Thursday, August 25, 2016

Vukmir tries talking up WisGOP K-12 policy- reveals more failures and shell games

It’s becoming pretty obvious as the next school year begins that the 5 ½ years of defunding and disrespect of public education by the Wisconsin GOP is taking its toll on the state. State Superintendent Tony Evers made emergency moves this week to allow for more long-term subs and other measures to stem off a teacher shortage that has resulted from applicants not wanting to work in many underfunded, underpaying districts. And this reality is clearly influencing the state’s voters, as Dems have been on the attack with numerous memos from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau showing the effects of these cuts, including one from State Sen. Janet Bewley last week that showed the vast majority of Wisconsin’s school districts receive less state categorical aid than they did in 2010-11.

As WisGOP flails in the polls partly due to these education policies, State Senator Leah Vukmir (aka “The ALEC Queen”) tried to turn back the tide by sending up another memo to the LFB. Vukmir followed by giving out a press release in her typically (no-) class manner, along with a shout-out to the voucher movement that pays her campaign contributions.
“My Republican colleagues in the Legislature and I are committed to funding students whose parents choose public schools. Since 2012 we have increased state aids to public education, and we will continue to budget with students’ best interests in mind. Thanks to state Republicans, students in Wisconsin are getting a quality education, and they’re doing it with expanded opportunities that weren’t available before.

“Here’s my advice to my Democrat [zing!] colleagues unhappy with education in Wisconsin: perhaps aim to improve education policy by diversifying educational opportunity, as opposed to showing more interest in employee-protectionist policies. Recent primary results indicate that Wisconsinites overwhelmingly support educational alternatives. It is becoming rather tiresome that some Democrats continue to criticize effective policy initiatives while simultaneously turning a blind eye to schools failing our youth.
The duplicity and bullcrap in Vukmir’s statement is pathetic enough (hey Leah, didja see the recent ACT scores and their racial gaps, along with statewide teacher shortages? And why don't you care about the underperforming voucher schools that close up shop mid-year, stealing our taxpayer dollars while leaving students stranded and unstable?), but let’s take on her statement that Republicans are adding funding to education.

The LFB memo split up funding four ways, with the state being one leg of that foundation. To the LFB’s and Vukmir’s credit, it looks like they they only counted public school aids, and didn’t include the hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars thrown at voucher schools in this time period (counting voucher money is a GOP trick to say “we spent more money on K-12 education!”, because those scumbags think voucher schools are the same as public ones- except for the public accountability part). It also looks like they used what was actually spent out, as opposed to what was budgeted.

When we break down those figures from 2010-11 to ‘14-15, we see the following changes.

Change in funding 2010-11 vs 2014-15
State aid- DOWN $95.0 million
Federal aid- DOWN $205.0 million
Property taxes- UP $61.3 million
Other local revs (gifts, fees, etc.)- UP $53.8 million
TOTAL SPENDING – DOWN $184.8 million

Uh, that doesn’t seem to prove your point, ALEC Queen Leah. We spent less on education in 2014-15 than in 2010-11, and cuts in aid from the state accounted for over half of that decline. This also illustrates the Walker/WisGOP shell game of shifting costs down to the local property taxpayer and individuals

Oh wait, Vukmir ranted something else in that release about Act 10 “savings” (read: money taken from teachers and staff) making up for the loss in state aid and that funding has been increased since the Walker/WisGOP’s cuts of $437 million in that first year. I suppose part of that is true - the state gave out $342 million in additional aids to public schools between 2011-12 and 2014-15. But it leaves out the fact that the 2014-15 level was still below 2010-11’s, both on a total and per-student basis, and that’s BEFORE inflation is figured in.

Vukmir also doesn’t mention that local taxes and fees have gone up in that time period as well.

Change in local funding 2011-12 vs ‘14-15
Property taxes- UP $107.7 million
Other local revenues- UP $19.9 million

Another stat in this memo breaks down these figures on a per-student basis. I suppose in WisGOP world, this could be used to show that the slight decline in public school enrollment of 2,900 over those four years makes the publics look less “efficient”. Except that the per-student costs are still below the figures of 2010-11, and it makes the tax-shifting look even worse.

Change in per-student revenues, 2010-11 vs ’14-’15
State aids- DOWN $90/student
Federal aid- DOWN $236/student
Local Property taxes- UP $91/student
Other local revenues- UP $64/student
TOTAL- DOWN $182/student

So much for Walker and WisGOP cutting your property taxes and out-of-pocket costs for the last 5 years.

And the increase in per-student revenues since 2012 barely matches the rate of inflation, with no magic bullet like “Act 10 savings” to hold down real-world costs. In fact, after a one-time drop in property taxes for 2011-12 the property tax increases have been larger with each passing year.

Change in property taxes per student, 2012-’13 to ‘14-’15
2012-13- UP $5
2013-14- UP $41
2014-15- UP $86
TOTAL $132

And that’s before the slate of referenda that was passed for the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years are taken into account, so you can count on that number going up when this is refigured for the coming years.

So no, ALEC Queen, the small amount of crumbs you have tossed back into public education in the last 4 years don’t come close to making up for the cuts you imposed on these districts 5 years ago. In addition, the numbers you were trying to spin clearly show that Wisconsin property taxpayers are shelling out more of their own money to make up the difference for your negligence and vandalism. And no matter how many angry press releases Leah Vukmir sends out, those fiscal facts don’t change, nor does it change the reality that Wisconsin districts are not able to pay for retain talent under today’s constraints.

Underfunding and denigrating one of the state’s few advantages (public schools) isn’t working out, it isn’t making schools more stable, and it’s not improving the human capital that comes out of those schools. Time for a new plan, and getting rid of the ALEC types like Vukmir who squander the Act 10 “savings” on handouts to unproductive corporates and voucher schools.


  1. beautiful work my man!

  2. I got nothing but, you're right again!! Love reading your articles. Great work.