Wisconsin voters strongly support quality public schools over tax cuts, poll analysis finds

Wisconsin voters have made their priorities clear – they want quality public schools – but lawmakers are not listening. That is the analysis from the Wisconsin Budget Project of last month’s statewide poll by the Marquette University Law School. In the poll, voters said in many ways that they support quality public schools in the state. In response to one question, 61 percent said they prefer more money for public schools, while just 32% said they prefer tax cuts.

“One of the remarkable aspects of the poll results,” the analysis said, “is the degree to which they show that Wisconsin voters across the entire state place a high value on education. … Wisconsin residents believe that excellent public schools are important to the state’s success, and are concerned that recent changes have harmed public schools. Cutting taxes ranks relatively low among voter concerns, the poll showed.”

According to the Wisconsin Budget Project analysis:

“Voters all across the state place a great deal of value on Wisconsin’s schools, with nearly half (49%) naming K-12 education as among the two most important issues facing the state, according to the August 2018 poll from Marquette University Law School. In contrast, only 13% of voters identified tax cuts as among the most important issues.

“When presented with a direct trade-off between increasing resource for schools and cutting taxes, a significant majority of Wisconsin voters said they favor spending more money on schools (61%) than reducing property taxes (32%).”

The analysis continued: “One of the remarkable aspects of the poll results is the degree to which they show that Wisconsin voters across the entire state place a high value on education, and that concern about the quality of Wisconsin’s public schools is not limited to voters in more liberal-leaning areas of the state. In areas like Green Bay/Appleton and the suburban counties surrounding Milwaukee, both areas with high concentrations of conservative voters, respondents indicated that that education is a much more pressing issue than tax cuts, and express concerns that schools are worse off now than in the past.”

It concluded: “The reduced funding for public school districts didn’t occur because the state lacked resources. Wisconsin has enough state revenue to overturn the past budget cuts to schools, but lawmakers have chosen instead to use that revenue to pass billions in new tax cuts, many of which wind up in the pockets of the wealthy and well-connected.”

Read entire Wisconsin Budget Project analysis:

Wisconsin Voters Choose Education Over Tax Cuts – Wisconsin Budget Project

A new poll shows that Wisconsin residents believe that excellent public schools are important to the state’s success, and are concerned that recent changes have harmed public schools. Cutting taxes ranks relatively low among voter concerns, the poll showed. Voters all across the state place a great deal of value on Wisconsin’s schools, with nearly …

 

Memoninee Indian educator – and WEAC member – Benjamin Grignon is state’s 2019 High School Teacher of the Year

Benjamin Grignon stands by a traditional basket.

From the Department of Public Instruction

Benjamin Grignon

In a surprise ceremony at his school, Benjamin Grignon, teacher of traditional Menominee crafts at Menominee Indian High School in Keshena and a member of WEAC Region 3, was named a Wisconsin 2019 High School Teacher of the Year.

State Superintendent Tony Evers made the announcement during an all-school assembly. As part of the Teacher of the Year honor, Grignon will receive $3,000 from the Herb Kohl Educational Foundation.

“Our teachers wear many hats, yet their dedication to children is constant,” said State Superintendent Tony Evers. “From the classroom to the conference room to the community, they focus on our kids and their education. It is an honor to recognize educators who do so much for Wisconsin’s students and our public schools.”

Herb Kohl, philanthropist, businessman, and co-sponsor of the Wisconsin Teacher of the Year program through his educational foundation, said he supports the program because “I want to help teachers pursue their unrealized goals for their classroom, their school, or their professional development.”

As a teacher of traditional arts, specifically Menominee arts, Grignon is unique in the world. “I work with students not only on the art forms of our people, but the language and cultural practices that go along with these arts,” he said. He works with science teachers to incorporate plant and mushroom identification and the chemistry of mordants and plants for dying weaving and basketry projects. Students learn geometry formulas as they design loom beadwork based on the geometric forms that are part of ancient Menominee aesthetics. “I am constantly finding opportunities to use our culture to reinforce other subjects in our school,” he said.

Grignon shows deep respect for the elder teachers, saying he strives to pass the knowledge on to the next generation of Menominee youth. “My students are taught about menacehaew (respect) for themselves, each other, and for the knowledge passed on to us from the elders.” He incorporates language learning into everyday tasks. Many of the expressions Grignon uses become a part of students’ everyday conversations, and students depend on the classroom community for help when they forget the Menominee language term for something.

“Within Menominee culture, we have a belief that you should never create something if your mind is troubled,” Grignon related. He uses classroom meditation to help students center themselves and offers alternatives for those who feel they cannot make art that day. These actions are part of his effort to create a safe place for students to learn and support programming to address Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), which are prevalent in the high-poverty district. Grignon notes that through traditional art and symbolism, students reflect Menominee history in their creations, but also their present and future. He says that the elements in students’ work, the symbols and colors they use, allow them to share something about themselves, the struggles they face, and the accomplishments they have achieved.

Grignon serves as vice chairman of the Menominee Language and Culture Commission. The panel oversees immersion efforts at the Menominee Tribal Daycare, which is using a program based on the Language Nest idea developed by the Maori of New Zealand. As co-founder of the Mawaw Ceseniyah Center for Language, Culture, and the Arts, Grignon helps lead traditional experiences such as maple tree tapping, wild rice gathering, and storytelling activities that unite the school and community. By working with the University of Wisconsin Extension, Grignon was able to establish a Menominee Immersion Club at the high school that uses language to cook healthy foods. His principal notes that Grignon’s positive effect on the student body afterschool is so great that he’s had to request special busing so students can get home. Principal Jim Reif also commends Grignon as a resource for non-Menominee educators, calling Grignon “an irreplaceable embodiment of what it means to be a revered Menominee leader and teacher.”

In addition to working at Menominee Indian High School, Grignon teaches community art workshops at East-West University and the College of Menominee Nation. He previously worked at the Menominee Tribal School in Neopit, teaching kindergarten through eighth-grade Menominee Language classes. He earned an associate’s degree in fine art from the Institute of American Indian Art in Santa Fe, N.M. He holds a bachelor’s degree in fine art from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a master’s of fine art from the University of Arizona in Tucson. Grignon earned his teaching certification through Concordia University’s Appleton campus.

Other educators named 2019 Teachers of the Year are:

Special Services Teacher of the Year
Michael Wilson, a school counselor at St. Croix Falls High School and a member of WEAC Region 1
Elementary School Teacher of the Year
Liz Gulden, a kindergarten teacher at Willson Elementary School in Baraboo
Middle School Teacher of the Year
Maggie McHugh of Sparta, a sixth-grade teacher and adviser at the La Crosse Design Institute
High School Teacher of the Year (two this year)
Sarahi Monterrey, an English Learner teacher at Waukesha North High School

 

Tell DPI what you think about major proposed changes to teacher licensing rules

With the 100th day of school approaching quickly for Wisconsin Public Schools, educators are still experiencing the impact the state’s growing teacher shortage has on our students and workload. The problem is escalating, yet meaningful solutions are few and far between. We’ve seen policymakers opting for quick fixes – including a law that allows a teaching certificate for someone who takes an online course with no student teaching.

WEAC has brought forward your solutions for the teacher shortage: Professional pay, planning and preparation time, and holding school leadership accountable for a positive school climate. Yet, the media has reported that since 2011 a whopping 60 percent of school districts have slowed or offered no growth in teacher pay/benefits and 75 percent of districts reported losing teaching staff when outbid by other districts in the “free-agent” approach to the teaching corps. “I’ve grown tired of it, so I’m moving on,” one veteran teacher simply explained.

Solving the teacher shortage

Whether looking at the national research or asking a Wisconsin educator, the reason for the teacher shortage is clear: teaching and learning conditions. Recruiting and retaining the right number of teachers who possess the right qualifications is not enough to ensure Wisconsin’s public-school students are well served. Teachers must also have the right working conditions in place to teach effectively and for students to learn at the highest levels rooted in critical thinking, inquiry, and problem solving.

In recent years Wisconsin Educators have experienced decreased professional autonomy as seen in scripted curricula, state mandated SLOs, and highly prescriptive employee handbooks. Teacher workload is excessive with tasks that do not promote student learning such as data entry and excessively assigned duties.

Perhaps the most under acknowledged reason for the teacher shortage is the downward trend in teacher salary and benefits in Wisconsin. The erosion of relative teacher pay has fallen heavily on the most experienced teachers, and many early career educators do not have the ability to accurately project future earnings making it difficult to make decisions enabling one to maintain a middle-class standard of living.

DPI proposal overhauls PI-34

The Department of Public Instruction is offering the latest idea to solve the teacher shortage – an overhaul to the state’s teacher licensure law, PI-34. WEAC has prepared an overview of the proposal, and will be posting Frequently Asked Questions.

Teacher licensure and teacher rights

The proposed overhaul represents two areas – licensing and teacher rights. While the licensure provisions represent a mixed bag of ideas crafted with input from a council of education stakeholders including WEAC, provisions in the overhaul aimed at limiting teacher rights create sweeping changes to disciplinary action based on arbitrary and questionable judgments.

Licensing proposals:

WEAC is seeking assurances from the DPI that all current license holders are grandfathered or given the option of expanding licensure in any or all forms as outlined in the changes. We are also calling on the DPI to develop and promulgate rigorous protocols and procedures for assuring that any district-sponsored license be implemented in an objective manner with fidelity. Without criteria that assures that stringent quality control measures are in place WEAC stands opposed to the district sponsored licensure proposal. This includes, but is not limited to, direct involvement by a master educator holding such a license or an Institute of Higher Education that has a teacher preparation program approved by the DPI.  Without the requirement candidates for licensure demonstrate comprehensive training in subject matter content and pedagogy, Wisconsin’s students are at risk of being provided educators who are inadequately prepared.

Teacher Rights Proposals:

The DPI has proposed a series of sweeping changes that directly impact teacher rights associated with potential disciplinary action which do nothing to attract or keep teachers in the profession and undermine the concept of a team of educators working for student success. WEAC believes DPI has overstepped its authority with this extensive overhaul that reaches beyond license revocation. Along with creating a very broad category called boundary violations as aggravating factors that could cause a license to be revoked, the overhaul rewards teachers for becoming informants against other teachers, allows the DPI to suspend teachers with limited proof and creates categories of offenses in which the DPI may revoke a license, and when it must. Instead of felonies being the reason a license is revoked, there are new vague offenses, such as revocation for a teacher who engages in more than one boundary violation – which covers a wide scope of arbitrary judgments, like showing favoritism.

Educators are encouraged to provide written comment or attend one of five public hearings this month. Read all proposed changes here.

Charter schools contribute to segregation, lack accountability and are failing students, new studies find

Charter schools contribute to segregation, lack accountability and are failing students, according to two new studies out this week.

In one study, the Network for Public Education calls charter schools a “fiscal and educational disaster.”

“Charter schools can and have closed at will, leaving families stranded. Profiteers with no educational expertise have seized the opportunity to open charter schools and use those schools for self-enrichment. States with weak charter laws encourage nepotism, profiteering by politicians, and worse,” according to the NPE report titled Charters and Consequences. (Read summary at EducationVotes.org.)

The 48-page report details the consequences of loosely regulated charter policy and the effects that charters are having on public schools. Whatever the benefits charter schools offers to the few, the overall negative consequences must be addressed, stated the report.

In the second study, the Associated Press says charter schools are among the nation’s most segregated — “an outcome at odds, critics say, with their goal of offering a better alternative to failing traditional public schools.”

AP says its analysis of charter schools in 42 states found that charters promote “extreme racial isolation.” As of school year 2014-2015, AP says, more than 1,000 of the nation’s 6,747 charter schools had minority enrollment of at least 99 percent, and the number has been rising steadily.

AP quotes Daniel Shulman, a Minnesota civil rights attorney, as saying: “Desegregation works. Nothing else does. There is no amount of money you can put into a segregated school that is going to make it equal.”

Read the EducationVotes.org summary of the NPE study:

Charter school experiment has “failed,” concludes national investigation – Education Votes

The charter school industry’s unregulated, taxpayer-funded business model of education is a “fiscal and educational disaster,” concluded a report that is the result of investigations, visits and interviews over the course of a year. Get the latest information on the issues that matter to students, educators, and public schools.

 

Read the Associated Press analysis:

US charter schools put growing numbers in racial isolation

MILWAUKEE (AP) – Charter schools are among the nation’s most segregated, an Associated Press analysis finds – an outcome at odds, critics say, with their goal of offering a better alternative to failing traditional public schools. National enrollment data shows that charters are vastly over-represented among schools where minorities study in the most extreme racial isolation.

 

95 percent of Wisconsin public school districts meet or exceed expectations in new statewide ‘report card’

Racine Unified School District scored a passing grade in the latest round of state report cards, meaning it won’t face the possibility of area villages breaking off and forming their own districts.

A provision in this year’s state budget would have allowed Mount Pleasant, Sturtevant and Caledonia to leave Racine Unified if the district received a failing grade.

More than 95 percent of Wisconsin public school districts meet or exceed expectations in a new “report card” released Tuesday by the Department of Public Instruction. Private schools accounted for nearly 25% of the schools that failed to meet expectations, and most of those private schools are part of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (the voucher program), according to an analysis of the report cards by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. That is a very high percentage of voucher schools making the “failing” list, given the fact that they make up a much lower percentage of schools overall. In addition, 140 private voucher schools were not rated because of insufficient data.

“On one hand, the vast majority of parents choose public schools for their students, and more than 95 percent of districts are meeting or exceeding expectations set forth on the report cards,” said WEAC President Ron Martin. “On the other hand, there is a troubling number of voucher schools still unaccountable for performance – even though private school tuition is paid for by taxpayers.

“If Wisconsin is serious about school performance, legislators should focus and invest in the public schools that serve the majority of students instead of siphoning public school funds off to private voucher schools.”


From the Department of Public Instruction:

In the second year of report cards that use legislatively mandated growth and value-added calculations, 82 percent of Wisconsin’s public and private school report cards had three or more stars, meaning the schools met or exceeded expectations for educating students. More than 95 percent of the state’s public school districts earned a three-star rating.

Overall, 361 public and private school report cards earned five-star ratings, 719 had four stars, 643 had three stars, 261 had two stars, and 117 schools earned one star. Another 173 schools achieved satisfactory progress and 21 need improvement through alternate accountability. There were 152 report cards for 140 private choice schools that are not rated because there was insufficient data. This is the second year that choice schools were included in report cards and the second year the schools could opt to have both a choice student and an all student report card.

On district level report cards, 44 districts earned five-star ratings, 190 had four stars, 166 earned three stars, and 20 had two stars. One district, the Herman-Rubicon-Neosho School District, was not rated because of district consolidation. Another district, the Norris School District with enrollment of 14 students in 2016-17, made satisfactory progress through alternate accountability.

Alternate accountability is a district supervised self-evaluation of a school’s performance on raising student achievement in English language arts and mathematics. The alternate accountability process is used for new schools, schools without tested grades, schools exclusively serving at-risk students, and schools with fewer than 20 full academic year students who took state tests.

Accountability ratings are calculated on four priority areas: student achievement in English language arts and mathematics, school growth, closing gaps between student groups, and measures of postsecondary readiness, which includes graduation and attendance rates, third-grade English language arts achievement, and eighth-grade mathematics achievement. Additionally, schools and districts could have point deductions for missing targets for student engagement: absenteeism must be less than 13 percent and dropout rates must be less than 6 percent.

For the 2016-17 report cards, 162 schools and 24 districts had score fluctuations of 10 or more points in both overall and growth scores compared to 2015-16, which is larger variability than expected. Their report cards carry a ^ notation because it is unclear if the score change accurately reflects the amount of change in performance or a symptom of statistical volatility. Report card requirements in Wisconsin Act 55, the 2015-17 budget bill, mandated the use of value-added growth scoring and variable weighting based on the percentage of economically disadvantaged students enrolled in a school or district. Prior to Act 55, overall annual report card score change averaged 3.3 points. Since Act 55, the average score change is 5.8 points. Although volatility in value-added scores may decrease with another year of Forward testing, score fluctuations are likely to continue especially for small schools and districts as well as schools and districts with high percentages of economically disadvantaged students. The Department of Public Instruction is engaging with state policymakers, technical experts, and stakeholders about how best to address these issues. Any changes to school report cards growth or weighting calculations will require legislative action.

Report cards are intended to help schools and districts use performance data to target improvement efforts to ensure students are ready for their next educational step, including the next grade level, graduation, college, and careers. The 2016-17 report cards use data from a variety of sources, including information reported through WISEdash and two years of Forward and one year of Badger testing as well as three years ACT Plus Writing and Dynamic Learning Maps testing for growth calculations. At least three and up to five years of data are used for the gaps priority area and four years of data is needed to calculate a graduation rate. Schools and districts have access to a number of accountability resources on the department website to support report card discussions with parents, school staff, and the public.

Republican tax plan is ‘giveaway to wealthiest paid for by students and working families’

The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday approved a multi-trillion dollar tax plan that funds tax breaks for the wealthiest and corporations on the backs of students and working families. The bill, championed by Republican leaders, eliminates a popular tax deduction that allows educators to deduct up to $250 of the money they spend on their classrooms and students. The bill also expands a tax loophole for the wealthiest to pay for private school expenses while cutting tax deductions for the middle class. The elimination of most of the state and local tax deductions would blow a hole in state and local revenue to support public education and risk funding for nearly 250,000 education jobs, including 4,680 in Wisconsin.

“Wisconsin’s students lose big with today’s vote,” said WEAC President Ron Martin, an eighth grade teacher. “It’s wholely irresponsible, including a provision eliminating tax deductions for teachers who buy classroom supplies, while allowing corporations to keep their deductions. This is highly hypocritical especially since some Republicans voted to make this deduction permanent in 2015. Now they want to eliminate it.”

The tax plan would cut up to $4.6 million from Wisconsin schools over 10 years.

“Hypocrisy is at the heart of the tax plan approved today by the U.S. House of Representatives,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “It reveals the ill-conceived and misguided priorities of Republican leaders in Washington. Repeatedly, their plan takes from working families to pay for massive tax giveaways to corporations and the wealthy.”

The House tax bill eliminates the state and local deduction for people but keeps it for corporations. It eliminates the educator tax deduction for school supplies but allows corporations to continue to claim deductions for supplies they purchase. It eliminates the student loan deduction but opens a new loophole for wealthy families to sock away money to pay for private school tuition.

“It is outrageous to expand education tax loopholes for wealthy families to stash away money for private school,” Martin said. “Make no mistake: this poorly veiled and risky voucher program will only benefit those who can already afford private school tuition at the expense of our students and neighborhood public schools – where 9 out of 10 children attend. This is not normal. As with their health care debacle this year, Republican leaders are rushing to pass a massive, partisan bill that impacts every American household, critical public services like education, and our economy without giving it the scrutiny and deliberation it deserves. The American people demand Congress reject this reckless plan.”

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Teachers’ mental health declining due to job stress, political discourse, survey finds

The growing stresses of teaching, coupled with the coarseness of the nation’s political debate, is taking a heavy toll on the mental health of teachers, according to a survey released Monday by the American Federation of Teachers and the Badass Teachers Association, a grassroots organization focused on social justice.

Well over half of the educators surveyed – 58% – said their mental health was “not good” for seven or more of the previous 30 days. That is up from 34% just two years ago.

The summary of the survey – titled “2017 Educator Quality of Work Life Survey” – says safe, welcoming, healthy schools flourish when teachers and school staff are empowered by support and respect on the job.

“Educator working conditions have a direct effect on the learning environment of our students. Teaching is a difficult job, and working conditions are a strong predictor of teacher turnover — more so than other factors like teaching in a high-poverty school,” its says.

“Studies have shown that teachers in high-poverty schools with good, supportive working conditions are likely to stay. The people who know teachers best — those who are part of their school and local communities — respect them the most. There’s a large and growing body of research that shows that community engagement and collaborative practices in schools and districts improve student outcomes. We can ensure safe, welcoming, supportive learning environments for kids when communities, parents, educators and administrators work together to build supportive working environments for teachers and school staff.

“Fostering safe, welcoming environments in schools is even more critical in our current political climate. A study released by UCLA in October 2017 shows that since January’s presidential inauguration, high school teachers across the United States are reporting more stress, anxiety and bullying among their students than before.”

Randi Weingarten, AFT president, is quoted in USA Today as saying that over the past few years, teachers have swapped one kind of stress — an intense national focus on standardized skills tests — for another, the nastiness of our political debate.

“This notion that being coarse and tough and enabling hate is OK is highly, highly, highly disruptive and problematic in schools and goes completely against what parents and teachers know is absolutely important for kids, which is a safe and welcoming environment,” Weingarten said.

Key findings of the survey include:

  • The people who know teachers the best — parents, co-workers and students — showed much more respect for teachers than elected officials and media members, many of whom rarely set foot in a classroom.
  • While educators felt most respected by their colleagues, they also indicated that their direct supervisors showed them much more respect than their school boards, the media, elected officials and U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos (86 percent of respondents did not feel respected by DeVos).
  • While the majority of educators felt they had moderate to high control over basic decisions within their classroom, their level of influence and control dropped significantly on policy decisions that directly impact their classroom, such as setting discipline policy, setting performance standards and deciding how resources are spent. This lack of voice over important instructional decisions is a tangible example of the limited respect policymakers have for educators.
  • Policies that support healthy interactions in schools are tremendously important. The survey found that educators experience workplace bullying at a much higher rate — more that three times as high — than other workers. While most educators reported that their schools have workplace harassment policies prohibiting bullying, a smaller proportion of respondents said that their schools or districts offered regular training on bullying.
  • These and other factors contribute to an unhealthy work environment. Teachers reported having poor mental health for 11 or more days per month at twice the rate of the general U.S. workforce. They also reported lower-than-recommended levels of health outcomes and sleep per night.
  • The stressful workload, the feeling of having to be “always on,” the lack of resources, and the burden of ever-changing expectations take a toll on educators, and the health problems educators face are compounded by deficient building conditions, equipment and staff shortages, and insufficient time to prepare and collaborate with colleagues.
  • Respondents overwhelmingly agreed that strong educator unions are vital.

Read the USA Today summary:

Survey: Teachers’ mental health declining amid job stress

A long list of anxieties – around school budget cuts, bullying, coarse political discourse and the shaky status of immigrant students – is taking a toll on teachers, a new survey shows, with more educators now saying their mental health is suffering than just two years earlier.

Read the entire survey report:

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Charts detail financial impact of private school vouchers on state’s public school districts

School Funding Reform For Wisconsin has created charts like this for every Senate district in the state. Click chart to view them.

An organization called School Funding Reform For Wisconsin has compiled a series of informative charts that summarize the financial impact of taxpayer-funded private school voucher programs on public school districts throughout the state. The charts are grouped by Senate district.

It is important to note, the organization says, that school boards are being placed in the difficult position of either:

  1. Losing this funding from their budgets permanently, resulting in loss of opportunities and programs for students, or
  2. Replacing lost aid by raising local property taxes.

In effect, it says, state legislators are forcing local taxpayers to pay for vouchers in their school districts.

A recent WEAC Research Brief concludes that there is little evidence to substantiate the expansion of private voucher schools on the grounds that they are intended to help student achievement:

“Research in Wisconsin and other states consistently shows little to no voucher school advantage, and in fact often documents significant ill-effects on students including: school closings, high rates of student attrition for lower-performing students, and decreased assessment scores in math and reading.”

View all the charts.

Find out more about the impact of taxpayer-funded private school vouchers on Wisconsin’s public school districts and students.

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Private school voucher enrollment up 8 percent, cost to taxpayers is $270 million

Enrollment in Wisconsin private school vouchers programs increased nearly 8 percent this year and cost state taxpayers $270 million, an increase of $25.5 million over last year, according to figures released Monday by the Department of Public Instruction.

Across the three programs – Milwaukee, Racine and statewide – a total of 36,249 students received a voucher to attend one of the 238 participating private schools. This is an increase of 2,684 students and 29 schools across the three programs compared to the prior school year.

Generally, the vouchers are paid for through a mixture of general purpose state revenue or money taken away from the public school district where the student resides.

There are 3,007 students in the Racine program, 4,540 students in the statewide program and 28,702 in Milwaukee.

For the 2017-18 school year, each participating private school may receive a voucher payment of $7,530 per FTE (full-time equivalent) in grades kindergarten through eight and $8,176 per FTE for students enrolled in grades nine through 12.

Read more from DPI:

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Expansion of unproven, unaccountable private school vouchers harms public schools and raises taxes, analysis finds

School voucher programs – including the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program (WPCP) – divert much-needed funding away from public schools when they are expanded, according to a new policy memo by the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) with funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

The peer-reviewed memo, Assessing the Fiscal Impact of Wisconsin’s Statewide Voucher Program, examines the fiscal impact of the WPCP and how it affects public schools.

The analysis found that if WPCP were expanded, public school funding would decline and taxpayers would be burdened with extra costs. This report is timely because Wisconsin policymakers are looking at expanding WPCP to more students in the state of Wisconsin.

“This national research is worth paying attention to, and cautions other states not to go down the same road as Wisconsin in terms of unaccountable private school vouchers,” said WEAC President Ron Martin. “If policymakers are really interested in improving education, they should invest in the public schools that serve all students.”

The research outlines the sad reality: as the statewide program expands, the reduction to local school districts increase. The statewide program is already distributing tens of millions of dollars for private school tuition. The research expressly recommends Wisconsin not increase the income limit on the program to allow wealthier families to receive tuition subsidies – however that’s just what the governor’s budget signed in late September did.

“The available evidence suggests that policymakers across the country should think carefully before emulating Wisconsin’s statewide voucher program in their own states,” the author says.

While the policy memo acknowledges there is still more research that is needed, the memo urges policymakers to consider the repercussions of further transferring public school funding to private schools. There is limited evidence on the effectiveness of voucher programs. Despite the lack of proven results, voucher and voucher-like programs across the country continue to expand and grow.

The new policy memo found expanding the statewide Wisconsin Parental Choice Program (WPCP) could worsen disparities in public school funding. It concludes:

  • Policymakers should think cautiously about whether the limited benefits of voucher programs outweigh the unintended consequences to our public schools.
  • Voucher and voucher-like programs divert much-needed funding from public schools and redirect it to private schools where, in some cases, there is little accountability or evidence to support expansion.
  • If state policymakers expand voucher programs, this could increase the tax burden of citizens, especially those living in rural communities and small school districts with fewer students.
  • Policymakers should focus on what already works, which is strengthening public schools and ensuring school districts have the resources they need to adequately prepare students for the future.
    • There is no clear evidence that demonstrates students who receive vouchers and attend private schools perform better than students who attend public schools.
    • Voucher programs, in most cases, do not empower low-income families to choose schools that they would not otherwise attend, since many voucher recipients have already attended private schools prior to receiving vouchers.
    • Many private schools do not provide special education or other services that public schools are required to provide, which is a significant cost for public schools.
  • To promote high-quality education and funding equity, the policy memo urges policymakers to carefully rethink expanding or replicating the WPCP.
    • The author of the policy memo recommends that Wisconsin policymakers maintain the income threshold for voucher program participation at 185 percent of the federal poverty level, instead of increasing it to the proposed 300 percent income limit.
    • To protect funding for public school districts, the author recommends keeping the enrollment cap at one percent in each district and using a lottery to determine participation.
    • Finally, the author recommends funding the WPCP through the state’s general-purpose revenue, paying for statewide school vouchers through state taxes instead of placing the burden on taxpayers living in communities where students receive vouchers.

“More than ever,” the analysis concludes, “many public schools struggle with inadequate funding. As voucher programs expand, this could mean less money for public schools in communities where students receive school vouchers to attend private schools.”

There are currently 33,775 students enrolled in Wisconsin’s school voucher programs. Two percent of students in each district could enroll in WPCP and the enrollment cap will expand by one percent through 2026 when the cap is eliminated. The memo found if the program expands, it could shift millions of dollars in public school funding to the WPCP and private schools.

Find the report on the Great Lakes Center website: http://www.greatlakescenter.org

This report can also found on the NEPC website: http://nepc.colorado.edu/