Thursday, May 22, 2014

Connecting the dots- school funding style

1. The Census Bureau released their rundown of public education funding in all 50 states for 2012 today, and our state is a notable standout for it. If you go to the last table on Page 28, you'll see this stat.

Largest reductions in spending per pupil, U.S. 2012
Wis. -6.2%
Fla. -5.4%
Tex. -4.7%
S.D. -4.1%
Maine -3.5%
W. Va. -3.4%

That's right, Wisconsin cut public school funding per pupil more than any other state, cutting further than a number of places you son't want to be mentioned with when discussing education. Even worse, Wisconsin was 1 of only 2 states on this list to see their school enrollments decline in 2012, making the cuts per student a double-whammy for the bottom lines of the districts who still need to keep the lights on in their buildings.

2. On the flip side, the WisGOP governor and Legislature expanded the state's voucher program statewide, diverting even more funds from public school districts of voucher applicants. Just this week, the state's Department of Public Instruction reported on the application results for schools and students wishing to be part of the voucher program for the next school year, and it showed that most who want to be in these types of schools....already have chosen to attend those schools.
Of the 2,834 student applications for the 31 eligible private schools or school systems, 75 percent (2,115) are attending a private school this year, including students currently participating in the statewide voucher program. Nineteen percent of student applications for eligible private schools or school systems (537) are from students attending a public school this year.
So for 3/4 of the applicants to the voucher program, this will serve as a straight cash subsidy to the parents, who in turn give that subsidy to the schools (and the churches that run those schools, as all of the schools in the 2014-15 statewide expansion are religious-based). And those funds inevitably come out of the pockets of the public schools, since the amount of taxpayer dollars is a fixed amount that's now being spread to more places. And even the parents who don't get vouchers will get a tax break next year that defrays up to $10,000 of private school tuition, while also being able to write off their property taxes that pay for the local public school. Nice double-dip, isn't it?

3. In addition, these cuts to public schools led to a one-time cash surplus, which is now being blown on two rounds of tax cuts (including the private school tuition write-off noted above). These cuts are a major factor in the Legislative Fiscal Bureau saying there is already a General Fund deficit in the next state budget. Their most recent projection came out today, and showed a $642 million General Fund deficit from 2015-17, which goes along with more than $1 billion in Transportation projects over those two years that we don't have money for. This also doesn't count the extra funds required to pay for the larger-than-expected enrollments under Gov Walker's Medicaid "reform", which also haven't been budgeted for.

Inevitably these deficits will lead to more calls by the ALEC crowd to cut public education further, claiming it is "unaffordable." The ultimate goal of which is to deform the system so badly that additional vouchers are floated as a "cheaper solution" to this budget crisis. Which means more money goes out of public schools and into the pockets of campaign contributors voucher school operators- religious and otherwise. Then rinse and repeat.

That is, unless we remove those who responsible for screwing things up with step 1, 2 and 3 in the first place. Which we can do in 5 1/2 months. Your choice, Wisconsin.

No comments:

Post a Comment