Commentary On Madison’s Ongoing Tax And Spending Growth; $494,652,025 Budget Spends Nearly $20k Per Student (Voucher schools operate on 60% less….)

Amber Walker: On Monday night, in a 7-0 decision, the Madison School Board approved the district’s $494,652,025 preliminary all-funds budget for the 2017-2018 school year. The Madison Metropolitan School District highlighted it’s balanced operating budget — representing $390,045,697 of the total funds — will result in a $15 per hour minimum wage for the district’s … Continue reading Commentary On Madison’s Ongoing Tax And Spending Growth; $494,652,025 Budget Spends Nearly $20k Per Student (Voucher schools operate on 60% less….)

Pro Choice: Vouchers, per student spending and achievement

The Economist: This is not the end of the story for vouchers, however. In both Milwaukee and Washington, voucher schemes get similar results to the public schools but with much less money. Under the DC scheme, each voucher is worth $8,500 a year, compared with $17,500 to educate a child in the public school system. … Continue reading Pro Choice: Vouchers, per student spending and achievement

Test scores improve for Milwaukee voucher schools (spending about 45% less per student), but still lag public schools;

Carrie Antlfinger:

Students who received vouchers to attend private or religious schools in Milwaukee improved their performance in mathematics and reading last year but still lagged behind public school students, according to a report released Tuesday.
The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction found that in the second year of testing last fall, about 40 percent of Milwaukee voucher students showed they were proficient or advanced in math, up nearly 6 percent from last year. Nearly 49 percent of local public school students and 78 percent of public school students statewide reached that mark.

Related: Comparing Milwaukee Public and Voucher Schools’ Per Student Spending: Though not perfect, I think $13,063 (MPS) and $7,126 (MPCP) are reasonably comparative per-pupil public support numbers for MPS and the MPCP.

Comparing Milwaukee Public and Voucher Schools’ Per Student Spending

Mike Ford

I find discussions of the per-pupil funding level of different types of Milwaukee schools usually turns into a debate on how to make a true apples-to-apples comparison of per-pupil support for the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) and the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP). While basic differences in MPS and MPCP schools and their cost-drivers make any comparison imperfect, the following is what you might call a green apples to red apples comparison.
DISCLAIMER: if you not interested in school funding, prepare to be bored.
Per-pupil support for MPS
Note I am not trying to calculate per-pupil education funding or suggest that this is the amount of money that actually reaches a school or classroom; it is a simple global picture of how much public revenue exists per-pupil in MPS. Below are the relevant numbers for 2012, from MPS documents:
…….
Though not perfect, I think $13,063 (MPS) and $7,126 (MPCP) are reasonably comparative per-pupil public support numbers for MPS and the MPCP.

K-12 “Equity Spending Test”; Difference in spending between public or charter school cannot exceed 25%…. (Madison exceeds that)

Chris Stewart: Public schools in New Mexico aren’t funding students equitably, so says the U.S. Department Education who accuse the state’s leaders of “diverting [$63 million] in federal Impact Aid grants” intended to help school districts that are disadvantaged by their low tax bases.  The feds found that New Mexico wasn’t passing the “equity test,” … Continue reading K-12 “Equity Spending Test”; Difference in spending between public or charter school cannot exceed 25%…. (Madison exceeds that)

Is the MPS Tax & Spending Increase Referendum Good for Milwaukee?

– via a kind reader. Milwaukee annual per student $pending: Public: just over $14K Charter: just over $9k Voucher: just under $9k “The problems have less to do with funding and more about policies and practices”. Mission vs organization. Madison’s taxpayer supported school district spends around $19 to 20K/student and is planning a substantial tax … Continue reading Is the MPS Tax & Spending Increase Referendum Good for Milwaukee?

Effects of Scaling Up Private School Choice Programs on Public School Students

David N. Figlio, Cassandra M.D. Hart, Krzysztof Karbownik: Using a rich dataset that merges student-level school records with birth records, and a student fixed effect design, we explore how the massive scale-up of a Florida private school choice program affected public school students’ outcomes. Expansion of the program produced modestly larger benefits for students attending … Continue reading Effects of Scaling Up Private School Choice Programs on Public School Students

Arizona’s education chief may not like vouchers, but she must follow the law

Jon Gabriel: This week, reporters revealed that the state Department of Education released the personal information of nearly 7,000 families who use Empowerment Scholarship Accounts. Worse still, they sent it to Save Our Schools, staunch opponents of the program and educational choice in general. ESAs enable parents, mostly those who have children with special needs, to … Continue reading Arizona’s education chief may not like vouchers, but she must follow the law

Arizona Education Department blunder puts ESA parent names in hands of group that opposes expansion of voucher program

Dillon Rosenblat: The Arizona Department of Education likely violated federal student privacy laws when it released a spreadsheet that inadvertently named every parent with an Empowerment Scholarship Account in the state. The spreadsheet then fell into the hands of a group that opposes expansion of the program. The Yellow Sheet Report, a sister publication of … Continue reading Arizona Education Department blunder puts ESA parent names in hands of group that opposes expansion of voucher program

No, voucher schools haven’t raised property taxes by $1B since 2011

Eric Litke: Voucher schools are an ongoing point of contention in Wisconsin’s divided government, with Democratic Gov. Tony Evers even promising to tighten or end the decades-old program. The system, which uses taxpayer money to send low-income students to private schools, has been tweaked and debated but ultimately expanded under Republican control in recent years. … Continue reading No, voucher schools haven’t raised property taxes by $1B since 2011

Study: Journalists need help covering misinformation: Madison’s K-12 taxpayer spending rhetoric vs reality

Daniel Funke: A study published in Science Advances in January found that older people are more likely to share fake news stories. A Gallup and Knight Foundation survey from last year suggested that most Americans want technology companies to do more to fight misinformation. Other researchers have found that fake news is making college students … Continue reading Study: Journalists need help covering misinformation: Madison’s K-12 taxpayer spending rhetoric vs reality

Wisconsin K-12 Tax & Spending Growth Sentiment

Negassi Tesfamichael: However, the group said support dipped once additional information on current spending levels and other information about the budget was included. The poll found only a third of respondents supported Evers’ proposal to freeze the growth of private school vouchers and independent charter schools. The poll found a majority of support for public … Continue reading Wisconsin K-12 Tax & Spending Growth Sentiment

2004-2019 Wisconsin K-12 Spending: Property Tax & Redistributed Taxpayer funds

Tap for a larger version. Raw data [Excel Numbers] via Sara Hynek. Note that taxpayer supported K-12 school districts receive funds from a variety of sources, including federal taxpayer funds along with local fees. Madison plans to spend $518,955,288 during the 2018-2019 school year. That’s about $20,000 per student (26,917, which includes 4k), which is … Continue reading 2004-2019 Wisconsin K-12 Spending: Property Tax & Redistributed Taxpayer funds

Wisconsin Governor Evers seeks to freeze voucher school enrollment and suspend charter school expansion

Molly Beck: He said in the Milwaukee program especially, enrollment freezes in private voucher schools would disproportionately affect children of color living in low-income households. “Most of our families don’t have the kind of income where they would have realistic choices,” he said at the time. Under Evers’ proposal, voucher schools also would be banned … Continue reading Wisconsin Governor Evers seeks to freeze voucher school enrollment and suspend charter school expansion

WILL Messaging Experiment & Public Opinion Poll on K-12 Tax & Spending

WILL: on K-12 Education Reform In almost every context, words matter. Public opinion on particular issues can shift greatly depending on the language used, and K-12 education reform is no exception. To help further understand this, the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty commissioned Research Now Survey Sampling International to conduct a statewide survey experiment … Continue reading WILL Messaging Experiment & Public Opinion Poll on K-12 Tax & Spending

Vouchers and taxpayer supported school districts

Erin Richards: In 2015-’16, Wisconsin was home to just over a million school-aged children. About 860,000 attended public schools. About 123,000 attended private schools: about 90,000 who paid tuition, and about 33,000 who used vouchers. About 20,000 children were home-schooled. Vouchers are taxpayer-funded tuition subsidies that help children attend private schools, the vast majority of … Continue reading Vouchers and taxpayer supported school districts

School choice opponents’ arguments against voucher schools ring hollow

Will Flanders:: While creating an incentive to improve, school choice has not come at a cost to the public schools. If, as Taylor claims, school choice is designed to “siphon” money from public schools, it’s making a mess of the job. Per-pupil spending is higher today than it was before the start of the voucher … Continue reading School choice opponents’ arguments against voucher schools ring hollow

“After just a few years, voucher students perform as well or better than their non-voucher peers while using significantly less public funding,” 

Joanne Jacobs: Louisiana students who used vouchers to switch from public to private schools did worse in the first year, then improved, concludes a University of Arkansas study. After three years, voucher students were doing as well as similar students who hadn’t switched; low performers did significantly better in English. The Indiana study looked at … Continue reading “After just a few years, voucher students perform as well or better than their non-voucher peers while using significantly less public funding,” 

“After just a few years, voucher students perform as well or better than their non-voucher peers while using significantly less public funding,” 

Joanne Jacobs: Louisiana students who used vouchers to switch from public to private schools did worse in the first year, then improved, concludes a University of Arkansas study. After three years, voucher students were doing as well as similar students who hadn’t switched; low performers did significantly better in English. The Indiana study looked at … Continue reading “After just a few years, voucher students perform as well or better than their non-voucher peers while using significantly less public funding,” 

Notes on the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction Superintendent Election

Annysa Johnson: Evers, 65, said his large margin Tuesday reflected Wisconsin voters’ commitment to public education. But he could face a tough fight ahead, he said, if Holtz attracts funding from school reform proponents across the country. “They both vowed to go after national voucher money, and I assume that will be Mr. Holtz’s M.O.,” … Continue reading Notes on the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction Superintendent Election

Milwaukee’s Voucher Verdict What 26 years of vouchers can teach the private-school choice movement—if only it would listen

Erin Richards: Together, Travis Academy and Holy Redeemer have received close to $100 million in taxpayer funding over the years. The sum is less than what taxpayers would have paid for those pupils in public schools, because each tuition voucher costs less than the total expense per pupil in Milwaukee Public Schools. But vouchers weren’t … Continue reading Milwaukee’s Voucher Verdict What 26 years of vouchers can teach the private-school choice movement—if only it would listen

K-12 Governance Rhetoric (lacks Spending Differences)

Jared Bernstein & Ben Spielberg: DeVos and other ideological enemies of teachers unions may well try to block that vision. But as most education policy gets hashed out at the local level, they will hopefully fail. The desire for cross-sector collaboration with a goal of promoting equity for all students is growing, and fostering that … Continue reading K-12 Governance Rhetoric (lacks Spending Differences)

Commentary on 1.8% of Wisconsin’s $14,000,000,000 in K-12 Spending

Molly Beck: The number of students using vouchers to attend private schools grew from 22,439 during the 2011-12 school year to 29,609 last school year, according to the DPI. At the same time, 870,650 students attended public schools last year — which is about the same number that did in the 2011-12 school year. Enrollment … Continue reading Commentary on 1.8% of Wisconsin’s $14,000,000,000 in K-12 Spending

Commentary on Wisconsin K-12 Tax & Spending Policies

Madison Teachers, Inc. Solidarity Newsletter (PDF), via a kind Jeanie Kamholtz email: Governor Walker’s proposed Budget and the gamesmanship being played in the legislature has been compared to the game “whack-a-mole”. Representative Melissa Sargent, a champion for public education, teachers and progressive causes, said of the Budget proposals, “Just when you think we’ve averted one … Continue reading Commentary on Wisconsin K-12 Tax & Spending Policies

Commentary On School Voucher Effectiveness & Economics

Chris Rickert: But there’s still little doubt vouchers mean taxpayers are going to be on the hook for educating some indeterminate number of additional kids than they would be in the absence of vouchers. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, according to Jim Bender, president of the pro-voucher School Choice Wisconsin. He notes that government … Continue reading Commentary On School Voucher Effectiveness & Economics

Comments On proposed Voucher Funding changes… ($37M in a 4.5B Budget)

Molly Beck Overall, roughly $4.5 billion annually is devoted to general school funding in the proposed state budget. The cost for new students in the program over the next two years is projected to be about $37 million. In the last state budget, about $384 million was appropriated for the state’s three voucher systems. Rep. … Continue reading Comments On proposed Voucher Funding changes… ($37M in a 4.5B Budget)

Diminishing Returns in Wisconsin K-12 Education Spending Growth

Tap to view a larger version of these images. Martin F. Lueken, Ph.D., Rick Esenberg & CJ Szafir, via a kind reader (PDF): Robustness checks: Lastly, to check if the estimates from our main analysis behave differently when we modify our models, we conduct a series of robustness checks in our analysis. We estimate models … Continue reading Diminishing Returns in Wisconsin K-12 Education Spending Growth

Commentary on Wisconsin’s K-12 Tax, Spending & Governance Climate

Madison Teachers, Inc. Newsletter, via a kind Jeanie Kamholtz email (PDF): It has been a long, well-planned attack. In 1993, in an action against their own philosophy; i.e. decisions by government should be made at the lowest possible level, the Republican Governor and Legislature began actions to control local school boards. They passed Revenue Controls … Continue reading Commentary on Wisconsin’s K-12 Tax, Spending & Governance Climate

Commentary on a Milwaukee voucher school; contemplating accountability & spending differences

Erin Richards: The operator of one of Milwaukee’s longest-running private voucher schools says her organization strives to give disadvantaged children the best shot they can get in life, even when they’ve been left behind by other schools. But new documents and former employees have raised concerns about the internal workings at Ceria M. Travis Academy, … Continue reading Commentary on a Milwaukee voucher school; contemplating accountability & spending differences

Commentary on 0.0015% of Wisconsin K-12 spending over the past 10 years

Molly Beck: Over the past 10 years, Wisconsin taxpayers have paid about $139 million to private schools that were subsequently barred from the state’s voucher system for failing to meet requirements related to finances, accreditation, student safety and auditing, a State Journal review has found. More than two-thirds of the 50 schools terminated from the … Continue reading Commentary on 0.0015% of Wisconsin K-12 spending over the past 10 years

Study contends voucher programs save money, benefit public schools

Erin Richards: Milwaukee’s long-running school voucher program that allows certain children to attend private and religious schools at taxpayer expense has saved Wisconsin more than $238 million since its inception in 1990, according to a new study by a national voucher advocacy group. The study released Tuesday by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice said … Continue reading Study contends voucher programs save money, benefit public schools

Madison’s Lengthy K-12 Challenges Become Election Grist; Spends 22% more per student than Milwaukee

Madison 2005 (reflecting 1998): When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before On November 7, Superintendent Art Rainwater made his annual report to the Board of Education on progress toward meeting the district’s student achievement goal in reading. As … Continue reading Madison’s Lengthy K-12 Challenges Become Election Grist; Spends 22% more per student than Milwaukee

Election, Tax & Spending Climate: As new year school year begins, Wisconsin’s education scene lacks energy

Alan Borsuk In recent years on this Sunday, the last before most kids start school, I have offered thoughts on what is new and worth watching on the school scene in Wisconsin and particularly in Milwaukee. I started to make up a list for this year and was struck by how, um, boring it was. … Continue reading Election, Tax & Spending Climate: As new year school year begins, Wisconsin’s education scene lacks energy

Media Reality Check on Madison’s K-12 Tax & Spending

Molly Beck, writing for the Wisconsin State Journal: Madison schools could see a $2.6 million increase in state aid next school year, but that’s about $5.6 million less than what district officials assumed when the School Board passed its preliminary budget last month, according to state estimates released Tuesday. The Madison School District expected its … Continue reading Media Reality Check on Madison’s K-12 Tax & Spending

Commentary on the Growth in Federal K-12 Redistributed Tax Dollar Spending

Reihan Salam: Rather than shift the tax burden from households with children to relatively high-earning households without children, Felix Salmon of Reuters proposes increasing federal education funding. This strikes me as ill-conceived for a number of reasons. If anything, I would suggest that we move in the opposite direction. Though federal spending represents a relatively … Continue reading Commentary on the Growth in Federal K-12 Redistributed Tax Dollar Spending

On Voucher Schools & Students

Stephanie Simon:

Ever since the administration filed suit to freeze Louisiana’s school voucher program, high-ranking Republicans have pummeled President Barack Obama for trapping poor kids in failing public schools.
The entire House leadership sent a letter of protest. Majority Leader Eric Cantor blistered the president for denying poor kids “a way into a brighter future.” And Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal accused him of “ripping low-income minority students out of good schools” that could “help them achieve their dreams.”
But behind the outrage is an inconvenient truth: Taxpayers across the U.S. will soon be spending $1 billion a year to help families pay private school tuition — and there’s little evidence that the investment yields academic gains.
In Milwaukee, just 13 percent of voucher students scored proficient in math and 11 percent made the bar in reading this spring. That’s worse on both counts than students in the city’s public schools. In Cleveland, voucher students in most grades performed worse than their peers in public schools in math, though they did better in reading.
In New Orleans, voucher students who struggle academically haven’t advanced to grade-level work any faster over the past two years than students in public schools, many of which are rated D or F, state data show.

Notes and links on Simon’s Politico article here. Fascinating.

Getting beyond insults in the school choice debate; Responding to the Madison School Board President on Vouchers, Parents & School Climate

Rick Esenberg, via a kind reader’s email:

Whether or not he is right, we are left with, again, with the very philosophical divide that I identified. Mr. Hughes thinks that centralized and collective decision-making will more properly value diversity (as he defines it) and make better educational choices for children than their parents will.
Of course to describe a philosophical divide does not tell us who has the better of the argument. Mr. Hughes defends his position by relying on a 2007 “study” by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute which, strictly speaking, was not a study at all and had more to do with the impact of choice on public schools than its value to the families who participate in the program.
The 2007 WPRI publication collected no data on what was actually happening in Milwaukee. It simply took a national data base on the educational involvement of families and extrapolated it to Milwaukee based on the socioeconomic characteristics of Milwaukee families. It was, strictly speaking, nothing more than a calculation. If low income and minority families in Milwaukee behave like low income and minority families nationally, the calculation showed, then, based on certain assumptions, very few would engage in informed decision-making regarding their children’s education.
It was an interesting and thought provoking exercise but one with an obvious limitation. It is not at all clear that national findings would extend to a city with a relatively longstanding and actively promoted choice program. It is possible that the existence of a greater array of educational choices would change the incentives and capacity of parents to engage in the informed and engaged decision-making that would otherwise not happen.
Beyond that, the fact that only a subset of families will exercise a choice tells us precisely nothing about whether they ought to have the opportunity to make one – unless you entertain a presumption against individual choice and a diversity of alternatives in education.
Mr. Hughes argues that education is an “experience good” which is a fancy way of saying that it is something that consumers have a difficult time evaluating before deciding whether to buy it. But, again, the extent to which you think something is that type of good (many things are difficult to be sure about before you try them) and whether, having decided it is, you think that people should have someone else choose for them reflects very philosophical divide I’m concerned with.

We know best” has long been associated with parts of Madison’s K-12 community, despite long term, disastrous reading scores and spending twice the national average per student.
Background: “The notion that parents inherently know what school is best for their kids is an example of conservative magical thinking.”; “For whatever reason, parents as a group tend to undervalue the benefits of diversity in the public schools….”.
It would certainly be useful to spend a bit of time learning about Milwaukee’s experiences, positive and negative with a far more open k-12 climate. The results of Madison’s insular, non-diverse approach are an embarrassment to students, citizens, taxpayers and employers.


Commentary on Wisconsin K-12 Tax & Spending Increases, Voucher Changes

Jason Stein

Lawmakers also want to expand school voucher programs beyond the borders of Milwaukee and eastern Racine County. The programs allow parents who meet income thresholds to send their children to religious schools and other private schools at taxpayer expense.
Under the motion approved 12-4 along party lines by Republicans on the budget panel:

  • Public schools would receive $150 more per student in general aid this fall and another $150 increase the following year. The plan would cost $289 million over two years, with $231.5 million funded with state taxes and the rest with an additional $52 million in higher local property taxes and an increase in expected revenues from the state lottery.
    School districts would have the authority to spend this new money. Walker wanted to give schools $129 million in state aid but require all of it to go toward property tax relief, rather than be used for new expenses.
    Under the budget committee’s proposal, total property taxes would increase by less than 1% per year, with school levies going up somewhat more than that.

  • A new voucher program would become available to all students outside Milwaukee and Racine. It would be limited to 500 students the first year and 1,000 students every year thereafter. Walker wanted no limits on the number of students in the program after the second year.
    If there are more students seeking slots in the program than allowed, the proposal would allocate the available slots by lottery. The slots would go to the 25 schools with the most applications, with each school getting at least 10 seats.

  • The new program would be available to students in any school district. Walker wanted to make it available in districts with 4,000 or more students that were identified as struggling on school report cards issued by the state.
  • No more than 1% of the students of any given school district could participate in the new program.
  • Over 12 years, the negative financial impacts for the Milwaukee Public Schools from the voucher program here would be phased out.
  • The new program would be available to students of families making 185% of the federal poverty level or less — well below the income thresholds for Milwaukee and Racine. Those programs are available to families making up to 300% of the federal poverty level, with a higher threshold for married couples.
  • Voucher schools in all parts of the state would receive $7,210 per K-8 student and $7,856 per high school student — up from $6,442 currently. Walker wanted to provide $7,050 for students in kindergarten through eighth grade and the same larger increase to high school students.



Wisconsin DPI Superintendent Tony Evers (PDF):

Today, Republican leaders are finalizing a deal to likely expand Wisconsin’s private school voucher program statewide. While this dramatic proposal has significant implications for citizens and taxpayers across Wisconsin, it has been developed behind closed doors with no public input, no public hearings, and no public fiscal analysis. If this proposal becomes law, taxpayers across Wisconsin will be financing a new entitlement for private school children whose tuition is currently paid for by their parents. To address the lack of information about the potential fiscal effects of this program, the attached table estimates potential long-term costs of statewide subsidization of private school tuition on a district-by-district basis. Cost to subsidize current private school students only: up to $560 million annually
While some lawmakers claim the purpose of the program is to provide educational choices to those who cannot afford it, the current school choice programs in Milwaukee and Racine provide vouchers to families who are already choosing to send their children to private schools. As many as 50% of the children participating in the Racine choice program were already in private schools when they began receiving a state-funded subsidy in
2011-12. If the voucher program is expanded statewide, it can be assumed that current private school families would also be eligible for this new entitlement.

Related:

Evidence doesn’t support choice program expansion, Comparing Per Student Spending

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

Legislators should be skeptical of a proposal by Gov. Scott Walker to sharply expand the school voucher program. There isn’t much evidence that students in voucher schools are better educated; in fact, they seem to perform at about the same level as their peers in mainline public schools.
We also remain deeply skeptical of the move by the Legislature two years ago to open up the program to lower middle-income families. If there is any justification for the voucher schools, it’s to give impoverished families a “choice.” We have long supported choice for the poor and believe the program should be limited to those families. Republicans essentially are advocating a shadow school system. Why not work harder to adequately fund and hold accountable the system we have?
Walker’s plan would expand private voucher programs to at least nine other districts outside Milwaukee and Racine. Families with income of to about $70,000 a year would be eligible.
Before they act, legislators should take a close look at outcomes.
In a report released last month, the state Department of Public Instruction found that students attending voucher schools in Milwaukee and Racine scored lower than public school students in Milwaukee Public Schools and the Racine Unified School District on the state standardized achievement test.

Comparing Milwaukee Public and Voucher Schools’ Per Student Spending

I find discussions of the per-pupil funding level of different types of Milwaukee schools usually turns into a debate on how to make a true apples-to-apples comparison of per-pupil support for the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) and the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP). While basic differences in MPS and MPCP schools and their cost-drivers make any comparison imperfect, the following is what you might call a green apples to red apples comparison.
DISCLAIMER: if you not interested in school funding, prepare to be bored.
Per-pupil support for MPS
Note I am not trying to calculate per-pupil education funding or suggest that this is the amount of money that actually reaches a school or classroom; it is a simple global picture of how much public revenue exists per-pupil in MPS. Below are the relevant numbers for 2012, from MPS documents:
…….
Though not perfect, I think $13,063 (MPS) and $7,126 (MPCP) are reasonably comparative per-pupil public support numbers for MPS and the MPCP.

The Coming Revolution in Public Education: Critics say the standardized test-driven reforms pushed by those like Michelle Rhee may actually be harming students.

John Tierney:

It’s always hard to tell for sure exactly when a revolution starts. Is it when a few discontented people gather in a room to discuss how the ruling regime might be opposed? Is it when first shots are fired? When a critical mass forms and the opposition acquires sufficient weight to have a chance of prevailing? I’m not an expert on revolutions, but even I can see that a new one is taking shape in American K-12 public education.
The dominant regime for the past decade or more has been what is sometimes called accountability-based reform or, by many of its critics, “corporate education reform.” The reforms consist of various initiatives aimed at (among other things): improving schools and educational outcomes by using standardized tests to measure what students are learning; holding schools and teachers accountable (through school closures and teacher pay cuts) when their students are “lagging” on those standardized assessments; controlling classroom instruction and increasing the rigor of school curricula by pushing all states to adopt the same challenging standards via a “Common Core;” and using market-like competitive pressures (through the spread of charter schools and educational voucher programs) to provide public schools with incentives to improve.
Critics of the contemporary reform regime argue that these initiatives, though seemingly sensible in their original framing, are motivated by interests other than educational improvement and are causing genuine harm to American students and public schools. Here are some of the criticisms: the reforms have self-interest and profit motives, not educational improvement, as their basis; corporate interests are reaping huge benefits from these reform initiatives and spending millions of dollars lobbying to keep those benefits flowing; three big foundations (Gates, Broad, and Walton Family) are funding much of the backing for the corporate reforms and are spending billions to market and sell reforms that don’t work; ancillary goals of these reforms are to bust teacher unions, disempower educators, and reduce spending on public schools; standardized testing is enormously expensive in terms both of public expenditures and the diversion of instruction time to test prep; over a third of charter schools deliver “significantly worse” results for students than the traditional public schools from which they were diverted; and, finally, that these reforms have produced few benefits and have actually caused harm, especially to kids in disadvantaged areas and communities of color. (On that last overall point, see this scathing new report from the Economic Policy Institute.)

NJ DOE Releases New School Performance Reports; Wisconsin? Stays Quo…

Laura Waters:

At long last the New Jersey Department of Education has released its “NJ School Performance Reports,” which replace the old School Report Cards. Details on school performance is greatly expanded now includes, according to the Christie Administration’s press release, “brand new data on college and career readiness and provide comparison to “peer schools” in order to provide a more complete picture of school performance for educators and the general public.”
Here’s coverage from the Star-Ledger, The Record, the Courier-Post, Asbury Park Press, Press of Atlantic City, NJ Spotlight, and the Philadelphia Inquirer.
The state also released the annual Taxpayers’ Guide to Education. Annual per pupil spending in NJ (if you use the state’s algorithm; others say it inflates costs) is $18,045, up 4.2% since last year.
Of course, there’s enormous range within that average. Fairview Boro (Bergen), for example, spends $13,317 per pupil. Asbury Park City spends $30,502. The plush magnet schools in Bergen County spend $35,900.

The Wisconsin DPI…..
April, 2013: Chief among them has been this notion from state superintendent Tony Evers that the state’s new accountability system, known as state report cards, shouldn’t be used to determine which districts get vouchers.
.
March, 2013: Evers on report cards: this last year was a pilot year. It’s just not ready for prime time.
June, 2008: “Schools should not rely on only WKCE data to gauge progress of individual students or to determine effectiveness of programs or curriculum”.

Madison’s New Superintendent on Madison, Politics & Distractions

Pat Schneider:

You’ll find Jennifer Cheatham, new superintendent of the Madison School District, at the Capitol Wednesday when local education officials talk about how Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed budget would hurt Dane County schools.
But don’t expect her to be spending much time making political statements, Cheatham told me and other staff members of the Cap Times Tuesday. Too much focus on politics would distract her from her work in the Madison schools, she said.
“I think my major role is to work on improving schools in Madison. That’s why I was hired and I need to remain focused on that,” Cheatham said. “But I do think there are times it is important for me to voice my opinion on behalf of the school district on state issues.”
That includes the Walker education budget.
Cheatham is scheduled to be on hand at noon Wednesday when School Board members, superintendents, parents and other advocates from around Dane County talk about the impact of Walker’s education proposals in Room 411, the large Senate meeting room.
The Madison School Board has already actively lobbied against the Walker budget, urging local legislators not to support a plan that is “bad for our students, our taxpayers and the future of public education.”
Board members say expanding vouchers into Madison, as Walker has proposed, is a particularly bad idea. They note there’s no consistent evidence that kids using publicly funded vouchers to attend private schools do better academically, and they say that funding vouchers is likely to raise local property taxes.
It’s not just school officials who are weighing in on the highly politicized issue of school vouchers. The Madison City Council passed a resolution last month, sponsored by all 20 members, opposing expansion of vouchers to Madison. The Dane County Board is considering a similar resolution.

Reading has been job one for quite some time, unfortunately.
Right to read lawsuit filed in Michigan.

“Voucher Voodoo: Smart Kids Shine Here” (Madison); A few links to consider


Tap on the image to view a larger version. Source: The Global Report Card.


Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

Recently I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the Madison school district’s achievement gap problems and other challenges we face. I’ve also been responding to the outlandish notion that Madison is a failing school district whose students deserve private school vouchers as their only lifeline to academic success.
At times like this, I find it helpful to remember that Madison’s schools are educating many, many students who are succeeding. Some of them are succeeding spectacularly. With apologies to those I’m overlooking, here’s a brief run-down on some of our stars –
Madison Memorial’s recently-formed science bowl team won the Wisconsin state championship in January. The team of seniors Srikar Adibhatla, Sohil Shah, Thejas Wesley and William Xiang and sophomore Brian Luo will represent Wisconsin in the National Science Bowl Championship in Washington, D.C. in April.

Related:
Credit for non-Madison School District courses and the Talented and Gifted complaint.
Census.gov on Madison’s demographics, compared to College Station, TX. 52.9% of Madison residents have a bachelor’s degree, compared to the State’s 26%. 57.5% of College Station, Texas’s residents have a college degree.
Madison High School UW-Madison and University of Wisconsin System enrollment trends 1983-2011:
East LaFollette, Memorial, West, Edgewood.
Where have all the students, gone? A look at suburban Madison enrollment changes.
National Merit Semifinalists & Wisconsin’s cut scores.
Madison’s nearly $15k per student annual spending, community support and higher education infrastructure provide the raw materials for world class public schools. Benchmarking ourselves against world leaders would seem to be a great place to begin.

Continuing to Advocate Status Quo Governance & Spending (Outcomes?) in Madison

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

First, I provide some background on the private school voucher imposition proposal. Next, I list thirteen ways in which the proposal and its advocates are hypocritical, inconsistent, irrational, or just plain wrong. Finally, I briefly explain for the benefit of Wisconsin Federation for Children why the students in Madison are not attending failing schools.

Related: Counterpoint by David Blaska.
Does the School Board Matter? Ed Hughes argues that experience does, but what about “Governance” and “Student Achievement”?
2005: When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before

According to Mr. Rainwater, the place to look for evidence of a closing achievement gap is the comparison of the percentage of African American third graders who score at the lowest level of performance on statewide tests and the percentage of other racial groups scoring at that level. He says that, after accounting for income differences, there is no gap associated with race at the lowest level of achievement in reading. He made the same claim last year, telling the Wisconsin State Journal on September 24, 2004, “for those kids for whom an ability to read would prevent them from being successful, we’ve reduced that percentage very substantially, and basically, for all practical purposes, closed the gap”. Last Monday, he stated that the gap between percentages scoring at the lowest level “is the original gap” that the board set out to close.
Unfortunately, that is not the achievement gap that the board aimed to close.

2009: 60% to 42%: Madison School District’s Reading Recovery Effectiveness Lags “National Average”: Administration seeks to continue its use. This program continues, despite the results.
2004: Madison Schools Distort Reading Data (2004) by Mark Seidenberg.
2012: Madison Mayor Paul Soglin: “We are not interested in the development of new charter schools”
Scott Bauer

Almost half of Wisconsin residents say they haven’t heard enough about voucher schools to form an opinion, according to the Marquette University law school poll. Some 27 percent of respondents said they have a favorable view of voucher schools while 24 percent have an unfavorable view. But a full 43 percent said they hadn’t heard enough about them to form an opinion.
“There probably is still more room for political leadership on both sides to try to put forward convincing arguments and move opinion in their direction,” pollster Charles Franklin said.
The initial poll question about vouchers only asked for favorability perceptions without addressing what voucher schools are. In a follow-up question, respondents were told that vouchers are payments from the state using taxpayer money to fund parents’ choices of private or religious schools.
With that cue, 51 percent favored it in some form while 42 percent opposed it.
Walker is a staunch voucher supporter.

More on the voucher proposal, here.
www.wisconsin2.org
A close observer of Madison’s $392,789,303 K-12 public school district ($14,547/student) for more than nine years, I find it difficult to see substantive change succeeding. And, I am an optimist.
It will be far better for us to address the District’s disastrous reading results locally, than to have change imposed from State or Federal litigation or legal changes. Or, perhaps a more diffused approach to redistributed state tax dollar spending.

Wisconsin schools superintendent: Lawmakers should reject Scott Walker’s voucher expansion

Jason Stein:

Addressing the most contentious issue in Gov. Scott Walker’s budget bill, state Schools Superintendent Tony Evers on Thursday called on members of the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee to reject a proposed expansion of voucher schools and to give more money to public schools.
Citing figures from the Legislature’s nonpartisan budget office, Evers said the $129 million in new state aid Walker included in his two-year budget bill drops to $39.2 million after accounting for how part of that money would go to private and charter schools under the proposal. Walker seeks to increase funding for existing and future voucher schools, expand them to nine new school districts and allow special-needs students from around the state to attend private schools at taxpayer expense.
At the same time, Walker wants to use the state public school aid to hold down local property taxes rather than increase spending on education.
Evers, who is running for re-election on April 2 against Rep. Don Pridemore (R-Erin), said Walker’s budget pitted public schools against private schools by increasing state funding for voucher school initiatives by 32% while keeping overall revenue to schools flat.
“This has to stop. The state cannot continue to play favorites. We can and must meet our constitutional obligation to invest in all of our kids,” Evers said.
In its third straight day of budget hearings, the Joint Finance Committee took testimony Thursday on Walker’s 2013-’15 budget proposals for Wisconsin’s K-12 schools, technical colleges and universities. The hearing made clear that the governor’s education proposals will face resistance from some senators in the Republican-controlled Senate and have strong support from Republicans in charge of the Assembly, leaving its future in doubt.

Majority of Wisconsin Senate Republicans oppose voucher expansion

Jason Stein & Patrick Marley:

Gov. Scott Walker’s ambitious plan to expand taxpayer-funded private schools faltered in the Legislature on Wednesday, with several influential GOP lawmakers making clear the proposal would need major changes to pass.
The lawmakers from the governor’s own party largely acknowledged that some expansion of voucher schools will pass the Legislature in the coming months. But the legislators – who included the top two Senate leaders and chairmen of the Legislature’s education committees – said the expansion would be different from the proposal Walker laid out in his budget bill last month.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) said a majority of GOP senators do not support Walker’s proposal as currently written. Fitzgerald said that he called a meeting held Tuesday with Walker’s aides, Assembly Republican leaders and representatives of voucher schools to see if a compromise proposal might be worked out.
“Some people in our caucus looked at what the governor proposed and said, ‘Hmm, let’s maybe think about that,’ and I must say the governor was open to that. He’s not dug in on anything,” Fitzgerald said of changes to the governor’s budget.
Walker is seeking to increase funding for voucher schools, expand them to nine new school districts in the state and allow special-needs students from around the state to attend private schools at taxpayer expense. At the same time, he wants to provide $129 million in new state aid to public schools over two years but keep schools’ spending in state aid and property taxes flat, ensuring that the state money will be used to lower local property taxes.

Does the School Board Matter? Ed Hughes argues that experience does, but what about “Governance” and “Student Achievement”?

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes

Call me crazy, but I think a record of involvement in our schools is a prerequisite for a School Board member. Sitting at the Board table isn’t the place to be learning the names of our schools or our principals.
Wayne Strong, TJ Mertz and James Howard rise far above their opponents for those of us who value School Board members with a history of engagement in local educational issues and a demonstrated record of commitment to our Madison schools and the students we serve.

Notes and links on Ed Hughes and the 2013 Madison School Board election.
I’ve become a broken record vis a vis Madison’s disastrous reading results. The District has been largely operating on auto-pilot for decades. It is as if a 1940’s/1950’s model is sufficient. Spending increases annually (at lower rates in recent years – roughly $15k/student), yet Madison’s disastrous reading results continue, apace.
Four links for your consideration.
When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before

According to Mr. Rainwater, the place to look for evidence of a closing achievement gap is the comparison of the percentage of African American third graders who score at the lowest level of performance on statewide tests and the percentage of other racial groups scoring at that level. He says that, after accounting for income differences, there is no gap associated with race at the lowest level of achievement in reading. He made the same claim last year, telling the Wisconsin State Journal on September 24, 2004, “for those kids for whom an ability to read would prevent them from being successful, we’ve reduced that percentage very substantially, and basically, for all practical purposes, closed the gap”. Last Monday, he stated that the gap between percentages scoring at the lowest level “is the original gap” that the board set out to close.
Unfortunately, that is not the achievement gap that the board aimed to close.

60% to 42%: Madison School District’s Reading Recovery Effectiveness Lags “National Average”: Administration seeks to continue its use. This program continues, despite the results.
3rd Grade Madison School District Reading Proficiency Data (“Achievement Gap Plan”)

The other useful stat buried in the materials is on the second page 3 (= 6th page), showing that the 3rd grade proficiency rate for black students on WKCE, converted to NAEP-scale proficiency, is 6.8%, with the accountability plan targeting this percentage to increase to 23% over one school year. Not sure how this happens when the proficiency rate (by any measure) has been decreasing year over year for quite some time. Because the new DPI school report cards don’t present data on an aggregated basis district-wide nor disaggregated by income and ethnicity by grade level, the stats in the MMSD report are very useful, if one reads the fine print.

Madison Schools Distort Reading Data (2004) by Mark Seidenberg.
How many School Board elections, meetings, votes have taken place since 2005 (a number of candidates were elected unopposed)? How many Superintendents have been hired, retired or moved? Yet, the core structure remains. This, in my view is why we have seen the move to a more diffused governance model in many communities with charters, vouchers and online options.
Change is surely coming. Ideally, Madison should drive this rather than State or Federal requirements. I suspect it will be the latter, in the end, that opens up our monolithic, we know best approach to public education.

Is latest Wisconsin voucher plan really an attack?

Chris Rickert:

think of it this way: The government contracts for goods and services all the time. Contracting out our societal obligation to educate our children isn’t all that different.
As with any other private organization that wins a publicly funded contract, private schools that take vouchers should provide the same kind of quality and access we expect of our other public services and infrastructure.
Jim Bender, president of the pro-voucher School Choice Wisconsin, largely agrees.
And Department of Public Instruction spokesman Patrick Gasper said his agency “is in conversation with legislators, private schools and the governor’s office to find a way to bring schools participating in the voucher program into an accountability system.”
Voucher students in private schools already have to take the same state-mandated tests as public school students, and private schools must use admissions lotteries to prevent them cherry-picking the best voucher students.

Numerous notes and links on vouchers, accountability and per student spending can be found here.

Wisconsin Governor: Scott Walker proposes expanding voucher school program, raising taxpayer support

Jason Stein and Patrick Marley:

Gov. Scott Walker is proposing increasing by at least 9% the taxpayer funding provided to private and religious voucher schools – an increase many times larger in percentage terms than the increase in state tax money he’s seeking for public schools.
The increase in funding for existing voucher schools in Milwaukee and Racine, the first since 2009, comes as the Republican governor seeks to expand the program to nine new districts, including Waukesha, West Allis-West Milwaukee and Madison. Walker is also proposing allowing special-needs students from around the state to attend private schools at taxpayer expense.
Even after the proposed increase to voucher funding and the substantial cuts Walker and lawmakers approved for public schools in 2011, the aid provided to voucher schools would still be substantially less on a per-pupil basis than the overall state and local taxes provided to public schools.
But to provide that bigger increase to voucher schools, the Republican governor will need to persuade lawmakers to break a link in state law that currently binds the percentage increase in aid to voucher schools to the percentage increase in state general aid given to public schools.

Related links:

Finally, perhaps everyone might focus on the big goals: world class schools.

Wisconsin Governor Walker’s education reforms include voucher expansion and more

Matthew DeFour

Walker’s reform proposals include:

  • Expanding private school vouchers to school districts with at least 4,000 students and at least two schools receiving school report card grades of “fails to meet expectations” or “meets few expectations.” The expansion, which would include Madison schools, would be capped at 500 students statewide next year and 1,000 students the following year.
  • Creating a statewide charter school oversight board, which would approve local nonreligious, nonprofit organizations to create and oversee independent charter schools. Only students from districts that qualify for vouchers could attend the charter schools. Authorizers would have to provide annual performance reports about the schools.
  • Expanding the Youth Options program, which allows public school students to access courses offered by other public schools, virtual schools, the UW System, technical colleges and other organizations approved by the Department of Public Instruction.
  • Granting special education students a private school voucher.
  • Eliminating grade and residency restrictions for home-schooled students who take some courses in a public school district. School districts would receive additional state funding for home-schooled students who access public school courses or attend virtual schools.

Additionally, Walker’s spokesman confirmed plans to make no additional funding available for public schools in the budget he plans to propose Wednesday.

Related links:

Finally, perhaps everyone might focus on the big goals: world class schools.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker Proposes a 1% K-12 Redistributed State Tax Dollar Spending Increase

Associated Press:

Gov. Scott Walker will propose a modest increase in funding for Wisconsin public schools in his budget to the Legislature on Wednesday, two years after his steep cuts and all but elimination of collective bargaining for teachers sparked the unsuccessful movement to recall Walker from office.
Walker is also making incentive money available, which could be used as incentive payments for teachers based on how well schools perform on state report cards, Walker told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview.
Walker provided details of his education funding plan to the AP ahead of its public release Sunday. Not only will he put more money into K-12 schools in his two-year budget, Walker will increase funding for the University of Wisconsin System and technical colleges two years after their funding was also slashed.
The roughly 1 percent increase in aid to schools Walker is proposing comes after he cut aid by more than 8 percent in the first year of the last budget. Schools would get $129 million in aid under Walker’s plan, but total K-12 funding would go up $276 million

Related: Wisconsin State Tax Based K-12 Spending Growth Far Exceeds University Funding (2008).
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker to propose modest increase in public school funding by Erin Richards & Scott Bauer::

Tom Beebe, project director for Opportunity to Learn Wisconsin, a liberal-leaning group and former executive director of the Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools, has been critical of Walker’s cuts to education.
He said the amount of general aid increase proposed for this next biennial budget – $129.2 million over two years – only amounts to about $161 for each of Wisconsin’s 800,000 public-school students.
“If the revenue cap does not go up, then there is no new money going to schools no matter how much aid increases,” Beebe said. “The increase in school funding simply goes to property taxpayers not into the classroom.”
Mary Bell, president of the Wisconsin Education Association, the state’s largest teacher union, said the modest increase was really just keeping overall revenue for schools flat.
“The stagnant revenue on top of the largest cuts to education funding in Wisconsin history in the last budget is another clear indication that this governor has no intention of supporting neighborhood schools,” Bell said in a statement.
“(Walker’s) real focus is privatizing public education with another infusion of resources to the unaccountable taxpayer-funded private school voucher program while leaving our neighborhood public schools on life support,” she added.

Wisconsin and National School Spending Growth Perspectives

Laura Waters:

Andrew J. Coulson, director of the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom, has an editorial in the Wall St. Journal this week assailing the “explosive growth” in America’s public school work force. Since 1970, he charges, student enrollment has “flat-lined,” yet the number of teachers and instructional aides has doubled, from 3.3 million to 6.4 million, with concurrent increases in costs.
Coulson writes, “America’s public schools have warehoused three million people in jobs that do little to improve student achievement–people who would be working productively in the private sector if that extra $210 billion were not taxed out of the economy each year.”
But there’s a panacea readily available: create state voucher systems to send all our kids to private schools. (Also, elect Mitt Romney because President Obama’s education agenda is an “expensive and tragic failure.”)
Whoa, Nellie!
While it’s no doubt a challenge to squish a radical paradigm shift within the confines of the WSJ’s 600-word limit, that’s no excuse for specious logic or casual disregard for facts. Worse, this sort of inflammatory rhetoric gives education reform a bad name.
For example, let’s look at Mr. Coulson’s claim that American public schools hire too many teachers and aides (i.e., have too low a teacher/student ratio), and that private schools are cheaper and produce higher-achieving students.
He writes, “If we returned to the student-staff ratio of 1970, American tax payers would save about $210 billion in personnel costs.”







Madison School Board member Ed Hughes:

There is no mystery about the size of the overall pie. The last budget under Governor Doyle appropriated $5,025,190,300 for elementary and secondary school aids for 2009-10 and $5,271,555,900 for 2010-11. Under Governor Walker’s budget, this total was cut to $4,845,083,000 for 2011-12 and $4,913,986,100 for 2012-13. So Governor Walker slashed general state aid to schools by about $538 million over the biennium. This is hardly cause for celebration.
How next year’s $4.9 billion in general state aid is split up among the state’s 424 school districts is determined by the school funding formula. I describe how the formula works here. This year, to just about everyone’s surprise, the formula has turned out to be Madison’s friend.
Last year, application of the school funding formula resulted in MMSD qualifying for about $15 million in general state aid. This amount was increased to about $43 million by virtue of the hold-harmless provision of the law that capped each school district’s reduction in state aid at 10% of the previous year’s total.
How could it be that the same formula that calculated that MMSD was entitled to $15 million in state aid in 2011-12 would determine that the district was in line for $53 million for 2012-13?


Wisconsin State Tax Based K-12 Spending Growth Far Exceeds University Funding

Interview: Henry Tyson, Superintendent of Milwaukee’s St. Marcus Elementary School

Henry Tyson, Superintendent of Milwaukee’s St. Marcus school recently talked with me [Transcript | mp3 audio] about his fascinating personal and professional education experience. St. Marcus is one of, if not the most successful voucher school in Milwaukee.
Henry discussed student, parent and teacher expectations, including an interesting program to educate and involve parents known as “Thankful Thursdays”. He further described their growth plans, specifically, the methods they are following to replicate the organization. In addition, I learned that St. Marcus tracks their students for 8 years after 8th grade graduation.
Finally, Henry discussed special education and their financial model, roughly $7,800/student annually of which $6,400 arrives from State of Wisconsin taxpayers in the form of a voucher. The remainder via local fundraising and church support.
He is quite bullish on the future of education in Milwaukee. I agree that in 15 to 20 years, Milwaukee’s education environment will be much, much improved. High expectations are of course critical to these improvements.
I appreciate the time Henry took to visit.
Related:

Milwaukee per-pupil spending fourth highest among 50 largest districts in nation, Madison spent 8% more; “Not geared toward driving those dollars back to the classroom” Well worth reading.

Erin Richards:

Of the 50 largest school districts by enrollment in the United States, Milwaukee Public Schools spent more per pupil than all but three East Coast districts in the 2009-’10 school year, according to public-school finance figures released by the Census Bureau on Thursday.
MPS ranked near the top among large districts by spending $14,038 per pupil in the 2010 fiscal year. It was outspent by the New York City School District, with the highest per-pupil spending among large districts – $19,597 – followed by Montgomery County Public Schools near Washington, D.C., and Baltimore City Public Schools in Maryland, which spent $15,582 and $14,711, respectively, per pupil that year.
MPS officials on Thursday acknowledged Milwaukee’s high per-pupil costs in comparison with other large districts, but they also pointed to unique local factors that drive up the cost, particularly the city’s high rate of poverty, the district’s high rate of students with special needs and other long-term costs, such as aging buildings and historically high benefit rates for MPS employees that the district is working to lower.
“The cost of doing business for Milwaukee Public Schools and Wisconsin is relatively high,” Superintendent Gregory Thornton said. “But because of legacy and structural costs, we were not geared toward driving those dollars back into the classroom.”
“What we have to be is more effective and efficient,” he said.

Madison’s 2009-2010 budget was $370,287,471, according to the now defunct Citizen’s Budget, $15,241 per student (24,295 students).
Why Milwaukee Public Schools’ per student spending is high by Mike Ford:

To the point, why is MPS per-pupil spending so high? There are two simple explanations.
First, as articulated by Dale Knapp of the Wisconsin Taxpayer’s Alliance in today’s story, MPS per-pupil spending is high because it has always been high. Since Wisconsin instituted revenue limits in the early 90s the amount of state aid and local tax revenue a district can raise (and correspondingly spend) per-pupil has been indexed to what a district raised in the prior year. In every state budget legislators specify the statewide allowable per-pupil revenue limit increase amount. Because MPS had a high base to begin with, the amount of revenue the district raises and spends per-pupil is always on the high side. Further, because annual increases are indexed off of what a district raised in the prior year, there is a built-in incentive for districts to raise and spend as much as allowed under revenue limits.
Second, categorical funding to MPS has increased dramatically since 2001. Categorical funds are program specific funds that exist outside of the state aid formula and hence are not capped by revenue limits. In 2001 MPS received $1,468 in categorical funding per-pupil, in 2012 it received $2,318 per-pupil (A 58% increase).
State and local categorical funding to MPS has gone up since 2001, but the bulk of the increase in per-pupil categorical funding is federal. Federal categorical funds per-pupil increased 73% since 2001. Included in this pot of federal money is title funding for low-income pupils, and funding for special needs pupils. The focal year of the study that spurred the Journal Sentinel article, 2010, also is important because of the impact of federal stimulus funding.

Comparing Milwaukee Public and Voucher Schools’ Per Student Spending

Note I am not trying to calculate per-pupil education funding or suggest that this is the amount of money that actually reaches a school or classroom; it is a simple global picture of how much public revenue exists per-pupil in MPS. Below are the relevant numbers for 2012, from MPS documents:
…….
Though not perfect, I think $13,063 (MPS) and $7,126 (MPCP) are reasonably comparative per-pupil public support numbers for MPS and the MPCP.

Spending more is easy if you can simply vote for tax increases, or spread spending growth across a large rate base, as a utility or healthcare provider might do. Over time, however, tax & spending growth becomes a substantial burden, one that changes economic decision making. I often point out per student spending differences in an effort to consider what drives these decisions. Austin, TX, a city often mentioned by Madison residents in a positive way spends 45% less per student.
Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman’s 2009 speech to the Madison Rotary Club:

“Beware of legacy practices (most of what we do every day is the maintenance of the status quo), @12:40 minutes into the talk – the very public institutions intended for student learning has become focused instead on adult employment. I say that as an employee. Adult practices and attitudes have become embedded in organizational culture governed by strict regulations and union contracts that dictate most of what occurs inside schools today. Any impetus to change direction or structure is met with swift and stiff resistance. It’s as if we are stuck in a time warp keeping a 19th century school model on life support in an attempt to meet 21st century demands.” Zimman went on to discuss the Wisconsin DPI’s vigorous enforcement of teacher licensing practices and provided some unfortunate math & science teacher examples (including the “impossibility” of meeting the demand for such teachers (about 14 minutes)). He further cited exploding teacher salary, benefit and retiree costs eating instructional dollars (“Similar to GM”; “worry” about the children given this situation).

Finally, there’s this: Paul Geitner:

The Court of Justice had previously ruled that a person who gets sick before going on vacation is entitled to reschedule the vacation, and on Thursday it said that right extended into the vacation itself.

More Election Tea Leaves: UW-Madison Ed School Dean on K-12 Tax & Spending: Defunding and privatization threaten public schools

UW-Madison Ed School Dean Julie Underwood:

Public education currently stands under twin towers of threat — de-funding and privatization. This is consistent with a conservative agenda to eliminate many public programs — including public education.
In Wisconsin, school districts have been under strict limits on their revenues and spending since 1993. These limits have not kept pace with the natural increases in the costs of everyday things like supplies, energy and fuel. So every year, local school board members and administrators have had to cut their budgets to comply with spending limits. Throughout these years, school boards and administrators have done an admirable job of managing these annual cuts, but taken together, reductions in programs and staff have had a significant and very negative impact on our schools and the education they can provide to children.
Unfortunately this year, these same districts have received the largest single budget cut in Wisconsin history. For example, high poverty aid was cut by 10 percent during a time when poverty in children has increased in Wisconsin. As a result, schools are cutting programs and staff. According to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction data, the cuts in 2012 are greater than the two previous years combined. These cuts will be compounded when next year’s cuts come due.

Related:

Commentary & Rhetoric on the Most Recent Milwaukee School Choice Report: Voucher schools made higher gains in reading

Longitudinal study will not end the debate over education in Milwaukee. More work is still needed to improve education for disadvantaged kids.
A multiyear study tracking students in both Milwaukee’s private voucher schools and Milwaukee Public Schools found that the voucher schools were exceeding the public schools in several key areas. The report’s findings may be significant, especially on reading, but there are still questions, and the bottom line is that improvement and strong accountability are still required for all schools in Milwaukee.
The final installment of an examination of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program shows that voucher schools made significantly higher gains in reading in 2010-’11 than those of a matched sample of peers in MPS. And there also were indications that kids in the choice schools finish high school and go on to college at higher rates than do those in MPS.
The results of the five-year study by Patrick J. Wolf, the study’s lead author and a professor of education reform at the University of Arkansas, have been challenged (see op-eds on the cover of Crossroads and “Another View” below), so the waters certainly are far from crystal clear.

Study’s results are flawed and inconsequential by Alex Molnar and Kevin Welner:

To the evaluators of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, vouchers are like a vaccine. Once students are “exposed” to the voucher program – even if they subsequently leave – that “exposure” somehow accounts for any good things that happen later on.
And leave they did – a whopping 75% of them.
Here are the details: The evaluators began by following 801 ninth-grade voucher recipients. By 12th grade, only about 200 of these students were still using vouchers to attend private school. Three of every four students had left the program.
Given this attrition, the researchers had to estimate graduation rates (as well as college attendance rates and persistence in college) by comparing Milwaukee Public Schools students to students who had been “exposed” to the voucher program – even though most of those students appear to have actually graduated from an MPS school.

Milwaukee’s voucher schools: an assessment by Patrick J. Wolf and John F. Witte

In 2006, the State of Wisconsin passed a law mandating that the School Choice Demonstration Project evaluate the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, the nation’s first private school choice program. The law required that we track a representative sample of choice students for five years and compare their results with similar students in Milwaukee Public Schools.
We did so using an innovative and reliable student matching system in 2006 to create a panel of 2,727 voucher students in grades three through nine and a comparison panel of 2,727 MPS students in similar grades, neighborhoods and with similar initial test scores.
We carefully tracked both groups of students and measured student outcomes from 2007 to 2011. The key outcomes were “attainment,” graduating from high school and enrolling and persisting in college; and “achievement,” measured by growth estimates on state of Wisconsin standardized tests. On Monday, in Milwaukee, we released the final reports from that evaluation.
Our most important finding was that choice students outperformed public school students in educational attainment. We call our attainment results the most important in our study because attainment is a crucial educational outcome. Students who graduate from high school live longer, earn more money during their lifetime and are less likely ever to be divorced, unemployed or incarcerated than students who do not graduate.

Milwaukee’s voucher schools: an assessment – Just a fig leaf for abandoning public schools by Bob Peterson

Good intentions are important, but they don’t ensure reliable information.
The latest privately funded report on academic achievement in the voucher schools, despite good intentions, is ultimately both unreliable and irrelevant.
The report, the final in a five-year longitudinal study, is unreliable for several reasons. First, while it touts findings such as increased high school graduation rates, it buries the fact that most ninth-graders left the voucher schools by their senior year.
Second, the figures on special education numbers are inflated and do not hold up to scrutiny. The only solid data at this point is based on the special-ed participation rate in the state’s standardized tests.
Last year, when for the first time the private voucher schools were required to give the state test, only 1.6% of voucher students were identified as students with special needs. The report can make whatever claims it wants, but that doesn’t mean its claims are legally or educationally legitimate.

Milwaukee’s voucher schools: an assessment – Focus on high-performing schools by Jim Bender

Students in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program are more likely to graduate from high school, get into college and stay in college than students in Milwaukee Public Schools. This is just one of the findings from the nation’s leading scholarly experts on school choice, the School Choice Demonstration Project, in the release of its final reports last week on programs in Milwaukee.
The project used rigorous methods to compare students in the choice program with MPS students.
The comparisons show that the choice program as a whole has higher graduation rates and superior growth in reading scores than MPS. While this is good news for choice students, we need to expand those gains across all sectors of the Milwaukee education market.
One step in that direction is being prepared by a coalition of traditional public, charter and private schools to create a common accountability report card for Milwaukee schools. The effort is led by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce and others. School Choice Wisconsin and the Choice Schools Association have both been involved in its creation, and it will cover all sectors – traditional public, charter and choice.
The complexities of equitably comparing a wide variety of schools are challenging. Once finalized, the comparative information on schools in the report card will empower parents and community leaders to make better education decisions.

Significantly lower per student spending (voucher vs. traditional public schools) is a material factor in these discussions.

One Education Spending & Reform

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie Renewing his call for passage of a vouchers pilot program, the Opportunity Scholarship Act, the governor drilled into his education reform proposals for government cost-savings. “Let’s face it: more money does not necessarily lead to a better education,” Christie said. “Today, in Newark, we spend $23,000 per student for instruction … Continue reading One Education Spending & Reform

Julie Underwood: Starving Public Schools; a look at School Spending

UW-Madison School of Education Dean Julie Underwood, via a kind reader’s email:

Public schools,” ALEC wrote in its 1985 Education Source Book, “meet all of the needs of all of the people without pleasing anyone.” A better system, the organization argued, would “foster educational freedom and quality” through various forms of privatization: vouchers, tax incentives for sending children to private schools and unregulated private charter schools. Today ALEC calls this “choice”– and vouchers “scholarships”–but it amounts to an ideological mission to defund and redesign public schools.
The first large-scale voucher program, the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, was enacted in 1990 following the rubric ALEC provided in 1985. It was championed by then-Governor Tommy Thompson, an early ALEC member, who once said he “loved” ALEC meetings, “because I always found new ideas, and then I’d take them back to Wisconsin, disguise them a little bit, and declare [they were] mine.”
ALEC’s most ambitious and strategic push toward privatizing education came in 2007, through a publication called School Choice and State Constitutions, which proposed a list of programs tailored to each state.

Related:

Wisconsin Voucher debate reveals deep divisions about public schools

Susan Troller:

As of early afternoon Wednesday the fate of voucher schools in Green Bay is uncertain. Rumors are flying that the proposal to use tax dollars to pay families to send their children to private and religious schools in that city will be pulled from the state budget.
It’s been a hot topic.
The voucher story I posted on Chalkboard last week detailed Green Bay Supt. Greg Maass’ unhappy reaction to both the proposal and the abrupt legislative process that put it in the budget. It definitely struck a nerve, and drew many comments.
Some of the most interesting reactions went well beyond the issue of vouchers and whether public money should be used to fund private schools. They expressed the heart of the debate surrounding public schools, or “government” schools as some folks call them.
Are public schools failing? Who’s to blame? What responsibilities does a civil society owe to children who are not our own? What kind of reforms do parents, and taxpayers, want to see?
Here are some excerpts that are revealing of the divide in the debate:

VHOU812 wrote: …As a consumer of the public (or private) educational institutions, I am demanding more value. If it is not provided, I will push to refuse to purchase and home school. This is not what I want. I want security knowing that I am satisfied with the investment in my children’s education. I don’t get that feeling right now from publc schools, and that is the core of the problem that public schools need to fix. I also see that private institutions, by their nature, can make changes to respond to consumer demands very quickly, and it is clear public schools either can’t, or won’t.

I’m glad Susan posted these comments. Looking at the significant growth in Wisconsin K-12 spending over the past few decades along with declining performance, particularly in reading compels us all: parents, taxpayers, students, teachers, administrators and the ed school community, to think different.
Wolfram’s words are well worth considering: “You have to ask, what’s the point of universities today?” he wonders. “Technology has usurped many of their previous roles, such as access to knowledge, and the social aspects.

Voucher schools to expand amid questions about their performance

Susan Troller:

If Gov. Scott Walker’s budget is passed with recommendations approved Thursday by the Joint Committee on Finance, there will be more students in more voucher schools in more Wisconsin communities.
But critics of school voucher programs are hoping legislators will look long and hard at actual student achievement benefits before they vote to use tax dollars to send students to private schools. They also suggest that studies that have touted benefits of voucher programs should be viewed with a careful eye, and that claims that graduation rates for voucher schools exceed 90 percent are not just overly optimistic, but misleading.
“The policy decisions we are making today should not be guided by false statistics being propagated by people with a financial interest in the continuation and expansion of vouchers nationwide,” wrote state Rep. Sondy Pope-Roberts, D-Middleton, in a news release Friday.
Pope-Roberts is particularly critical of statistics that school choice lobbyists and pro-voucher legislators are using that claim that 94 percent of school voucher students graduated from high school in four years.
It’s good news, she says, but it tells a very selective story about a relatively small subset of students who were studied. That graduation rate reflects only the graduation rate for students who actually remained in the voucher program for all four years: Just 318 of the 801 students who began the program stayed with it.

Related:

Per student spending differences between voucher and traditional public schools is material, particularly during tight economic times.

Wisconsin DPI Superintendent Evers calls voucher expansion ‘morally wrong’ in memo to legislators; Tony Evers Needs a Reality Check on School Choice

Karen Herzog:

State Superintendent Tony Evers [SIS link] in a memo Monday urged the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee to restore funding for public schools and work collaboratively to improve the quality of all Milwaukee schools before considering any voucher expansion.
“To spend hundreds of millions to expand a 20-year-old program that has not improved overall student achievement, while defunding public education, is morally wrong,” Evers said in the memo.
Gov. Scott Walker has proposed eliminating the income limits on participating in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, eliminating the enrollment cap and has proposed opening up private schools throughout Milwaukee County to accept vouchers from Milwaukee students. Walker has spoken of expanding the voucher program to other urban areas in the state, such as Racine, Green Bay and Beloit.
The Milwaukee Parental Choice Program was created to improve academic performance among low-income students who had limited access to high-performing schools. Low-income students use taxpayer money to attend private schools, including religious schools. Each voucher is worth $6,442. The program now is limited to 22,500 students; 20,189 are in the program this year.
However, after 20 years and spending over $1 billion, academic performance data and the enrollment history of the school choice program point to several “concerning trends,” Evers said in his analysis of voucher student enrollment, achievement, and projected cost for long-term expansion.
Low-income students in Milwaukee Public Schools have higher academic achievement, particularly in math, than their counterparts in choice schools. Evers cited this year’s Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts exams and the legislatively mandated University of Arkansas study, which showed significant numbers of choice students performing below average on reading and math.

Aaron Rodriguez:

At a press conference in Racine, DPI Superintendent Tony Evers gave his harshest criticism of school vouchers yet. Well beyond the typical quibbles over test scores and graduation rates, Evers claimed that school vouchers were de facto “morally wrong.” It’s not every day that a State Superintendent of education accuses an education-reform program of being immoral. In doing so, Tony Evers may have bitten off more than he could chew.
Calling a school voucher program morally wrong inculpates more than just the program, it inculpates parents, teachers, organizations, lawmakers, and a majority of Americans that endorse it. In fact, one could reasonably argue that Evers’ statement makes himself morally culpable since Milwaukee’s voucher program operates out of the Department of Public Instruction of which he is the head. What does it say about the character of a man that knowingly administers an immoral program out of his own department?
In short, Evers’ argument goes something like this: voucher programs drain public schools of their financial resources; drained resources hurt children academically; hurting children academically is morally wrong; ergo, voucher programs are morally wrong.

Allocating funding per student entails thoughtful discussion

Alan Borsuk:

How much would we spend per student if we wanted to give every child in Milwaukee a real opportunity to get a good education?
I’m sure $6,442 is too low. That’s the amount paid in public money for each student in the private school voucher program. Ask anyone involved in operating such a school, especially when it comes to providing a quality program for older students. Show me a good voucher school, and I’ll show you a good private fundraising operation.
I’m almost as sure it’s not $7,775, the amount provided for students in the charter schools that operate independent of Milwaukee Public Schools. Same reason.
In some cases, it might be in the neighborhood of $9,091, the amount expected to be provided by MPS next year for students in “partnership” schools, generally alternative schools for kids who haven’t thrived in conventional settings. But that’s too low in many cases, also.
How about $13,200? That’s one estimate of what spending per student in MPS is going to work out to be next year. That’s down from around $15,000 this year, by some calculations, largely because of the end of the federal economic stimulus program that brought a short-term surge of money to MPS. Ask most parents in MPS, and they’ll tell you that’s not enough because they are looking toward service cuts and larger classes next year.

Milwaukee Voucher School WKCE Headlines: “Students in Milwaukee voucher program didn’t perform better in state tests”, “Test results show choice schools perform worse than public schools”, “Choice schools not outperforming MPS”; Spend 50% Less Per Student

Erin Richards and Amy Hetzner

Latest tests show voucher scores about same or worse in math and reading.
Students in Milwaukee’s school choice program performed worse than or about the same as students in Milwaukee Public Schools in math and reading on the latest statewide test, according to results released Tuesday that provided the first apples-to-apples achievement comparison between public and individual voucher schools.
The scores released by the state Department of Public Instruction cast a shadow on the overall quality of the 21-year-old Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, which was intended to improve results for poor city children in failing public schools by allowing them to attend higher-performing private schools with publicly funded vouchers. The scores also raise concerns about Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to roll back the mandate that voucher schools participate in the current state test.
Voucher-school advocates counter that legislation that required administration of the state test should have been applied only once the new version of the test that’s in the works was rolled out. They also say that the latest test scores are an incomplete measure of voucher-school performance because they don’t show the progress those schools are making with a difficult population of students over time.
Statewide, results from the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam show that scores didn’t vary much from last year. The percentage of students who scored proficient or better was higher in reading, science and social studies but lower in mathematics and language arts from the year before.

Susan Troller:

Great. Now Milwaukee has TWO failing taxpayer-financed school systems when it comes to educating low income kids (and that’s 89 per cent of the total population of Milwaukee Public Schools).
Statewide test results released Tuesday by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction include for the first time performance data from the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, which involves about 110 schools serving around 10,000 students. There’s a total population of around 80,000 students in Milwaukee’s school district.
The numbers for the voucher schools don’t look good. But the numbers for the conventional public schools in Milwaukee are very poor, as well.
In a bit of good news, around the rest of the state student test scores in every demographic group have improved over the last six years, and the achievment gap is narrowing.
But the picture in Milwaukee remains bleak.

Matthew DeFour:

The test results show the percentage of students participating in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program who scored proficient or advanced was 34.4 percent for math and 55.2 percent for reading.
Among Milwaukee Public Schools students, it was 47.8 percent in math and 59 percent in reading. Among Milwaukee Public Schools students coming from families making 185 percent of the federal poverty level — a slightly better comparison because voucher students come from families making no more than 175 percent — it was 43.9 percent in math and 55.3 percent in reading.
Statewide, the figures were 77.2 percent in math and 83 percent in reading. Among all low-income students in the state, it was 63.2 percent in math and 71.7 percent in reading.
Democrats said the results are evidence that the voucher program is not working. Rep. Sondy Pope-Roberts, D-Middleton, the top Democrat on the Assembly Education Committee, said voucher students, parents and taxpayers are being “bamboozled.”
“The fact that we’ve spent well over $1 billion on a failed experiment leads me to believe we have no business spending $22 million to expand it with these kinds of results,” Pope-Roberts said. “It’s irresponsible use of taxpayer dollars and a disservice to Milwaukee students.”
Rep. Robin Vos, R-Rochester, who is developing a proposal to expand the voucher program to other cities, took a more optimistic view of the results.
“Obviously opponents see the glass half-empty,” Vos said. “I see the glass half-full. Children in the school choice program do the same as the children in public school but at half the cost.”

Only DeFour’s article noted that voucher schools spend roughly half the amount per student compared to traditional public schools. Per student spending was discussed extensively during last evening’s planning grant approval (The vote was 6-1 with Marj Passman voting No while Maya Cole, James Howard, Ed Hughes, Lucy Mathiak, Beth Moss and Arlene Silveira voted yes) for the Urban League’s proposed Charter IB School: The Madison Preparatory Academy.
The Wisconsin Knowledge & Concepts Examination (WKCE) has long been criticized for its lack of rigor. Wisconsin DPI WKCE data.
Yin and Yang: Jay Bullock and Christian D’Andrea.
Related: “Schools should not rely on only WKCE data to gauge progress of individual students or to determine effectiveness of programs or curriculum”.

Washington, DC: $28,000 per student, gives Voucher Students $7,500

John Stossel:

On my show last night — which re-runs at 10pm tonight on FBN — I said that Washington DC gives voucher schools $7,500 per student, but DC’s public schools cost twice that much: $15,000.
The $15,000 number has been cited by congressmen and newspapers like the WSJ and the Denver Post. It comes from the the National Center for Education Statistics, and the Census.
Unfortunately, it’s also wrong. Or at least very misleading, since it ignores major sources of spending. As CATO Education scholar Andrew Coulson explains:

DC also has a “state” level bureaucracy that spends nearly $200 million annually on k-12 programs, and the city spends another $275 million or so on school construction, school facilities modernization, and other so-called “capital” projects.

But those aren’t included in the regular spending figures.

Related: Education: Too Important for a Government Monopoly. Joanne has more as does Mark Perry.
Locally, the Madison School District has 24,295 students and a 2009/2010 budget of $418,415,780. $17,222 per student. The DC budget morass illustrates the necessity of K-12 budget clarity in all cases, including Madison.

A Look at Public & Private School Per Student Spending in the Washington, DC Area

Michael Birnbaum:

Private schools without religious affiliation spend almost twice as much per student as their public and Catholic counterparts and more than double that of other Christian schools nationwide, according to a new study.
In the Washington area, there are about 330 private schools with enrollments above 50 students, according to Education Department data. Two-thirds have some religious affiliation, and a quarter are members of non-Catholic Christian school associations. Although it is not surprising that some private schools spend more per student than public and faith-based schools, just how much more has not previously been documented.
“There are a lot of urban legends that drive the policy discussions,” said Bruce D. Baker, a professor at Rutgers University and the author of the study. He said that private schools tend to be costlier than the commonly accepted figures in policy debates, especially conversations about school vouchers.
The secular private schools analyzed in the study spent $20,100 on each student in the 2007-08 school year vs. $10,100 in public schools. Nonparochial Catholic schools tended to spend roughly the same as public schools. (Parochial schools were not included in the study because their tax data are not publicly available and because their finances are so tied to those of the Catholic Church.) Members of two of the largest associations of Christian schools spent $7,100 — several thousand dollars less per student than their public peers.

More on DC Vouchers: “Will Obama Stand Up for These Kids?”

William McGurn:

Dick Durbin has a nasty surprise for two of Sasha and Malia Obama’s new schoolmates. And it puts the president in an awkward position.
The children are Sarah and James Parker. Like the Obama girls, Sarah and James attend the Sidwell Friends School in our nation’s capital. Unlike the Obama girls, they could not afford the school without the $7,500 voucher they receive from the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program. Unfortunately, a spending bill the Senate takes up this week includes a poison pill that would kill this program — and with it perhaps the Parker children’s hopes for a Sidwell diploma.
Sarah and James Parker attend Sidwell Friends School with the president’s daughters, thanks to a voucher program Sen. Dick Durbin wants to end.
Known as the “Durbin language” after the Illinois Democrat who came up with it last year, the provision mandates that the scholarship program ends after the next school year unless Congress reauthorizes it and the District of Columbia approves. The beauty of this language is that it allows opponents to kill the program simply by doing nothing. Just the sort of sneaky maneuver that’s so handy when you don’t want inner-city moms and dads to catch on that you are cutting one of their lifelines.
Deborah Parker says such a move would be devastating for her kids. “I once took Sarah to Roosevelt High School to see its metal detectors and security guards,” she says. “I wanted to scare her into appreciation for what she has at Sidwell.” It’s not just safety, either. According to the latest test scores, fewer than half of Roosevelt’s students are proficient in reading or math.
That’s the reality that the Parkers and 1,700 other low-income students face if Sen. Durbin and his allies get their way. And it points to perhaps the most odious of double standards in American life today: the way some of our loudest champions of public education vote to keep other people’s children — mostly inner-city blacks and Latinos — trapped in schools where they’d never let their own kids set foot.

Killing DC Vouchers

Wall Street Journal:

President Obama made education a big part of his speech Tuesday night, complete with a stirring call for reform. So we’ll be curious to see how he handles the dismaying attempt by Democrats in Congress to crush education choice for 1,700 poor kids in the District of Columbia.
The omnibus spending bill now moving through the House includes language designed to kill the Opportunity Scholarship Program offering vouchers for poor students to opt out of rotten public schools. The legislation says no federal funds can be used on the program beyond 2010 unless Congress and the D.C. City Council reauthorize it. Given that Democrats control both bodies — and that their union backers hate school choice — this amounts to a death sentence.
Republicans passed the program in 2004, with help from Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, and it has been extremely popular. Families receive up to $7,500 a year to attend the school of their choice. That’s a real bargain, given that D.C. public schools spend $14,400 per pupil on average, among the most in the country.
To qualify, a student’s household income must be at or below 185% of the poverty level. Some 99% of the participants are minority, and the average annual income is $23,000 for a family of four. A 2008 Department of Education evaluation found that participants had higher reading scores than their peers who didn’t receive a scholarship, and there are four applicants for each voucher.

Obama Questioned on Vouchers
MANY MINORITY PARENTS ARE AT ODDS WITH THE DEMOCRATIC NOMINEE ON THE ISSUE OF SCHOOL CHOICE.

Kelly Petty:

Minority voters have long favored the Democratic Party’s push for increased federal funding for public schools. But over the past few years, some of these voters have embraced the conservative-backed idea of private-school vouchers for low-income students.
Pro-voucher voters among racial minorities overwhelmingly support Barack Obama, but they are baffled by the Democratic nominee’s opposition to vouchers. They also say they are frustrated that Democratic leaders appear to be more concerned about keeping the peace with teachers unions — which adamantly oppose vouchers — than about finding alternatives that could advance desperately needed education reforms for minority students.
Obama’s “change” message has attracted millions of minorities, particularly African-Americans. Yet he cannot afford to lose minorities who are demanding greater school choice for their children.
In February, Obama seemed open to the idea of private-school vouchers. In an editorial board meeting with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, he was asked about his opposition to Wisconsin’s voucher program. If he saw more proof that vouchers are successful, Obama said, he would “not allow my predispositions to stand in the way of making sure that our kids can learn…. You do what works for the kids.”
But at the American Federation of Teachers convention this year, Obama repeated his attack against spending government money to help low-income students attend private schools. He criticized John McCain’s school-choice reform as “using public money for private-school vouchers,” and he called instead for overhauling public schools.

New Jersey has become the new front in the fight for school vouchers

The Economist: Now some supporters of school vouchers, frustrated with state legislators, are testing a new tactic: going to court. Last July a group of parents in New Jersey filed a lawsuit against the state and 25 poorly performing districts. In Crawford v Davy they are arguing that since public schools deny students their constitutional … Continue reading New Jersey has become the new front in the fight for school vouchers

Friedman on Public School Centralization and Vouchers

Bob Sipchen: “The schooling system was in much better shape 50 years ago than it is now,” says Friedman, his voice as confident as reinforced concrete. A big fan of freedom, Friedman objects to public schools on principle, arguing — as he says most classic liberals once did — that government involvement by nature decreases … Continue reading Friedman on Public School Centralization and Vouchers

More on Milwaukee Vouchers & TABOR

John Fund: The irony is that public educators in Milwaukee believe choice has helped improve all the city’s schools. “No longer is MPS a monopoly,” says Milwaukee Public Schools superintendent William Andrekopoulos. “That competitive nature has raised the bar for educators in Milwaukee to provide a good product or they know that parents will walk.” … Continue reading More on Milwaukee Vouchers & TABOR

WILL Sues DPI for Blocking Family from School Choice Program

WILL: The News: The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) sued the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) on behalf of a West Allis family, Heritage Christian Schools, and School Choice Wisconsin Action (SCWA), after the department adopted an illegal policy to block a family from enrolling in the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program (WPCP) – the statewide … Continue reading WILL Sues DPI for Blocking Family from School Choice Program

The Cost-effectiveness of Public and Private Schools of Choice in Wisconsin

Corey DeAngelis: The United States invests over $660 billion for K-12 education, or over $13,000 per student, each year, on average.1 Real education expenditures in the U.S. have nearly quadrupled in the past half century without consistent improvements in student outcomes (Hanushek, 1997, 2015a, 2015b; Hanushek & Lindseth, 2009, 2010). Because education dollars are scarce resources, and because students’ academic success … Continue reading The Cost-effectiveness of Public and Private Schools of Choice in Wisconsin

Notes and Commentary on the Wisconsin School Choice Event

At the Pence rally. A lot of people here with yellow sashes in support of school vouchers. Many nonwhite. — Rocknrolli OneAndOnly (@RocknRocknrolli) January 28, 2020 .@vp mentions @GovEvers‘s absence and a bill to be reintroduced today by @RepBrostoff to phase out school vouchers in Wisconsin: “I know the governor can’t be here with us … Continue reading Notes and Commentary on the Wisconsin School Choice Event

Study: $3.2B in Economic Benefits with the growth of school choice

Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty: On the first day of National School Choice Week, a new study (here) estimates how further growth of Wisconsin’s parental choice programs could result in $3.2 billion in new economic benefits to Wisconsin over the next two decades. Ripple Effect, authored by Will Flanders, PhD, builds upon a recent study which documented … Continue reading Study: $3.2B in Economic Benefits with the growth of school choice

SCHOOL CHOICE A BARGAIN FOR TAXPAYERS DESPITE SONDY POPE MEMO

Will Flanders: First, it is important to note that spending on school choice represents a minuscule share of the state’s education spending. For fiscal year 18-19, Wisconsin spent $5,899,757,400 in aid to local school districts according to LFB. Spending on school choice was $192 million, or about three percent of that total. To make the … Continue reading SCHOOL CHOICE A BARGAIN FOR TAXPAYERS DESPITE SONDY POPE MEMO

Commentary on Wisconsin Governor Ever’s Proposed Budget, including K-12 Changes

Logan Wroge: The Democratic governor included the funding formula revision in his executive budget released Thursday. As state superintendent during four previous budgets, Evers sought to shake up the formula to deliver more funding to high poverty and rural school districts, but former Gov. Scott Walker did not advance the proposal. After narrowly beating Walker … Continue reading Commentary on Wisconsin Governor Ever’s Proposed Budget, including K-12 Changes

Here’s another view of what the research says about Tony Evers’ proposals

Will Flanders: Perhaps the most egregious omissions are in the discussion of school funding and its effect on student outcomes. While the author cites one study – not yet peer-reviewed — the preponderance of evidence for decades has suggested little to no impact of per-student funding on educational achievement. This study, and others like it … Continue reading Here’s another view of what the research says about Tony Evers’ proposals

Advocating status quo, non diverse K-12 Madison Schools Governance

Negassi Tesfamichael: MTI cited Carusi’s opposition to voucher and independent charter schools in its endorsement. “Carusi is opposed to vouchers and independent charter schools and strongly believes that we need to continuously work to improve our public schools, rather than support alternatives,” MTI’s endorsement said. Caire’s One City Schools, which expanded from One City Early … Continue reading Advocating status quo, non diverse K-12 Madison Schools Governance

Milwaukee’s Public School Barricade: The bureaucracy defies a state law on selling vacant buildings

The Wall Street Journal: Teachers’ unions and their liberal allies are desperately trying to preserve the failing public school status quo. Witness how the Milwaukee Public School (MPS) system is defying a state mandate to sell vacant property to charter and private schools. Milwaukee’s public schools are a mess. Merely 62% of students graduate from … Continue reading Milwaukee’s Public School Barricade: The bureaucracy defies a state law on selling vacant buildings

Contemplating changes to Wisconsin’s K-12 taxpayer funds redistribution scheme

Molly Beck: Kitchens said the formula could be improved for school districts with declining enrollment, increasing enrollment and small, rural school districts with spending levels capped at below $10,000 per student. Olsen also funding for open enrollment and charter and private voucher schools also could be examined. “Over the years we’ve continually changed little pieces … Continue reading Contemplating changes to Wisconsin’s K-12 taxpayer funds redistribution scheme

Setting the record straight on Dougco schools commUNITY candidates’ positions

Krista Holtzmann: Considering the consequential nature of the upcoming Douglas County school board election to our students, it is imperative that the public receives all the facts. As a member of the commUNITY candidate team, which includes Anthony Graziano, Kevin Leung, Chris Schor and myself, I can attest to our positions on several issues: We … Continue reading Setting the record straight on Dougco schools commUNITY candidates’ positions

Redistributed Wisconsin K-12 tax dollars grow in latest legislative plan

Molly Beck: Overall, Walker proposed $11.5 billion for schools, including the $649 million increase. A spokesman for budget committee co-chairwoman Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, said the Joint Finance Committee reduced the increase to $639 million because of reductions to funding proposed by Walker for rural school districts and for schools in the Milwaukee School … Continue reading Redistributed Wisconsin K-12 tax dollars grow in latest legislative plan

Recovery School Request for Proposal (Draft)

Office of Educational Opportunity (PDF): Identifying Information Name of Organization: Year Founded: Revised 5/31/2017, 11:30 a.m. Recovery School Request for Proposal First and Last Name of Primary Applicant: Mailing Address: Preferred E-Mail Address Preferred Phone Number: Attach the names, professional affiliation, and role in the proposed school for all school leaders and board members. Summarize … Continue reading Recovery School Request for Proposal (Draft)

Alan Borsuk: It’s a vastly different picture now. Many of the limitations are gone; an estimated 26,900 students who live in the city of Milwaukee are using vouchers to attend 117 private schools, the vast majority of them religious. Public spending for the current school year will exceed $190 million. And that’s just Milwaukee. Vouchers … Continue reading

Madison’s Schwerpunkt: Government School District Power Play: The New Handbook Process is worth a look

Wisconsin’s stürm and drang over “Act 10” is somewhat manifested in Madison. Madison’s government schools are the only Wisconsin District, via extensive litigation, to still have a collective bargaining agreement with a teacher union, in this case, Madison Teachers, Inc. The Madison School Board and Administration are working with the local teachers union on a … Continue reading Madison’s Schwerpunkt: Government School District Power Play: The New Handbook Process is worth a look

Proposed Changes To Wisconsin k-12 Governance & Curricular Requirements

Molly Beck: The added funding comes from a $250 per student special funding stream for school districts in the second year of the budget, according to the legislation package proposed by Republican co-chairs of the Joint Finance Committee. At the same time, the 1,000-student cap on the statewide voucher program would be lifted and students … Continue reading Proposed Changes To Wisconsin k-12 Governance & Curricular Requirements

Education and class: America’s new aristocracy

The Economist: WHEN the candidates for the Republican presidential nomination line up on stage for their first debate in August, there may be three contenders whose fathers also ran for president. Whoever wins may face the wife of a former president next year. It is odd that a country founded on the principle of hostility … Continue reading Education and class: America’s new aristocracy

“The notion that parents inherently know what school is best for their kids is an example of conservative magical thinking.”; “For whatever reason, parents as a group tend to undervalue the benefits of diversity in the public schools….”


Where have all the students gone?
Madison School Board President Ed Hughes:

Esenberg sets out to identify the fundamental differences between voucher advocates and opponents. His thesis is that views on vouchers derive from deeper beliefs than objective assessments of how well voucher schools perform or concerns about vouchers draining funds from public schools. To him, your take on vouchers depends on how you view the world.
Esenberg asserts that voucher advocates are united by their embrace of three fundamental principles: that a centralized authority is unlikely to be able to decide what is best for all; that families should be trusted to select their children’s schools since ordinary people are capable of making choices for themselves without paternalistic direction; and that “government does not do diversity, experimentation and choice very well.”
By implication, he asserts that voucher opponents think that a centralized authority will be able to decide what’s best for all, that families shouldn’t be trusted to make choices for their children, and that government control is the best way to foster innovation.
And there you have it. Your views on school voucher expansion are entirely explained by whether you prefer individual freedom, like the voucher advocates, or stultifying government control, like the voucher opponents. In cinematic terms, voucher opponents are the legions of lifeless, gray drones in Apple’s famous 1984 commercial and voucher supporters are the colorful rebel, bravely challenging the control of Big Brother and hurling her sledgehammer to smash mindless conformity. You couldn’t ask for a more sophisticated analysis than that, could you?
While his thesis invites mockery, Esenberg’s short article does present a bit of a challenge to voucher opponents like myself. Can we set out a coherent justification for our opposition that doesn’t depend on the facts that voucher schools drain needed resources from public schools and don’t perform any better? Sweeping those fairly compelling points aside, Esenberg asks, in effect, what else you got?

Mr Hughes anti-voucher rhetoric is fascinating on several levels:
1. The Madison School District’s long term, disastrous reading results. How much time and money has been wasted on anti-voucher rhetoric? Reading has long been job one.
2. Local private schools do not have much, if any availability.
3. Madison spends double the national average per student (some of which has been spent on program explosion). Compare Milwaukee Public and Voucher Schools’ Per Student Spending.
4. Madison’s inability to address its long-term disastrous reading results will bring changes from State or Federal legislation or via litigation.
5. Superintendent Cheatham cited Long Beach and Boston as urban districts that have “narrowed the achievement gap”. Both districts offer a variety of school governance models, which is quite different than Madison’s long-time “one size fits all approach”.
I recall being astonished that previous Madison School District administrators planned to spend time lobbying at the State level for this or that change – while “Rome is burning“. Ironically, Superintendent Cheatham recently said:

“Rather than do a lot of work on opposing the voucher movement, we are going to focus on making sure our schools are the best schools possible and the schools of choice in Madison,” Cheatham said.

Mr. Hughes in 2005:

This points up one of the frustrating aspects of trying to follow school issues in Madison: the recurring feeling that a quoted speaker – and it can be someone from the administration, or MTI, or the occasional school board member – believes that the audience for an assertion is composed entirely of idiots.

A great, salient quote. I would hope that the District would focus completely on the matter at hand, disastrous reading scores. Taking care of that problem – and we have the resources to do so – will solve lots of other atmospheric and perception issues.
In closing, I sense politics in the voucher (and anti-open enrollment) rhetoric. Two Madison School Board seats will be on the Spring, 2014 ballot. One is currently occupied by Mr. Hughes, the other by Marj Passman. In addition, local politics play a role in becoming school board President.

The Dichotomy of Madison School Board Governance: “Same Service” vs. “having the courage and determination to stay focused on this work and do it well is in itself a revolutionary shift for our district”.

The dichotomy that is Madison School Board Governance was on display this past week.
1. Board Member TJ Mertz, in light of the District’s plan to continue growing spending and property taxes for current programs, suggests that “fiscal indulgences“:

Tax expenditures are not tax cuts. Tax expenditures are socialism and corporate welfare. Tax expenditures are increases on anyone who does not receive the benefit or can’t hire a lobbyist…to manipulate the code to their favor.

be applied to certain school volunteers.
This proposal represents a continuation of the Districts’ decades long “same service” approach to governance, with declining academic results that spawned the rejected Madison Preparatory IB Charter School.
2. Madison’s new Superintendent, Jennifer Cheatham introduced her “Strategic Framework” at Wednesday’s Downtown Rotary Club meeting.
The Superintendent’s letter (jpg version) (within the “framework” document) to the Madison Community included this statement (word cloud):

Rather than present our educators with an ever-changing array of strategies, we will focus on what we know works and implement these strategies extremely well. While some of the work may seem familiar, having the courage and determination to stay focused on this work and do it well is in itself a revolutionary shift for our district. This is what it takes to narrow and eliminate gaps in student achievement.

The Madison School Board’s letter (jpg version) to the community includes this statement:

Public education is under sustained attack, both in our state and across the nation. Initiatives like voucher expansion are premised on the notion that public schools are not up to the challenge of effectively educating diverse groups of students in urban settings.
We are out to prove that wrong. With Superintendent Cheatham, we agree that here in Madison all the ingredients are in place. Now it is up to us to show that we can serve as a model of a thriving urban school district, one that seeks out strong community partnerships and values genuine collaboration with teachers and staff in service of student success.
Our Strategic Framework lays out a roadmap for our work. While some of the goals will seem familiar, what’s new is a clear and streamlined focus and a tangible and energizing sense of shared commitment to our common goals.
The bedrock of the plan is the recognition that learning takes place in the classroom in the interactions between teachers and students. The efforts of all of us – from school board members to everyone in the organization – should be directed toward enhancing the quality and effectiveness of those interactions.
There is much work ahead of us, and the results we are expecting will not arrive overnight. But with focus, shared effort and tenacity, we can transform each of our schools into thriving schools. As we do so, Madison will be the school district of choice in Dane County.

Madison School Board word cloud:

Related: North Carolina Ends Pay Boosts for Teacher Master’s Degrees; Tenure for elementary and high-school teachers also eliminated

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, signed a budget bill Friday that eliminates teacher tenure and–in a rare move–gets rid of the automatic pay increase teachers receive for earning a master’s degree.
The legislation targets a compensation mechanism that is common in the U.S., where teachers receive automatic pay increases for years of service and advanced degrees. Some research has suggested those advanced degrees don’t lead to improved teaching.
Although a few other states have talked about doing away with the automatic pay increase for advanced degrees, experts say North Carolina is believed to be the first state to do so.
The budget bill–which drew hundreds of teachers to the Capitol in protest earlier this week–also eliminates tenure for elementary and high-school teachers and freezes teacher salaries for the fifth time in six years.
It comes as states and districts across the country are revamping teacher evaluations, salaries and job security, and linking them more closely to student performance. These changes have been propelled, in part, by the Obama administration and GOP governors.

The challenge for Madison is moving away from long time governance structures and practices, including a heavy (157 page pdf & revised summary of changes) teacher union contract. Chris Rickert’s recent column on Madison’s healthcare practices provides a glimpse at the teacher – student expenditure tension as well.
Then Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman’s 2009 Madison Rotary speech offers important background on Madison’s dichotomy:

“Beware of legacy practices (most of what we do every day is the maintenance of the status quo), @12:40 minutes into the talk – the very public institutions intended for student learning has become focused instead on adult employment. I say that as an employee. Adult practices and attitudes have become embedded in organizational culture governed by strict regulations and union contracts that dictate most of what occurs inside schools today. Any impetus to change direction or structure is met with swift and stiff resistance. It’s as if we are stuck in a time warp keeping a 19th century school model on life support in an attempt to meet 21st century demands.” Zimman went on to discuss the Wisconsin DPI’s vigorous enforcement of teacher licensing practices and provided some unfortunate math & science teacher examples (including the “impossibility” of meeting the demand for such teachers (about 14 minutes)). He further cited exploding teacher salary, benefit and retiree costs eating instructional dollars (“Similar to GM”; “worry” about the children given this situation).

“Budget Cuts: We Won’t Be as Bold and Innovative as Oconomowoc, and That’s Okay”.

Madison’s Sherman Middle School to drop French 1 class

Pat Schneider:

The way Principal Michael Hernandez tells it, something had to go.
Hernandez decided that at Sherman Middle School, it will be French class.
With a renewed emphasis on curriculum basics in the Madison School District, the need at Sherman to double-down on math skills, and a scheduled expansion there of the AVID program that prepares low-income minority kids for college, Hernandez figures the north-side middle school will need to drop its second “world language” offering next year.
French 2 will continue for seventh-graders who took French 1 this year. The school’s Spanish-language program — including three sections of dual-language instruction — also will continue.
“Unfortunately, there are tough decisions we have to make,” Hernandez told me. “With budget cuts, I can’t have a class with only approximately seven students, when I could use that (staff) allocation for a math intervention class.”
Principals will be developing these kinds of adjustments around the margins to prepare for the 2013-2014 school year as district officials begin work on the budget and schools get projections on how many staff members they will have.
School Board members on Monday will receive a “budget briefing” instead of fleshed-out budget proposal. Penciled in is $392,807,993 in district-wide spending next school year, down a fraction from this year.
The scaled-down budget proposal is due to the uncertain prospects of a controversial proposal in Gov. Scott Walker’s budget to shift aid and expand vouchers to Madison and eight other school districts — at a projected cost of more than $800,000 to the Madison public schools. In addition, new Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham just came on the job three weeks ago and is not prepared yet to present a detailed budget.

Related: Status Quo Costs More: Madison Schools’ Administration Floats a 7.38% Property Tax Increase; Dane County Incomes down 4.1%…. District Received $11.8M Redistributed State Tax Dollar Increase last year. Spending up 6.3% over the past 16 months.

A Critique of the Wisconsin DPI and Proposed School Choice Changes

Chris Rickert:

Chief among them has been this notion from state superintendent Tony Evers that the state’s new accountability system, known as state report cards, shouldn’t be used to determine which districts get vouchers.
Under Walker’s plan, districts with at least 4,000 students and two or more schools getting a D or an F under a new rating system would be eligible for vouchers. Evers — no fan of vouchers anyway — says the report cards were not intended for such use and need more refinement over several years.
But what was the purpose of spending more than a year working with a diverse group of education and business groups and state elected officials to create the report cards — which replaced the widely panned No Child Left Behind system — if not to use them to make consequential decisions about education?
On Thursday, Department of Public Instruction director of Education Information Services John Johnson called the report cards a “work in progress” that aren’t an appropriate tool for making a “major policy decision.”
Among their current limitations are that they are based on tests that are expected to change two years from now, they can’t show growth in high school student achievement, some schools weren’t rated, and there’s too little data to reliably identify trends in school performance.
Adam Gamoran, director of the UW-Madison-based Wisconsin Center for Education Research and a skeptic on voucher programs, agrees that the tool isn’t perfect and may well change, but “that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t use them now” to rate schools.
It’s also not as if DPI itself didn’t expect to use the report cards. Its budget request — which Walker didn’t include in his budget — included about $10.3 million over the next two years to replicate best practices from schools deemed high-performing by the report cards, as well as to help schools deemed low-performing by the report cards get better.

John Nichols appears to support the present DPI approach. Status Quo K-12 vs a Little “Reform” Rhetoric at a Wisconsin Budget Hearing.
Related: The Wisconsin DPI in 2008:
“Schools should not rely on only WKCE data to gauge progress of individual students or to determine effectiveness of programs or curriculum”.
http://www.schoolinfosystem.org/archives/2013/03/wisconsin_educa_14.php
A citizen, parent, voter and taxpayer might ask what the DPI has been
with state and federal taxpayer dollars since 2008?
Meanwhile, Alabama (!), Minnesota, Florida and Massachusetts are
continuing to aim high and compare their students to the world.
http://nces.ed.gov/Timss/benchmark.asp
And, Vietnam is teaching computer science concepts in primary school.
http://www.schoolinfosystem.org/archives/2013/03/primary_school_.php

Common Core education standards sweeping Wisconsin schools

Alan Borsuk:

Vouchers, charters, public school spending, treatment of teachers – isn’t there something we’re not fighting about when it comes to education?
Why, yes, and last week’s quiet end to a boring race for state superintendent of public instruction underscores one of the biggest examples of that: The Common Core learning standards initiative.
The Common Core is the biggest thing in Wisconsin education that you hardly ever hear about, unless you’re employed in the school world. Then you hear about it all the time. For a lot of schools, teachers and students, it’s bringing clear, significant and, let us hope, ultimately productive changes in what goes on daily.
Take a tour of a school or talk to school leaders about what they’re up to anywhere in the state and two out of every three sentences you hear include the phrase “Common Core.” At least it feels that way.
In many classrooms, each student now has explicit goals to work on daily (“Use place value understanding to round whole numbers to the nearest 10 or 100,” for example, from the third-grade math standards) and will gladly tell you what standard they’re focused on at the time you ask (I’ve asked). Or perhaps show you the standard and their work on it on their iPad. If this hasn’t come to your child’s school yet, look for something like this soon.
The Common Core movement has swept across the nation in the last five years. It arose largely from among governors, state education chiefs, corporate leaders and education advocates who believed the nation as a whole was not aiming high enough in education and that the wide variation from state to state in defining good achievement and what it takes to get a high school diploma was a problem.

“Pet peeve of the day: Oregon is trying to make it harder to have exceptional public schools. Which kind of sucks.”

Linus Torvalds:

Background for non-Americans: the US school system is a disaster, with very uneven quality. You have some good school districts, and you have some really bad ones, and it’s all just pretty crazy. Very different from back in Finland, where education isn’t just good, it’s fairly reliably good. You don’t have to worry too much about which school you go to, because while there are certainly differences, they simply don’t tend to be all that marked.
In the US, if you care about education, you end up having to make sure you live in a good school district. Or you do the whole private school thing, or try to make sure you can transfer, or whatever. The one thing you do not do is to just take it for granted. You work at it.
I’m not a huge believer in private schools, and I actually wanted my kids to be able to walk to their friends houses, so we made sure to move to one of the better districts in Oregon.
Now, living in a good school district means that you end up paying a lot more for housing, so it’s not actually necessarily really any cheaper than sending your kids to a private school. But you do also end up being in a community where people care about education, so it’s not just the school: it’s the whole environment around you and your kids.
But it’s unquestionably unfair, and it unquestionably means that people who can afford it get a better education in the US. Despite the whole “public” part of the US public school system, it’s like so much else in the US: you don’t want to be poor. The whole “American Dream” is pretty much a fairy tale.
So the Oregon legislature is trying to fix the unfairness. Which I very much understand, because I really do detest the whole US school system – it was always one of the things that we talked about being a possible reason to move back to Finland when the kids needed to go to school. We ended up learning how the US system works, and made it work for us, but that doesn’t mean that I have to like the situation. Because I’ve seen better.
So why is trying to make things fairer a peeve?
The way the Oregon legislature is trying to fix things isn’t by making the average school better, it’s by trying to make it hard to have the (fairly few) bright spots around.
In particular, let’s say that you do have a good school district, where people not only end up paying for it in the property taxes (which is what largely funds the school), but also by having special local tax bonds for the school in addition to the big fund-raisers every year. Because the public US school funding just isn’t that great, so the local community ends up fixing it – to the point of literally raising much of the money to build a new building etc.

The US outspends and underperforms. More
Portland schools’ 2012-2013 budget is $687,513,063 for 47,000 students or 14,627.93/student. Madison will spend $14,527/student during the 2012-2013 fiscal year.
US teacher content knowledge requirements are lag other countries.
Oregon HB 2748
Notes and links on Sweden’s voucher system and Finland’s schools.
Linus Torvalds

Status Quo K-12 vs a Little “Reform” Rhetoric at a Wisconsin Budget Hearing

Matthew DeFour’s tweets tell the unsurprising story (Wisconsin Schools Superintendent Tony Evers is testifying before the State’s “Joint Finance Committee”):



Related:


Wisconsin State Tax Based K-12 Spending Growth Far Exceeds University Funding.
Madison’s per student spending is $14,547 for the 2012-2013 school year (the number ignores differences in pre-k per student costs – lower, vs “full time” students).
Watch the committee hearing.