Tuesday, October 22, 2019

New figures show voucher costs, enrollments jumping as DeVos scam grows

Last week, we got new data on K-12 school enrollment, and particularly the state's voucher program. And I wanted to break down some of that.

Outside of Milwaukee (which is its whole own program), less than 10% of the students getting a voucher in Wisconsin for this year were in public schools last year, and nearly 13% of students in Racine that are getting vouchers this year were in public schools.

Also, 5 districts that aren't Racine or Milwaukee “maxed out” on vouchers, meaning 4% of the students living in that district were getting vouchers. But they’re not the places you’d expect.

Districts maxed out on vouchers, 2019-20
West Allis-West Milwaukee

Good luck having those smaller communities find enough property tax revenue to adequately keep their schools open after having a sizable amount of their aid taken away. Because this is almost literal portrayal of how the GOP Legislature has chosen to fund vouchers outside of Milwaukee over the last 6 years.

And many more districts got significant aid cuts for this year due to the voucher program's You can click here to see a list of public school districts and amount of students “lost” to vouchers for this school year.

I'll leave Milwaukee's and Racine's cases aside, and note this part of DPI's release regarding the voucher program that pays for kids in the rest of the state.
In October 2019, there were 254 private schools participating in the WPCP, with a total enrollment of 9,764 students or 9,419.3 full-time equivalent (FTE) in the program.* The 2019-20 WPCP state aid payment for a student enrolled full-time in the WPCP in grade kindergarten through eight is $8,046 and $8,692 for a student enrolled full-time in grade nine through twelve. The program is estimated to cost $77,300,000 in 2019-20.
And that $77.3 million will almost entirely be spent, if you look at the voucher enrollment by grade.

With that in mind, here is a good fact sheet from DPI on voucher enrollment and funding, as well as how much is taken away from public school districts by voucher and charter schools.

Voucher and charter costs 2019-20
Vouchers for Milwaukee $230.1 million
Vouchers for Racine $29.2 million
Vouchers for rest of state $77.3 million
Special Needs vouchers $13.0 million
Charters $78.1 million

Aid cuts to public schools due to vouchers/charters
Milwaukee $36.8 million
Racine $22.3 million
Rest of the state $73.2 million
Special Needs vouchers $13.0 million
Charters $78.1 million

So we’re now at the point where the payers of this program are basically being split 50/50 between state tax dollars and the public school districts. But taxpayers also pay for the aid reductions. How? Because those dollars in state aid that are pulled from a district as a result of kids in the district’s borders that have vouchers get replaced by property taxes that districts have to levy in order to make up the difference. What a deal!

What’s the big concern is the disparity in enrollment among the grades. You can see where the voucher program began in 2015, as a kindergartener in 2015 would be in 4th grade now, with the cap growing each year. Likewise, look at the bump with HS freshmen moving into the private schools vs seniors in vouchers.

If that trend holds, you can see how the costs will explode in the coming years for this separate school system, even in a time when there may be fewer children in general in Wisconsin.

Assembly Education Committee Jeremy Thiesfeldt, a former administrator at a Fond du Lac Lutheran School, took the October 15 DPI release to complain about the high costs of K-12 education in Wisconsin, and pointed to lagging results as a problem.
However, the results aren’t matching up with the investment. Annual test scores released last month showed that 60% of Wisconsin students are not able to read or perform math at grade level. Just as alarming, Wisconsin continues to have one of the worst achievement gaps in the nation. State Representative Jeremy Thiesfeldt (R-Fond du Lac,) Chair of the Assembly Education Committee, released the following statement regarding yesterday’s funding announcement:

“With the enactment of the 2019-21 budget, state education funding, through DPI management, provides for an average of nearly 2/3 of the dollars to operate K-12 public schools. In fact, over 35% of general purpose revenue for the entire state goes to K-12 education. The results of this investment are not meeting expectations and have not done so in many years,” said Rep. Thiesfeldt. “Instead of just continuing to pour money into schools, it is past time for the DPI, the Legislature, and the Governor to recognize that when the pathway is flawed, increased spending does not lead to better results. Our focus needs to turn to stronger teacher training in the use of proven instructional methods, traditional roles for our schools, and engaged parenting.”
As part of those “proven instructional methods”, Rep. Thiesfeldt thinks he has a way to get those scores up. Make kids learn cursive writing. #headdesk

Hey Rep. Thiesfeldt, I have an idea how we can improve cost-efficiency in our schools. How about putting a stop to the leviathan of vouchers and charters, which continue to grow in both enrollment and tax funding while test scores continue to fall. And that’s doubly true for the majority-minority city of Milwaukee, which has had vouchers as an entitlement longer than anywhere else in the state.

That seems especially relevant for your constituents in Fondy, who are looking at more than $1.7 million in added property taxes due to vouchers this year, with another $200,000 being lost by North Fond du Lac.

Just to remind you how this scam works.

So how much longer are we going to allow the scam to grow where these Betsy DeVos “Jesus rode a dinosaur” schools keep getting more of our tax dollars, while the public schools in the state continue to barely get by?

It’s especially telling that some of the districts suffering the most damage in the state from this scam are the smaller ones in rural areas that can’t afford to make up the difference. And many of those small towns have GOPs “representing” them in the Legislature, with many of those legislators getting their spots in no small part because of campaign contributions from voucher backers like DeVos and convicted criminal Scott Jensen.

So if you vote for a GOP rep, just know that you’re allowing your community school to defunded by this scam. How’s that been working out for ya, and the rest of our state?


  1. This state of affairs IS a visible storm warning, a sign of the Radical Conservative agenda, enacted and working to foment failure in public school systems nationwide.
    GOP-dominated legislatures, the idiot-puppet Ed-Sec, DeVos, and similar radical conservative nut jobs, sociopaths and misfits are starving public school systems of funding. Step two: point at those same public school systems and scream, "FAILING!", as if GOP actions and calculated, malignant neglect didn't cause this failure, and then move swiftly to privatize and corporatize the education of future voters.
    These children will be exposed to all of the well-documented failings of for-profit, free-from-accountability, private-corporate schools. If ever the nation's monied-misfits had discovered a means to expand their ranks, the ranks of the social/moral failures and the smug, know-nothing, boundlessly self-absorbed, Fascist/wanna-be dictator class, this is it.

    1. Related to that, Thiesfeldt got called out by Politi-fact for thinking not being "proficient" meant that those students couldn't read at "grade level."

      It's not the same, dude. And maybe someone like that shouldn't be chairing the Education Committee if he doesn't know the difference....or maybe that's why he is.