First, Fitz’s central claim is that voucher schools are a cheaper option than public schools, concluding with this statement.
So while choice school participants make up 3.2% of total K-12 pupil enrollment, they only make up around 2% of the total state cost of K-12 education. Perhaps state democrats will keep these figures in mind the next time they want to attack the small percentage of Wisconsin families trying to provide a better educational opportunity for their children.But where do Fitz’s numbers on cost come from? Well, he was nice enough to give the LFB memo which gave these figures, and reading them makes his argument laughable.
First of all, Fitz is pulling the WisGOP trick of including property taxes in “$10.1 billion” in public school costs, but ignoring other funding sources for voucher schools, like tuition and donations. Here are the numbers he’s using.
Spending in K-12 education, 2015-16
State payments to vouchers $229.9 million
State payments to public schools $5,244.5 million
Local property taxes to K-12 $4,854.7 million
In fact, if we limit the costs to state aids, voucher schools are taking 4.2% of combined state aids, so by Fitz’s own standard, vouchers are taking well ABOVE what they should be getting from the state, based on enrollment figures. Even better is that Fitz claims comparing state aid figures across different types of schools is the “apples and oranges” move, not the bait and switch he tries. Fail #1
But it gets much better. The LFB memo also lists the aid reductions that voucher schools have caused for public school districts since 2009. Originally this was just limited to aid being taken from Milwaukee Public Schools, but as vouchers have been expanded to Racine and then statewide, the aid has been taken from other districts as well.
By the end of the 2015-17 budget, this taking of money out of public school because of vouchers will increase by nearly 60% in the 6 years since Fitzgerald, Vos and the rest of the Wisconsin GOP came to power.
State aid reductions due to vouchers, 2010-2017
2010-11 $50.2 million
2011-12 $55.4 million
2012-13 $59.4 million
2013-14 $56.7 million
2014-15 $61.1 million
2015-16 $72.7 million
2016-17 $80.0 million
So Fitz’s own memo proves that vouchers are not only getting a larger amount of money from the state, but they are stealing funds from public schools in increasing amounts.
But here’s the topper. Remember how Scott Walker and the rest of the WisGOPs have tried to sell Act 10 and many of their other moves as a way to reduce property taxes? Well, take a gander at what Fitz’s LFB memo says, especially after the one-time bullet of Act 10 “tools” hit most schools in 2012 and 2013.
Gross property tax levies for K-12 schools
2010-11 $4,692.2 million
2011-12 $4,646.7 million
2012-13 $4,656.1 million
2013-14 $4,694.4 million
2014-15 $4,754.3 million
2015-16 $4,854.7 million
That’s an increase in property taxes of nearly $200 million in the last 3 years, and $160 million since the Age of Fitzwalkerstan began in 2011. All the while, state aid to public schools has been cut more than $80 million compared to 5 years ago, showing that the WisGOPs have kicked the burden of funding public schools down to the local level, which explains the huge amount of school referenda and rising property taxes.
Oh, and while state aids to public schools have been cut by $80 million, payments to vouchers in 2015-16 are up by just under $100 million compared to 2010-11, an increase of more than 75%. The connection seems pretty obvious, doesn’t it?
So was that the message you were trying to send, Fitz? That you’re raising people’s property taxes and cutting aid to public schools to fund your WisGOP voucher scam? Because that’s sure what the numbers in your memo say, and if I were the Dems running in this Fall’s elections, I’d say that as well. Guess Fitzy doesn’t want to be in charge of things at the Capitol any more, does he?