Friday, April 13, 2012

School Cuts: Don't Believe The Hype

"But since I gave you all a little something that I knew you lacked. They still consider me a new jack. All the critics you can hang 'em, I'll hold the rope. But they hope to the Pope and pray it ain't dope...Don't believe the hype."
~Public Enemy

It's weird. Scott Walker and his corrupt circus of politicians keep walking around, pocketing cash and saying nothing is wrong with public school budgets in Wisconsin.

They cut more money from public education than any other state in the U.S. last year. More money in the history of Wisconsin public education. How is that a neutral maneuver in any possible way?

In January, our own train-wreck of a State Senator, Van Wanggaard said:
"I am happy to say that as a Legislature we were able to balance Wisconsin’s budget, as well as improve the quality of education in our state last year."
And then just a couple weeks later, Racine Unified School District started talking about having to close two elementary schools because of budget shortfalls. A week ago, Kenosha Unified announced it was cutting more than 200 hundred jobs.

What the hell? Exactly how does Wanggaard think he has improved the quality of education with area schools shutting down and hundreds of teachers being fired?

You get the feeling there are two completely distinct conversations happening...and one is not grounded in what we all acknowledge as reality.

And then yesterday the real and imaginary conversations about the state of Wisconsin public education converged for us all to behold. From weau.com
We asked Governor Walker the tough question why many of these districts were still forced to make cuts for the next school year.
“There’s gonna be a few exception out of 424 school districts. But overwhelmingly unlike other places around the country where they made cuts, they didn't give school districts the reforms they needed to balance the budget, they have those tools now, they're now savings 10’s of millions of dollars. There will be a few exceptions but usually most of those exceptions are where they haven't taken full advantage of the reforms,” Governor Walker says.
Hmmm. 10's of millions of dollars? Clearly, Racine and Kenosha must hate children. Oh, but the devil is in the details isn't it?
But Fahrman (Altoona School Superintendent) says not all school districts in Wisconsin are equal. He says you can't make a blanket statement like Walker's because you're comparing apples to oranges and he says the ‘tools’ never matched the reductions in state aid.
“Some school districts probably are better off if they didn't have a lot of state aid coming in, but anybody that's aided especially the way we are in Altoona, that's a tremendous reduction and it's not going to be made up with a 1 time shopping around for insurance,” Fahrman explains.
Eau Claire School District Superintendent Dr. Ron Heilmann's response to the Governor was, “Governor Walker doesn’t understand how school finance works.”Take a look at this school district comparison compiled by the Wisconsin Taxpayer’s Alliance.
Altoona received $7,064 per pupil in state aid during the 2010-2011 school year. It received $3,123 per pupil from property taxes.
Compare that to Gibraltar, the wealthiest school district in the state located in Door County.
Gibraltar received just $18 per pupil in state aid during the 2010-2011 school year. It received $18,251 per pupil from property taxes.
This disparity shows how some districts were much more affected by state aid cuts last year than others.
See...when Scott Walker and Van Wanggaard talk about how their historic cuts public schools have not impacted them in any discernible - in fact most are just fine - they are talking about wealthy school districts...not Racine, Kenosha or Milwaukee.

Do not believe the hype.