Monday, July 4, 2011

Kaukauna's literally unbelievable budget miracle

Right-wing propaganda has been promoting the changes in the Kaukauna School District's fiscal situation, and are trying to credit the higher contribution requirements of the collective bargaining bill as a reason behind the better situation. And while there is truth behind increased contributions being a help in balancing a budget, a little context will find the results not so miraculous. In fact, it becomes quite disgusting that it had to even get to this point.

First off, let's look at Kaukauna's original budget cuts for 2011-2012. The district was looking at a deficit near $3.0 million dollars after the Governor's budget was originally proposed. But page 14 of this slideshow buries the real lead and the reason why Kaukauna was in trouble in the first place.
Prior to February 11, 2011, the district was anticipating a balanced operating budget but changes at the state have forced the district to make major revisions to its original forecast.

So this wasn't a "union costs exploded for 2011-2012" problem. This was a "budget cuts from Scott Walker and WisGOP in Madison are screwing us on the local level" problem. In fact, the original budget proposal from the guv resulted in a drop of Kaukauna's available revenues of $2.16 million (a bit under 5% of their total), and $2.75 million from the state (check out your favorite district's cut here, Kaukauna's on Page 5). The unions responded by proposing $1.8 million in concessions, which combined with the district $345,000 in surplus funds from 2010-11, would have taken care off all of the state cuts put into Kaukauna's budget. The Kaukauna School Board turned them down and asked for layoffs of 14.5 full-time positions instead, and decided to wait on the Legislature and State Supreme Court to do the dirty work of putting the screws on the teachers, and hope for large numbers of teacher retirements.

Which is exactly what happened. The Kaukauna teachers will now have to chip in over 18% of their pay in health care and pension contributions, with no corresponding increase in salary. And for all the talk about "Kaukauna class sizes going down," even Kaukauna School Board President Todd Arnoldussen admits it's projected class sizes being reduced, and those are reductions from huge INCREASES THAT WERE PREVIOUSLY PROJECTED. In other words, little to no change will result from what students would have seen this year. Class sizes DID NOT GO DOWN, as much as the deceptive press releases may indicate.

And I'm not even bringing up the fact that I wish Kaukauna good luck in attracting and retaining quality teachers when they're getting a huge cut in their take-home pay. Strangely, those "free-market" types that are always bashing public educators leaves out the free market reality of lower pay = lower quality. (But when has consistency and reality ever been part of the equation for those haters, anyway?)

So, once again, any benefits from Walker and co. reducing teacher benefits is nothing more than spin and short-term thinking. Let's check back next year when we see what kind of budget difficulties exist in K-ville, and see if Act 10 aolved all their problems. I'm putting my money on "far from it."


  1. Thank you for this!!! I knew he had to be lying but didn't know where to look. Well done!

  2. I've been waiting for that shoe to drop. Nice work.

  3. Thanks for the kind words, but it only took me using the google and checking out articles for an hour. These things were in plain sight, but our media refuses to do the extra work to bring it to the masses.

    Now whether they're intentionally slacking?...I'll leave that opinion up to you. But we can't let these liars get away with their BS spin.

  4. This is terrific analysis. Thanks! Walker's office is using Kaukauna as a centerpiece of its PR efforts to claim that massive cuts to public education in Wisconsin are actually empowering and beneficial.

  5. Thanks for the kind words, Liam. I like what you and Sara do as well. And the Fitzwalkerstanis are still peddling this well-debunked garbage.

    I supppose they can do that until Sept. 1. Then school will begin, people will see the reality, and the recall fever will start picking up again.