Like most spin, it builds on a grain of truth: When parents outside Milwaukee take their state school aid to a private school, the cost is arbitrarily shifted to property taxes. It used to not work that way as the program was funded directly from the state. There’s no reason it cannot be transitioned back. When a child goes to a private school via choice, $8,399 of state aid follows each elementary school child, or $9,045 for high schoolers. The DPI then redirects the aid it would have sent to the school district where the child lives by the amount of the choice grant.I read that and thought, “Am I going to agree with Paddy Wack?”, because I also think it is ridiculous that property taxes have to be raised to make up the difference for voucher students. Especially the ones who never attended a day in public school. But then this Bradley-funded hack gets the situation 100% off of reality. In addition to a ridiculous comparison about a student transferring between public school districts when we know that only 7% of the students in the non-Milwaukee voucher program for this year were in Wisconsin public schools last year, Paddy Wack uses the very specific example of the state’s largest school district, whose voicher program is set up under different rules.
The state simply needs to fund all choice students with the Milwaukee model: State money follows the child, coming out of the state’s general fund. Property taxes play no part. Districts’ levies are treated no differently than if a child’s family moved. This policy change would simplify the funding process and decouple the funding streams of these programs. It shifts the cost of choice off property taxes and onto state taxes.First of all, state money “follows the child” in the rest of Wisconsin as well, but more importantly, Paddy isn’t telling you is that the Milwaukee voucher program also used to take away funds from MPS. The GOP Legislature eventually changed this law to increasingly use state funds to pay for two separate school systems – voucher and public. Note how the Milwaukee aid reduction goes down in this graphic, in contrast to the increasing losses taken on by public schools in other communities. (most districts have lower per-student state funding than voucher schools, by the way). That’s where the property taxes come in to make up the difference. Paddy Wack offers no answer for that situation, and doesn’t mention if he wants the public school to lose resources, or if he wants the state to spend a lot more money to pay the full costs of having these two different schools systems. Instead, Paddy repeats the tired (and WRONG) comparison of the cost of state vouchers vs the full cost of educating a student.
Choice, in the end, saves taxpayers money. That $9,045 grant, the total taxpayer outlay for choice students, is far below the average $15,200 per pupil spent by school districts. The gap should be less: The state should view each child as having equal value.But we don’t know if that spending “gap” exists at all. Those “non-profit” voucher schools get donations (which are written off of taxes), tuition payments from other parents (which also get written off in this state), and require taxpayer-funded costs of transportation and other amenities that Paddy refuses to mention. You know what also doesn't get asked of oligarch-funded “intellectuals” like McIlheran who insist that school vouchers are a cure-all solution? Milwaukee has had vouchers for over 30 years, and these same righties complain that the City is a crime-infested cesspool that has continued to slide downhill, and is in a cycle of constant defunding. So why would we think that model would do anything positive for the rest of the state, versus the previous method of investing in community schools, and communities in general?