State Sen. Janet Bewley asked the Legislative Fiscal Bureau for figures comparing the 2010-11 budget on K-12 education (the year before Walker and WisGOP came to power) and the budget for the soon-to-be completed 2015-16 fiscal year. These figures were split up between the aids to K-12 public schools, and to vouchers, and then total public school enrollments were used to determine the aid per student (the per-student aid for vouchers is set by statute).
Here’s what we found, and I’ll add that I’m projecting 2015-16 All Public School aids by using the budgeted amount of $751.75 million for categorical aids (the actual expense will likely be less).
General K-12 Public School Aids per Student
2015-16 $5,108 (-$210)
2015-16 in 2011 dollars $4,732 (-$586)
All K-12 Public School Aids per Student
2015-16 $5,998 (-$13)
2015-16 in 2011 dollars $5,556 (-$455)
K-12 Voucher School Payments per Student
2015-16 $7,214 (+$772)
2015-16 in 2011 dollars $6,682 (+$240)
2015-16 $7,860 (+$1,418)
2015-16 in 2011 dollars $7,281 (+$839)
So not only has the state cut public school aids while voucher school payments per students went up, but those voucher school payments went up well beyond the rate of inflation. Talk about enabling with free money! I’m sure this funneling funds out of public schools and into vouchers has NOTHING to do with convicted criminal Scott Jensen throwing big sums of “independent” voucher money behind GOP candidates in elections, would it? Nooooooo.
And the fact that over ¾ of new voucher students were already attending a private school means that the state funding is nothing more than a subsidy of those schools’ tuition. That move also gives more flexibility to those schools up to raise tuition by a higher amount, since fewer people are paying full price anyway (that’s a line GOPs use to argue against student loans and state aid to colleges, so why can’t I use it?). And those who are paying that higher tuition are likely to get some of that cost back, since Wisconsin parents can write off up to $10,000 of private school tuition.
State Rep. Sondy Pope (the top Democrat on the Assembly’s Education Committee) put the results of this money-funneling into a proper perspective.
“Our public schools and students have been struggling to maintain high-quality education under massive budget cuts. They’ve cut resources, staff, educational offerings and more to make way for Republicans’ irresponsible budgeting. All-the-while, private school students have been sitting pretty, having their tuition covered by massive taxpayer subsidies….Yeah, that pretty much sums it up, Sondy. WisGOP K-12 policies have ZERO to do with improving education or the talent that is produced by those schools, but has everything to do with funneling resources to those who support their campaign. And the state’s economy and budget continue to suffer as a result of the selfish political decisions that allowed this voucher theft to occur.
This information shows yet again how Republican legislators are choosing special interest groups over their constituents. With the voucher lobbying heavily padding their campaigns, these legislators have chosen to ignore and further damage our public schools – all for more money in their own pockets.”