Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Vouchers now over $300 million in Wisconsin. And your taxes are up as a result

Yesterday, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction put out its annual report on vouchers for the 2018-19 school year.
Enrollment in the Wisconsin, Racine, and Milwaukee programs is determined by student counts taken on the third Friday in September and may change through the audit process. Across the three programs, 39,381 students received a voucher to attend one of the 279 participating private schools. This is an increase of 3,164 students and 43 schools compared to the prior school year. Full-time-equivalent (FTE) enrollment is 38,186.6 students, an increase of 3,037.5 FTE from 2017-18….

For the 2018-19 school year, voucher payments are $7,754 per FTE in grades kindergarten through eight and $8,400 per FTE for students enrolled in grades nine through 12. The cost of the three programs combined is estimated at $302 million for the 2018-19 school year, which is an increase of about $33 million (12.3 percent) from the prior year.
That’s $302 million in additional state dollars that come on top of what we pay for public K-12 schools.

Also I’ll note that parents who make too much to have their private school student qualify for a voucher (for a family of 4, this is over $54,000 outside of Racine and Milwaukee, and over $73,800 in those two cities), can write off their kid’s tuition for private school in addition to getting a credit for the property taxes that pay for PUBLIC schools in the district.

In an update of a notorious stat for Wisconsin’s voucher program, over 85% of the students (by FTE count) that receive a voucher weren’t in public school last year, a number that has been consistent since the voucher program went statewide 3 years ago.

What’s worse about this is that outside of Milwaukee and Racine, the vouchers are funded by cutting the aid to the district the kid lives in, even if the child never attended a class in those public schools. And this means districts that have the most voucher students lose the most money.

In Wisconsin, that means Green Bay will lose over $5 million in state aids, and several other districts will lose significant money as a result of the voucher system for this year.

But these aid cuts aren't just in those districts. Note this quote in the Journal-Sentinel's rundown of the voiucher figures.
"Last year, $42.8 million in aid was deducted from public schools for the Wisconsin and Racine programs. And this year, that's grown to $68.3 million," said Dan Rossmiller, government relations director for the Wisconsin Association of School Boards. "The school board has a choice then, to essentially cut programs or raise property taxes."
So not only are the low revenue limits squeezing schools and often leading to higher property taxes via referendum, but so are vouchers. And many of you will see that reflected in your property tax bill in the coming weeks.

Make no mistake. If this state is foolish enough to return Scott Walker and WisGOP too power, they will continue to funnel taxpayer money to reward Betsy DeVos and other right-wing donors, and take them out of our community schools. In fact, they'll probably do something like "vouchers for everyone", which has been a longtime ALEC and DeVos goal, which will out our already-crippling racial and class disparities in K-12 education on steroids.

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