budget Bill — millerlf @ 1:33 pm

School Administrator’s Alliance May 20, 2015 Statement

Joint Finance Committee Votes to Underfund Public Schools

Committee action puts Wisconsin on a clear path to fall below the national average in per-pupil spending for the first time ever

MADISON — In the middle of the night, long after most parents went to bed, GOP members of the Joint Finance Committee passed, on a 12-4 party line vote, an education spending motion that undermines our tradition of strong public education and puts Wisconsin on a clear path to fall below the national average in per-pupil spending for the first time ever. The 30-page motion, which includes 51 separate school-related provisions, was put together behind closed doors with no public scrutiny, and Republican committee members presented it just one hour before the committee took it up.

Even after its passing, many items included in the motion are not well understood. Despite this, it is clear that the motion puts ideology ahead of evidence by siphoning millions of dollars away from public school students to spend on private voucher schools, which research suggests do not improve student achievement and lack meaningful accountability to the public. Although vouchers produce large political contributions from out-of-state interest groups, they do not produce better educational opportunities for children. We cannot afford to make political hay with educational policies that are both ineffective and expensive.

“This must have felt like Christmas morning for Wisconsin advocates for taxpayer-funded private school vouchers,” said John Forester, director of government relations for the School Administrators Alliance (SAA). “They got to unwrap a wide-open statewide voucher expansion and a brand new special needs voucher program. Clearly, this is the best education budget that millions of dollars in largely out-of-state political contributions can buy. And it didn’t seem to bother majority Republicans one bit that this voucher expansion will drive up local property taxes.”

The committee voted to restore Governor Walker’s proposed $150 per-pupil cut in the first year of the biennium, resulting in a first-year revenue freeze for public schools. The committee then added a very modest $100 in per-pupil revenues for the second year of the budget. At the same time, the committee’s vote to dramatically expand taxpayer-subsidized school vouchers and deduct aid from public schools to pay for it, will leave public schools with a first year cut and significantly reduce the effect of the second-year increase. Wisconsin school districts needed an inflationary increase in revenues to meet the needs of students. What they got will diminish educational opportunities for the students they serve.

“The actions by some members of the Joint Finance Committee in advancing budget provisions that dramatically undermine the future educational opportunities of Wisconsin school children are unconscionable,” said Forester. “The success of our state over the generations has been linked to the
quality of our public education system. Last week, we learned that our state was expected, for the first time, to fall below the national average in terms of per-pupil spending. The action late last night from members of the Joint Finance Committee exacerbates that trend. It’s an embarrassment for the state of Wisconsin and a monumental disservice to our public school students and parents.”

The Joint Finance Committee vote comes after months of advocacy from parents across the state in support of their public schools, efforts these groups have said will continue.

“The success we have in public education in this state is a reflection of the generations of work by Democrats and Republicans in support of our public schools,” said Forester. “Wisconsin parents are joining educators and community leaders in saying loud and clear: ‘We will not stand by while elected leaders dismantle public education in our state.’”

It is unfortunate that the education policies in this budget plan are clearly based on ideology and political expediency rather than evidence. If our objective is to improve student achievement for all Wisconsin children and close achievement gaps, research indicates that we should address the impact of poverty on student learning, invest in early learning opportunities for impoverished children and focus on the recruitment, retention and preparation of high-quality teachers and school leaders.

Unfortunately, the majority’s policy prescriptions — continued under-funding of public schools, dramatic expansion in school privatization, dismantling Wisconsin’s nationally recognized school accountability system, weakening standards for teacher preparation and adding a high-stakes civics test — simply will not move the needle for kids.

“In the days and weeks to come, we will work with pro-education legislators of both parties, parents and community leaders in the fight to restore Wisconsin’s tradition of sound investment in and support for its public schools and public school students,” said Forester. “Budgets are about choices. They are about priorities. It’s clear that the 860,000 public school students in Wisconsin are not a priority in this budget.”
###

March 21, 2015

Wisconsin Education Alert: Pressure Is Mounting Around the State to Restore and Increase Public Education Money to the Budget

Filed under: Wisc Budget Bill — millerlf @ 1:26 pm

At the Joint Finance hearing in Milwaukee on March 20 the resounding demand was clear; SUPPORT PUBLIC SCHOOL STUDENTS, SUPPORT PUBLIC SCHOOLS, SUPPORT PUBLIC SCHOOL EDUCATORS.

The Journal reported, “In a meeting with reporters before the hearing, Rep. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield) said restoring some funding to K-12 education was a “big priority” for lawmakers.”

The use of the phrase “restoring some funding” means partial funding. This will be an attempt to return enough money to the budget to appease some districts and divide the state-wide effort defending public education.

We cannot let this happen. The budget must not only restore the $150 categorical fund but must go beyond, to significantly increase funding, as all previous administrations have done.

March 1, 2015

Resolution Passed by MPS School Board on Walker Budget Proposals

Filed under: MPS,Scott Walker,Wisc Budget Bill — millerlf @ 9:42 am

Resolution 1415R-013

WHEREAS, It is important that parents and citizens of the state have a clear understanding of the state budget and its implications for funding at the school district level; and
WHEREAS, When Governor Walker publicly presented his proposed biennial budget on February 3, he stated, “our budget will increase state support for schools by providing more than $100 million annually for the school levy tax credit and more than $100 million in the second year of the budget for equalization aids — while maintaining revenue limits to ensure continuing property tax relief,” no mention was made of the cut of $150 per pupil ($127 million statewide) in special categorical aid in the first year of the proposed budget;
WHEREAS, Such a decrease would result in a “base” cut to the Milwaukee Public Schools of approximately $12.1 million in 2015-2016; and
WHEREAS, While cutting $150 per pupil in the first year — funding that, under current law, would be provided in each year of the 2015-17 biennium — Governor Walker’s budget plan provides no increase per pupil in the revenue limit even to minimally cover inflation, a provision commonly included in previous state budgets that recognized the costs associated with maintaining programs for students; and
WHEREAS, When the base cut and the lack of an inflationary increase in the revenue cap are factored together, the overall result is a total reduction conservatively estimated at $23 million in funding for the provision of educational opportunities for children in the Milwaukee Public Schools; and
WHEREAS, Even though the Governor proposes to include about $142 million (about $165 per pupil) in the per-pupil categorical aid in the second year of the biennium, the net result over the biennium is a cut of approximately $135 per pupil ($112 million); and
WHEREAS, Although the Governor also proposes spending $211.2 million in increased school-levy credits ($105.6 million in each year) and $108 million in increased general aid, with no corresponding increase in the revenue limit, this $319 million is “school funding in name only” —none of which schools will be able to spend to meet the educational needs of their students; now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED, That the Milwaukee Board of School Directors join with other school districts in the State of Wisconsin to strongly encourage the Governor and the State Legislature to revise the Governor’s proposed budget to restore school funding in 2015-17 to levels adequate to fund public education in Wisconsin and to reject any decrease in anticipated revenue in the first year of the biennium, while also providing for inflationary revenue increases in both years; and be it
FURTHER RESOLVED, That this Resolution be spread upon the permanent Record of this Board, and that the Board direct the Board Clerk to prepare and to present engrossed copies of this Resolution, suitably signed and sealed, to the Governor and to the State Legislature.
Adopted this 26th Day of February, 2015,
Michael Bonds, President Milwaukee Board of School Directors

February 28, 2015

Public schools serve the whole community

Filed under: Public Education,Scott Walker,Wisc Budget Bill — millerlf @ 5:55 pm

Mary Jarvis February 26, 2015 WausauDailyHerald.com

Know the facts about public schools vs. taxpayer-subsidized private schools.

A 21st-century public education system is the foundation of democracy and provides equal opportunity. The doors of public schools are wide open for all students and are essential to the well-being of our communities, state and country.

Do you know the difference between taxpayer subsidized private schools and our community public schools?
• Responsibilities and standards. Taxpayer-subsidized private schools do not need to hire highly qualified teachers and were not required to take state assessments until last year. Public schools are rated by the state every year, but taxpayer-subsidized private schools have a free ride from state report cards until 2017-18 or possibly later.
When taxpayer-subsidized private schools close, taxpayers can’t recoup our losses when displaced children return to public schools. When Life Skills Academy in Milwaukee closed in the middle of the night, $2.3 million tax dollars went down the drain.

• Funding. Wisconsin public schools were subjected to the largest cuts in the nation, totaling $1.6 billion, and there’s another $127 million cut on the table in the new budget proposal. As a result of continuing cuts in resources, there are fewer teachers and less one-on-one time for students. At the same time, taxpayer-subsidized private schools have skimmed $18.4 million dollars from public schools in 2013-2014 with a projection of $54.7 million going to them this year.
You may have noticed the significant increase in local referendums as state funding cuts to local schools, take their toll on students and communities especially rural areas. More communities than ever before are voting to raise their own local property taxes so children can still get a good education.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Nearly 80 percent of private school subsidy goes to students who never attended public schools in the first place — taxpayers are subsidizing private education at the expense of most of the children in our own neighborhoods.

• Special education. Taxpayer-subsidized private schools are only required to offer services to assist students with special needs that can be provided for with minor adjustments. Public schools employ licensed teachers, provide the full scope of special education and comply with federal law. As a result, subsidized private schools enroll far fewer children who require extra attention to succeed.

• Student achievement. Studies have found public schools to be equal or better performing than private institutions. This is true here in Wisconsin, where public school students are outperforming their peers in subsidized private schools. Taxpayer-subsidized private schools aren’t the answer to improving education. They ignore the real factors impacting student success — family income, involvement, and attendance.

• Public oversight. Taxpayer-subsidized private schools do not have democratically elected boards that represent the public — even though you, the taxpayer, are footing the bill. Private schools are not required to meet basic public standards, such as open meetings and records laws, or to publicly release test scores, dropout rates and other information.

• Responsibility to students. Many of the taxpayer-subsidized private schools springing up are private schools geared for profit and looking to advertise their way into getting tax dollars. Just look at the recent request by the subsidy lobby group to get the names, addresses and phone numbers of children in public schools. Subsidized private schools can spend your tax dollars any way they want, because there’s little oversight.
The bottom line: Public schools preserve our democracy and provide a fundamental public purpose for all. They are the heartbeat of thriving communities, the foundation of our quality of life. We need to support our neighborhood public schools so every child has a good public school to attend no matter where they live or what their family circumstances are.

Mary Jarvis of Wausau is a retired teacher and former president of the Wausau Education Association.

February 25, 2015

Wauwatosa School Board asks lawmakers to increase public education funding

Filed under: Scott Walker,Wisc Budget Bill — millerlf @ 2:17 pm


$5 Tax savings will further dismantle public education in Wisconsin. Referencing Walker’s proposal to save the average taxpayer $5 over each of the next two years, school board member Michael Meier brought a bag of ten silver coins to the board meeting Feb. 23.

By Rory Linnane Feb. 25, 2015

Facing a loss of about $900,000 in state funding under Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed state budget, Wauwatosa School Board members are asking their lawmakers to push for more money for public education.

In a resolution that passed the school board unanimously Monday, Feb. 23, members detailed the restrictions they are under in budgeting for the 2015-17 school years. Walker’s proposed budget would cut $150 in state aid per student in the next school year, while holding the revenue limit flat so that school boards could not raise taxes to make up the difference.

“Therefore, be it resolved, the Wauwatosa School Board calls upon Senator Leah Vukmir and Representatives Dale Kooyenga and Rob Hutton, to work with their legislative colleagues to support increased funding for public education in the current budget for the benefit of Wisconsin’s future and for the benefit of all public school students,” the resolution reads.

Kooyenga said Feb. 24 that he respected the school board’s position and would try to help.
“Just like last time in the budget the Joint Finance Committee increased the funding for public schools, I’ll be working hard to get to the same objective this time to see if we can fix the funding issue for Wauwatosa schools, and work on the resolution as they proposed it,” Kooyenga said. “I’m very supportive and we’ll be working to do that.”
Wauwatosa Superintendent Phil Ertl said although Wauwatosa is in a good financial position to weather “tough times,” other districts are not as fortunate.

“Can we operate with a $1 million cut for a year?” Ertl said. “Sure we can. But can Steven’s Point? Can Green Bay? Can all these other districts around the state that don’t have a fund balance, that have other, different needs than Wauwatosa? No, they can’t. When we fight, it’s not just for Wauwatosa. We’re fighting for public education in general.”
Ertl also said he believes the cuts are discouraging people from going into teaching.

“There’s always going to be a pool of candidates, but are some of our best students deciding they don’t want to go into public education? We’ve seen it,” Ertl said.

Referencing Walker’s proposal to save the average taxpayer $5 over each of the next two years, school board member Michael Meier brought a bag of ten silver coins to the board meeting Feb. 23.
“For ten pieces of silver, I can turn my back on 100 years of public education — my heritage, my community, the future of my grandchildren,” said Meier, who said four generations of his family have benefited from public schools. “I understood four years ago that we didn’t have the money anymore. But this time, it’s for $10.”
Board member Kristy Casey said she was optimistic that lawmakers would step in.

“It’s really early on,” Casey said. “I do believe these numbers will change, or at least I hope that they do. We can’t allow our schools to be victim to things like this, so it’s really important we advocate for what we believe is important in our community, which is our public schools.

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