Sunday, July 3, 2016

Suburb GOPs should back off MPS, worry about their own towns

For your weekend reading, take a gander at this excellent open letter to State Sen. Alberta Darling (R-ALEC) from MPS teacher Jay Bullock. It's written in the aftermath of Demond Means resigning as the head of the Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program (OSPP) , a program allegedly created to allow for "innovation" to improve results at certain MPS schools.

Bullock explains to Sen. Darling in strong detail just how little school "reformers" like her really care about improving the lives and outcomes of children living in impoverished urban areas.
I don’t believe you because I know you know money matters in education. You live in River Hills, where schools spend almost $1,000 more per student every year than MPS does, according to DPI’s “Total Educational Cost Per Member” report for 2015. You make a big deal in your op-ed about MPS’s billion-dollar budget, but you don’t acknowledge that scores of other districts, like yours and the one where your plan’s co-author Rep. Dale Kooyenga lives, spend more per student than MPS does.

This is especially galling because those districts are places where resources are more abundant than in Milwaukee. In your home ZIP code, 53217, average household income is $98,000 per year, four times that of households in the much-beleaguered Milwaukee ZIP code 53206.

In the 18 years between birth and graduation, the difference in available family resources for children in those two communities is $1.3 million. How can you claim to want to help Milwaukee’s children and not recognize this massive resource gap? How can you hope to bridge that gap with reduced state funding or, as in the OSPP, no funding at all?

I don’t believe you because you target only MPS, though dozens of schools in the city’s voucher program have results as bad or worse than the worst public schools. Despite this, you and the legislature have boosted voucher funding while slashing oversight, the opposite of what you do to MPS.

Finally, I don’t believe you because you don’t trust or believe us in Milwaukee when we tell you what our students need. You and Rep. Kooyenga claimed to have “spent hundreds of hours in Milwaukee’s inner city” in 2014 before releasing your plan. I’m sorry, but visiting a place is not the same as living here and dedicating your life to the work of making it better.
In related school funding news, the preliminary state aid estimates that were released from the Department of Public Instruction on Friday. These distributions are always noteworthy, but especially so this year, because the DPI is changing the figures because of a WisGOP-approved change in how voucher schools are funded.
Statewide pupil membership, counted as full-time equivalent (FTE) students rather than enrollment, decreased by 29 FTE to 854,390 for 2015‑16, which is a smaller decline than in prior years. This is because membership now includes students who resided in 142 districts who were enrolled in the Wisconsin and Racine parental choice programs for 2015-16. Payments to those voucher programs will be deducted from the general aid of districts that have students enrolled in private choice schools for 2016-17: $7,323 per full-time student in kindergarten through grade eight who enrolled for the first time in the 2015-16 school year and $7,969 for each student enrolled full-time in grade nine through 12. Additionally, all districts will have 1.4 percent of their aid deducted, an estimated $63.9 million, to pay for the 7,800 FTE pupils enrolled in 22 independent charter schools.

Milwaukee Public Schools will have a state aid deduction estimated at $52.8 million to pay its new statutory share (25.6 percent) of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP). Overall, that program is expected to total $206.1 million for 27,500 FTE students attending private choice schools in Milwaukee for the coming school year. General program revenue (GPR), state tax dollars, will pay the remaining MPCP costs for 2016-17 and will increase by 3.2 percent each year until GPR pays 100 percent of MPCP costs in 2024-25. Total general state aid to be distributed to public school districts after deductions is $4,467,460,738.
So you can see how state spending continues to be funneled away from public schools and into vouchers for this year, and with state spending on both vouchers and MPS slated to increase in future years. On the flip side, many public schools will have their aid cut because of kids who live in that district now receiving vouchers- even if those kids were already attending private schools beforehand.

And this is where Dale "Koo-Koo" Kooyenga (R-Brookfield/ALEC) and State Sen. Alberta Darling (R-ALEC, rich white MKE suburbs) might want to take a gander at the district-by-district figures, because while a majority of districts will see aid increases, look who the biggest losers are for next year- many of the places they and their fellow 262 ALEC-GOPs "represent" in the Legislature.

Largest cuts in state aid, 2016-17
Wauwatosa -$2,516,745
Kettle Moraine -$1,227,628
Menomonee Falls -$1,070,002
Arrowhead HS -$779,616
Kewaunee -$752,759

So instead of imperially trying to micromanage and threaten Milwaukee Schools, maybe Dingbat Darling and Koo-Koo Kooyenga should worry more about protecting their constituents from massive property tax increases and cuts at their own community schools. Because that will happen if this current voucher theft continues, and/or until people in Tosa and the Falls and related places realize these WisGOPs are killing their own communities and vote these bums out. Just a thought.


  1. It's feature, not a big. Their supporters are pleased. Everyone else gets a song and dance. If that doesn't work pull out the "You're Not Using Act 10" ploy.

    1. Of course. Right-wing austerity and tax cuts cannot fail, it's always someone else's fault when it fails.

      The fact that Act 10's "tools" have been in use for most districts for 3-4 years is irrelevant to these dimwits. Same for their lame "Doyle raided the Transportation Fund" line, despite the fact that the money has been all paid back and then some.

  2. Correction: Bug, not big.