Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Walker wants to double-down on #voucherfail, screwing up schools

This is a bit of a follow-up from my article last week discussing increased class sizes and other challenges Wisconsin’s public schools are facing in the Age of Fitzwalkerstan. Despite strong evidence that his pro-voucher policies have injured education in Wisconsin for both public and private schools students, Walker said today (in yet another taxpayer-funded photo op at a Milwaukee voucher school) that he will double-down on school privatization schemes, and usurping of local control.
On a morning visit to a high-profile Milwaukee private school, Walker said he supports significantly increasing participation in the 2-year-old statewide voucher program, particularly for low-income students and potentially for students from higher-income families.

"Whether it's an absolute lift or a bigger increase than what we have currently — some of it in the state would have to keep pace with capacity," Walker said.
Of course, expanding a taxpayer-funded voucher system in light of at least $1.3 billion in projected budget deficits would seem more than a little difficult to do. And I wasn't the only one that made this observation.
"This just seems to me like a career politician 60 days before an election is throwing out ideas with no plan for how they're going to be funded," [Dem opponent Mary] Burke said in a phone interview with reporters.

"What we saw from the statewide program is something like 75% of the children enrolled were never enrolled in public schools. I respect that decision, but I also don't think it should be taxpayer subsidized. I wouldn't have the program at all."....

Burke said Wednesday that if all low- and middle-income students were allowed to enroll in the statewide voucher program, it wouldn't be unrealistic to see another 100,000 students participate.

If that happened, she said, where would the state come up with the $721 million needed to fund the vouchers?
I'm scared to find out, Mary. Because it seems to me that the most logical way you could possibly fund any kind of voucher expansion in the next budget is to take more money away from public schools and other services throughout Wisconsin. As State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout has accurately pointed out, voucher expansion and related Walker education policies have particularly hurt low-income rural areas. And unlike the claims of Gov Walker and other Bradley Foundation front men, those places will no “choice” would exist for other types of schooling if an expanded voucher system were to pass, since there is no money for an investor to make off of it. As I mentioned last week, rural Wisconsin districts are disproportionately among those receiving the largest reductions in state funding for the 2014-15- making those areas have to raise property taxes and class sizes, and/or close schools and consolidate districts.

In addition, I find it odd that Governor Walker would want Wisconsin to be more like Chicago (he’s usually trying to claim we’re not, even if he has the corruption and pay-to-play parts down). Chitowners have tried this expansion or privatization and union-busting for nearly 2 decades, with current Mayor Rahm Emanuel putting that policy on steroids since 2011. If Scotty cared one whit about actual evidence and performance, he would see that his belief that “privatization = better schools” hasn’t worked out in the real world.
Emanuel’s push continues an effort begun under former Mayor Richard M. Daley and supported by U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan that’s seen the number of privately run schools across the city grow from none in 1996 to more than 130 today, with more set to open later this year. Charters and other privately run schools now serve nearly one of every seven Chicago public school students.

But even as many parents have embraced the new schools, there’s little evidence in standardized test results that charters are performing better than traditional schools operated by the Chicago Public Schools system, an examination by the Chicago Sun-Times and the Medill Data Project at Northwestern University has found.

In fact, in 2013, CPS schools had a higher percentage of elementary students who exceeded the standards for state tests for reading and math than the schools that are privately run with Chicago taxpayer funds.

That was true for all CPS-run schools and also just for traditional neighborhood schools, which don’t require admissions tests or offer specialized courses of instruction.
We’ve seen the same results in Wisconsin, where kids in voucher schools score well below kids in the public schools on standardized tests. And public schools have the added benefit of staying in place and offering stability, instead of packing up and leaving in the middle of the school year, like we saw earlier this year with the duo that ran a “zero-proficiency” school in Milwaukee.

So why would Walker continue down the path of privatization failure? For the same reason Willie Sutton decided to hold up banks. BECAUSE THAT’S WHERE THE MONEY IS. As mentioned yesterday, convicted criminal Scott Jensen helps to funnel millions of dollars to Walker and other GOP politicians as the front man for a leading pro-voucher organization. GOPs like Walker respond by opening the door to his bosses and other grifters to grab taxpayer dollars to run schools as the payback in that investment. Improve the quality of education? Scotty doesn’t give a crap about that. He just wants to keep the grift cycle going among himself, GOP politicians, and the corporate and religious operators of the schools.

That’s the real meat of this debate about is 2014- who can get the bigger share of limited taxpayer dollars? Is it local school boards and public schools that are accountable to taxpayers, or is it voucher and charter school operators that are accountable to no one, other than their corporate benefactors and campaign contributors? Unlike public schools, what you and me think doesn’t matter with the vouchers, because we don’t get a voice in how those schools are run. This is despite the fact that we’re the ones paying big bucks to those schools, and despite the fact that we’ll have to deal with the society that results from kids that are often getting a substandard education from those places.

Nice deal for us everyday citizens that care about our society, huh?

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