Sunday, June 26, 2016

Vos argues WisGOP/ALEC way on K-12 schools is working. FAILS

Apparently Thursday's press release from Dems, which used an LFB analysis to show that voucher schools are stealing from K-12 public schools and grabbing increasing amounts of state taxpayer dollars, has left a mark. I summarized those findings in this blog post, and found that post getting retweeted over 30 times, and nearly 900 pageviews in the 48 hours since, which means some people must be nodding their heads with the conclusions (I just throw stuff up the flagpole here, I have no control over whether people notice or care).

It's also telling that the voucher lobby and Assembly Speaker Robbin' Vos (R-ALEC) felt a need to respond within a day of that Dem release on voucher schools. There must be serious concern in their polling that people have caught onto the scam that voucher schools are, because they wouldn't make such a big effort pushing back if they felt their position was solid and/or believed by the general voter. Let's break down what appeared in Robbin's Friday release, which he titled "The Spin Facts on School Funding," see where his claims come from, and whether they add up.
Funding for public education is the largest general fund area making up 45 percent of the Wisconsin state budget. Republicans allocated nearly $10.6 billion for K-12 education over two years, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) budget analysis. This investment is larger than the amount Democrats put toward public schools when they were in the majority during the 2009-11 budget cycle.
The claim is technically true (watch for this rating to show up on Wisconsin Politi-"fact"), as we do spend $158 million more in this budget from GPR for public schools vs 2009-2011 under GPR (state taxpayer) aids. But Vos conveniently leaves out that 2009-11 was a budget drastically affected by Bush's Great Recession, and practically all areas of the budget had to take cuts as more people were out of work and the state lacked revenues as a result.

He also leaves out that this is a paltry 1.52% increase over 6 years, and that's in total dollars. When you adjust for inflation, we're spending less today (and Robbin, I'm being generous here, as I'm not assuming any inflation between 2015 and 2017). I'm using the combined amounts of regular K-12, High Poverty, and Categorical aids to come up with these numbers.

2009-11 Public school aid in 2015 dollars $10.995 billion
2015-17 Public school aid in 2015 dollars $10.553 billion

So that's over $400 million LESS going to public schools in this budget if you adjust for inflation, despite there being more resources available due to the growth of the Obama Economy over that time. In addition, even if you adjust for the slightly lower enrollments in public schools (most of which is due to the expansion of vouchers over that time), it's still a drop in aid of around $215 per student today vs 2009-11.

Robbin' also tries to argue that "we're spending a lot of money so get off our WisGOP backs." Also note the tired (and disproven) quote that vouchers improve choices and quality of K-12 education, despite 25 years of evidence in Wisconsin that it has not.
“Over the next decade, LFB estimates spending on public schools will top $94 billion while the funding level for school choice will equal less than 1 percent of K-12 education spending over the next decade,” said Speaker Vos. “We are committed to providing the best possible education to every child regardless of where they live or where they choose to attend school.”
This is a classic case of mixing and matching when spinning figures. $94 billion over the next 10 years for K-12 education would be a massive increase from today, but it also uses all sources of funding (GPR and otherwise) for all types of schools (including vouchers) That's not what last week's memo discussed, as it was limited to GPR funding for K-12 public schools. And projecting any future expenses for education is a sham because any legislature can change those figures on the spot, including the funneling mechanism that gives taxpayer dollars to the GOP campaign contributors that run voucher schools.

This is pathetic spin by Robbin' Vos, and it doesn't work when you look into the figures for more than 5 minutes. Strike one. Let's see what else the Speaker tries to argu.
The cost to educate a choice student in this budget (LFB weighted average) is $7,353. The average per pupil spending for public students is more than $13,000, which is higher than the national average. In addition, LFB has found that if the choice program didn’t exist, most public schools would get less state support.
More RW BS of mixing and matching stats to make an argument. When discussing cost of education, it leaves out that private schools also have funding sources beyond state aid, just like public school do. This includes donations and tuition from non-voucher students, but does Robbin' actually produce a stat which shows TOTAL COSTS OF EDUCATION for a voucher school, not just the payment by the state? Of course he doesn't! In fact, I'm not sure one even needs to be reported by voucher schools, which seems pretty amazing given that taxpayers are funding these schools like public schools, and should therefore get the same level of accountability as public school spending.

Also not mentioned is the fact that much of that private school tuition for non-voucher students can now be written off on the parent's taxes, and both the voucher payment and the tax write-off enables private schools to raise tuition to a higher level than the market would otherwise indicate. Strike two, Robbin'. What else you got?
By looking at just a few basic standards from the Department of Public Instruction, it’s clear Wisconsin has excellent schools that provide a quality education to students around the state. In 2015, reading scores for 4th and 8th graders went up. Plus, the state’s graduation rates are above the national average.
The reading score stat is nice overall, but leaves out that within that same test, Wisconsin has the worst gap in the nation between black and white students. This is something voucher schools were supposed to diminish in Milwaukee through "competition", and instead the gaps have become worse and more disgraceful over time.

In addition, having "above-average" graduation rates is something Wisconsin has had for years, mostly because of the state's previously-strong investment in public education. In fact, since DPI changed its measurements in 2004, Wisconsin's graduation rates have been among the best in the best in the nation. This was true before the Age of Fitzwalkerstan began in 2011, and last year's figures actually signal a decline from previous years (click here to see many of these measurements).

Wisconsin HS graduation rate
2004-05 88.8%
2008-09 89.0%
2010-11 90.5%
2012-13 92.1%
2014-15 88.8%

Now 88.8% is still pretty good, and a testament to the foundation of strong schools that we had before then. But there is no proof to Vos's assertion that the increase in voucher schools under GOP policy has helped the performance of Wisconsin's K-12 education, and if anything, things are worse now than when the WisGOPs came to power 5 years ago. Strike three Robbin', now get the fuck out!

This attempted spin to justify vouchers leads to this question. What was so messed up in Wisconsin schools that Vos and the rest of the ALEC crew decided to screw it up? Here's what the ALEC boys thought was screwed up- public school unions tended to back Dems, and voucher schools tend to give money to Republicans. So Vos and the ALEC crew decided to use our taxpayer dollars to funnel money to their financial backers, and then they try to cherry-pick stats and make up ideological reasons to keep the scam going. It was all a political move (as was Act 10) and it used the state treasury to kick back rewards to their allies.

The ALEC crew in the Capitol is not interested at all in improving K-12 education, or in increasing the investment in public education, and they don't care that past, current and future de-investment hampers our communities and economic competitiveness. Don't believe any whiny WisGOP press releases that come out over the next 4 months that try to claim otherwise.


  1. Just another set of hard facts for people who care about public schools to stop these vulture schools. The hard question that needs to be asked how to help the typical Wisconsinite see past the fog vulture school supporter create.

    1. That's part of the reason I write this, because our "legitimate" media doesn't have the knowledge or the time to go past the BS and give the facts and context to their audience.

      I notice that Scott Fitzgerald tried to give his own spin on this, so clearly WisGOP is scared. And what's hilarious about Fitz's one is that it actually shows the theft from publics to vouchers and the higher property taxes that result!

  2. Another reminder that I should re-read unSpun: finding facts in a world of disinformation by Brooks Jackson and Kathleen Hall Jamieson. They may have a newer edition anyway.