Many public schools are forced to do more with less because lawmakers who voted for the last state budget increased state tax dollars to private schools. Nearly half of Wisconsin’s public schools will receive less aid this school year than the last – including many of our local schools.Vinehout also mentions that several districts in Western Wisconsin are facing school referenda that force citizens to choose between large property tax increases and the closing of schools and reduction in other education services.
Eau Claire received the largest dollar amount cut statewide – over $2.3 million while Pepin and Alma received the largest local percentage cuts - over 15%. At the same time, state aid per pupil going to private ‘voucher’ schools reached its highest point in state history.
In his letter, [Pepin Area School] Superintendent [Bruce] Quinton noted the difference between amounts of state aid for Pepin to that of private schools: for the 2014-15 school year Pepin receives $1,667 per student; public tax dollars to private ‘voucher’ schools are $7,856 per high school student and $7,210 per K-8 student.
“Pepin Area School District taxpayers will pay an additional $70,119 in taxes to educate children in other districts this school year,” Mr. Quinton wrote. “I cannot comprehend why taxpayers are willing to subsidize a private voucher school education system, especially when research indicates that private voucher schools perform at best as well as the public school system and in many cases below their public school peers.”
The culprit in this is Scott Walker's education policies, which began by cutting state aids to public schools in 2011 and 2012, and continued by expanding the state's voucher program statewide. And the "tools" of Act 10 have not come close to offsetting these cuts, particularly in the smaller districts in rural Wisconsin.
Take a look at this map that shows the changes in state funding for 2014-15. Nearly half the districts in Wisconsin will have reductions in state aid for this year- more than 3 years after Act 10 took place.
Notice all the districts in red that are up North? Those districts are each looking at state aid cuts of more than 10% for this year, and will need to raise property taxes to make up for that difference. The beige-colored districts are also disproportionately away from the big cities, meaning that rural districts are facing the lion's share of funding difficulties for the upcoming year. Sure makes you wonder if that reality will sink into those areas before the November election, and if they'll realize that there's no payoff to denigrating teachers and destroying one of the few reasons to stay in these communities- strong public schools that develop strong communities.
And this is coming on the heels of public school services already being stressed. The Wisconsin Budget Project notes average class size increased 8% from 2004-05 to 2011-12, from 14.3 to 15.5, and Wisconsin teaching positions were reduced by 4,300 FTE in the sme time period. In the two years since, the DPI indicates that 500 FTE teachers have been hired back (meaning we're "only" down 3,800), but class sizes have stayed high, and the replacement of teachers has often been at the cost of numerous years of experience.
Some districts continue to bleed teachers as the teachers' current agreements run out, and they lose their voice over pay and work conditions. This was recently shown in the case of West Allis-West Milwaukee English teacher Eric Zentner, who was one of 139 teachers in the district to leave this Summer. Zentner quit after 18 years, and wrote a four page letter that described an administration that he felt was too busy trying to micromanage teachers after Act 10 took effect, instead of leaving it up to the judgment of the pros in the classroom.
He said new behavior policies that emphasize keeping kids in the classroom rather than sending them outside class when they disrupt the learning environment is difficult for teachers.As we start the 2014-15 school year, I'd ask you to treat your teacher with respect. They're underappreciated while being worked as hard as ever, likely taking home less pay than they did 4 years ago, and their districts are being squeezed by budget cuts from an ALEC-beholden Republican Party, who would love nothing more than to screw up public schools so they could justify funneling even more taxpayer dollars to corporate and religious private school operators. And despite the claims of Gov Walker and company, these policies will likely jack up your property taxes over the next two years.
Teachers are also undermined by interesting content children can access on their iPads, and he said, they're limited in their ability to take away the devices.
Teachers are also urged to give students as many tries as necessary to complete assignments, and pass students even if they're not ready, he said.
Zentner said there appear to be more administrators in the building at a time when teachers are asked to attend more meetings, limiting their time for meaningful interactions with students.
So tell me, is it working?