Wednesday, April 25, 2018

No matter what Walker claims, rural schools in Wisconsin continue to suffer and slide

State Senator/Dem candidate for Governor Kathleen Vinehout recently wrote an article detailing her trip to Southwestern Wisconsin as part of the Wisconsin Legislature’s Blue Ribbon Commission on School Funding Reform.

Vinehout says that rural schools continue to struggle due to a funding formula that doesn’t fit their areas’ needs and demographics, and due to cuts in state aid.
For decades state policies created hardships for rural schools. Superintendent Nancy Hendrickson of Highland School District explained that spending caps in the 1980s locked in low spending districts. A need for new buildings led to borrowing and increased property taxes in the ‘90s. In 1993, revenue caps locked schools into unequal spending. With school aid tied to the number of students and, with a declining rural population, aid is dropping faster than the cost to educate children….

Superintendent Doug Olsen of Kickapoo Area School District explained some of the challenges. “We are a consolidated school district of three communities in one building.... Our district consistently serves an economically disadvantaged population that comprises over half of the student body.”

Olsen noted that with poverty come needs. “... only 48% of poor students are ready for school at age 5, compared to 75% of students from moderate to high income families. From vocabulary and pre-literacy skills, to numeracy, emotional regulation, and trauma, kids in poverty are more at risk to come to school less prepared.”

“Cut, cut, cut,” said Superintendent Hendrickson. “We had to cut so many things.” Rural schools did not recover from deep cuts made in Governor Walker’s first budgets. Across the state, school funding, in real dollars, for this school year is less than a decade ago.

Without resources, buildings and systems maintenance is deferred. School districts see fewer applicants for vacant teaching jobs, a shortage of substitute teachers and problems with a flattening pay scale for teachers making it hard to keep veteran teachers.
It’s worth noting that when Scott Walker is flying around the state at taxpayer-funded campaign stops events promoting added spending on K-12 education in the 2017-19, that all of those extra funds were put into per-pupil aid. That means those rural schools that Vinehout described, the ones in areas that are declining in population and enrollment, aren’t getting as much of a benefit as other districts.

Which helps to explain Wisconsin still had 66 school referenda in April to allow schools to tax and spend more, despite those increased aids and other pre-election boost in sparsity aid and flexibility for low-revenue districts. Most of those passed, including 27 of the 31 operating referenda, but the fallout from one of the few failures was revealed this week.

Here's some more detail on that Alternate story from Fort Atkinson radio> from 940 AM in Fort Atkinson.
The Delavan-Darien school board voted to close Darien Elementary School—the only public school in Darien—after the 2017-18 school year and approved 16 teacher non-renewals, bringing the total number of non-renewals to 39. This is after a $3.5 million referendum on the April 3 ballot, failed by more than 500 votes. The board included a warning: If it didn’t pass, the district would have to make severe cuts. Darien Elementary School is one of the district’s three elementary schools, currently housing 263 fourth- and fifth-graders. Darien Elementary’s fifth grade will shift to Phoenix Middle School, and the fourth grade will move to Turtle Creek Elementary School.
And yes, this the same Delavan-Darien school district that had this guy roaming its halls in the 1980s.

How can Walker continue to have these taxpayer-funded photo ops claiming he is helping schools when THE DISTRICT HE GRADUATED HIGH SCHOOL IN has to close an elementary school and cut staff? A normal person might stop and reflect on that situation, and try to figure out a better direction.

But the Desperado won't come to his senses, because he's a lifetime grifter who has never had to work a real job, nor face many consequences for his bad decisions. Scotty’s pre-election boost to Wisconsin school funding is not the start of a new dedication to invest in education. It's clearly nothing beyond a desperate, one-time gimmick.

And the “one-time gimmick” theory makes extra sense when you consider there’s a $1 billion deficit looming for the next Wisconsin budget. So if Walker isn’t kicked out in November, you can bet more rural districts will be joining Delavan-Darien in closing their schools, because you know Scotty won’t give anything more to help them.


  1. Despite all this neglect, will rural Wisconsin voters actually vote him out in November? After 8 years, have they finally reached the breaking point? Or will they continue to fall for the election-year gimmicks?

    Speaking of the Delavan-Darien School District, the diploma given to him by Delevan-Darien High School remains the highest educational degree that Scott Walker has ever attained (even though, inexplicably, his Wikipedia page lists only Marquette University under “Education”). You think he’d have a little more gratitude for his true alma mater.

  2. Dear Rural School District Walker Voters: Thoughts and prayers.