Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Vouchers now hurting small-town Wisconsin districts

I wanted to go into an article in the Baraboo-Portage newspapers, which went into schools being hurt by vouchers are in smaller communities in South Central and East Central Wisconsin.

Some might say if students leave the public schools, then the schools can reduce staff and other costs to make up for the loss of funds. However, that’s not necessarily realistic, if the numbers are relatively small in each class.
But losing some students to private schools doesn’t necessarily mean a district has reduced costs, said Portage Community School District Business Director Peter Hibner. Since 2015, Portage has had more than 20 voucher students per year. Participation jumped to 36 this year, taking with them almost $300,000.

“Let’s say you have 30 kids district-wide under that program,” Hibner said. “That might only be a couple at each grade level, so it’s not like we can have less staff for anything else because we have a couple less students.”

What’s especially damaging is that Republicans have set up a funding system for vouchers that takes funds away from the district’s of a child’s residence, as a method of saving tax dollars. Which leads to the public school system constantly having to work uphill, and often having to increasingly rely on property tax dollars because of state revenue limits.
Lodi School District Administrator Charles Pursell said if legislators wanted a choice program, they should have funded it as a separate entity, rather than tying it to public schools.

“I believe in kids having a quality education,” Pursell said. “I’m not opposed to the idea of choice, I just don’t think that public schools should be penalized in order to support a second school system.”

The Lodi district already uses funds from an operational referendum to support existing programs due to a lack of public school funding, Pursell said. Unless state funding changes, he expects the district will need to ask local taxpayers for more support once the referendum ends.

As the article points out, Republicans are steadily increasing the amount of students and money that can be taken away from, 3% for this year, and going up to 10% in 2025. After that, the caps go away entirely.

That funneling of money out of public schools for vouchers seems like a flaw that Governor Evers could try to change and draw attention to in his budget. In addition, with the increasing needs and referenda that continue to crop up due to past Walker/WisGOP neglect, Evers can use the budget to lower the voucher cap to start letting this scam die on the vine.

In the process, this would dare Robbin' (donations from Betsy De)Vos and Fitz and other GOPs to justify this theft that's hurting one of the few things left that ties communities together - quality local public schools. This is yet another issue where Wisconsinites agree with Dems and hate the GOP's policy, but they have yet to adequately punish Republicans for what they have done.

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