Voucher expansion disappointingThe WASB firmly believes expanding the failed voucher experiment statewide is a mistake. It is bad policy that does not belong in the state budget.
By: John Ashley, Superior Telegram
The WASB firmly believes expanding the failed voucher experiment statewide is a mistake. It is bad policy that does not belong in the state budget.
The voucher expansion compromise described in media reports today sets the stage for a massive new state spending program to benefit private entities with little or no public accountability. This enormous expansion will jeopardize funding of public schools. Most or even all the new state money budgeted for K-12 education in future years may go to fund voucher expansion, leaving public schools high and dry. The deal, as reported by the media, would provide guaranteed state taxpayer cash payments to new voucher schools but would provide no similar guarantee to public schools.
We are pleased that lawmakers and the governor have agreed to remove a number of other significant K-12 education policy changes from the budget. These include provisions to:
• Create an unelected state-level board empowered to authorize additional independent charter school authorizers;
• Create a statewide voucher program (without limits on income eligibility) for children with special needs; and
• Strip school boards’ oversight authority over charter schools they have authorized.
We are also pleased that lawmakers and the governor agree on the need to provide an additional $150 per pupil in revenue limit authority for school districts, along with sufficient increases in state aid to hold potential property tax increases to a minimum. However, given the state’s improved fiscal condition, we believe a larger revenue limit adjustment is warranted as state support for public schools has steadily declined from 66.1 percent in 2006-07 to 61.9 percent this school year.
School districts faced huge and historic cuts in state aid and revenue limits as a result of the last state budget. Although most school districts used the Act 10 and Act 32 changes to significantly reduce their budgets in 2011-12 and 2013-13, in many cases they were unable to fully offset the funding cuts. A larger revenue limit increase would help many districts, especially rural and declining enrollment districts, maintain programs that benefit their students and Wisconsin’s economic future.
Finally, the WASB thanks elected state officials who stood tall for public school students.
John Ashley is executive director of the Wisconsin Association of School Boards is a nonprofit association that provides information and services to Wisconsin school boards in the areas of school law and policymaking, bargaining, legislation and leadership development.