Tuesday, October 28, 2014

In Education, Think of the Visible Reality

 By Jeff Simpson cross posted at Purple Wisconsin.

Journal Sentinel Opinion writer, Christian Schneider recently wrote a column expressing concern about the  fact, that there is a concerted effort to bring out the youth vote!   Now Schneider tells us that while society should not be so quick to allow the youth to vote, taxpayers should pay for them to attend any school of their choice.  Schneider even amazingly attempts to make the case for the massive cost savings of children attending voucher schools(whom he calls invisible children).
When one thinks of a public school student, a specific image typically comes to mind. It may be a boy showing up for elementary school wearing his favorite Minecraft T-shirt or a girl proudly adorned in her rainbow loom bracelets(Edit Note - no one thinks either of these things).
But when discussing public school finance, we often don't think about the "invisible kid," the one who isn't sitting in the public school classroom. The "invisible kid" is instead sitting in a classroom at a private school of his or her parent's choosing, with the education paid for with a state-funded voucher.
When teachers unions criticize the choice program, they always forget to mention these invisible students who aren't taking up valuable space and resources in their classrooms. They frequently complain that the school choice program diverts scarce resources away from public schools, but they neglect to mention that if those invisible students became public students, it would cost school districts millions of dollars and substantially drive up property taxes.
I will overlook the eerily similarities of bad math and economic gobbeldygook that the spokesperson for the Walmart funded, poorly named American Federation for Children also published at nearly the same time
The debate between plagiarism and subservience can wait for another day.   There are too many factual errors to correct to figure out who actually came up with them.
If these dopelganger articles are anything, they are timely!  As has been reported throughout the state, the voucher schools have taken us for a very big and costly ride. 
MADISON — Wisconsin taxpayers have paid about $139 million to private schools that ended up being barred from the state's voucher system for failing to meet requirements since 2004, according to a newspaper report.
State Department of Public Instruction data shows more than two-thirds of the 50 schools terminated from the state's voucher system in the last 10 years had stayed open for five years or less, according to the Wisconsin State Journal. They were all in Milwaukee.
Eleven schools, paid a total of $4.1 million, were terminated from the voucher program after just one year.
For those of you scoring at home, that is $139,000,000 of Wisconsin taxpayer dollars.
Nothing tells this story better than Lifeskills Academy from Milwaukee!
A husband and wife running a private Milwaukee voucher school that abruptly closed last month — after accepting a total of more than $2.3 million in taxpayer money — now live in a gated community in Florida by the beach, records show.
Records show Taron and Rodney Monroe started a new private Christian school this year in Daytona Beach. While the school in Milwaukee was running on fumes, they were telling Florida friends they had experience getting government grants for religious schools......
The K-8 voucher school in Milwaukee, LifeSkills Academy, 3434 N. 38th St., served only about 400 low-income students since joining the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program in 2008-'09. Its closing around Dec. 13 forced 66 students to find other schools with little notice.
The school's rise and fall illustrate how unstable operations are still a feature of Milwaukee's landmark voucher program as it heads into its 24th year.
While running LifeSkills Academy in Milwaukee, records show, the Monroes were living in a five-bedroom, 3.5-bath house in West Bend.
I challenge you to go ask your local school district's superintendent what they would do if they had an extra $2.3 Million(I promise the answer will not be a gated community in Florida). 
Let's take a look at the numbers Mr. Schneider did not share:
Last school year, there were 108 schools and about 25,000 students participating in the Milwaukee voucher program, and 146 voucher schools total. The state has budgeted about $210 million for all voucher schools for the current school year, compared to around $4.4 billion in general aid for public schools. 

Scott Walker and the republicans raised the amount of people who were eligible for vouchers last year and will be raising that number again.    The problem is, it has proven to be a subsidy for the wealthy and not easily attainable for those living in poverty.  
The statewide voucher program, in its first year, is at capacity, with about 500 students receiving vouchers statewide, according to the department. Of those, 79 percent did not attend a Wisconsin public school last year.
The program’s enrollment limit will rise to 1,000 next year. The statewide program exists in districts outside of Milwaukee and Racine, which have had programs for years.
Seventy-three percent of students now attending private schools using a voucher were already enrolled in a private school last year, according to the department. Twenty-one percent of students were from public schools. About 3 percent did not attend any school and 2 percent were home schooled.
"invisible children" make up 2/10 of the voucher school students added under Scott Walker's voucher school expansion plan.   To save our friends on the right the math, thats 100 students out of the voucher expansion, added to the 426 school districts in Wisconsin.  Which would actually "drive up costs" at a considerably smaller pace than the many unfunded mandates the republican legislature sends us
All of this for schools that routinely underperform public schools!
BUT wait!  There's more!
 In order to understand why there is a such a push to "reform" education, we need to dig deep at some more numbers. 
The main group pushing "for profit" education(ie Voucher schools**), is American Federation of Children(AFC) whose leader is disgraced former assembyman Scott Jensen,  and whose name has become so toxic that they had to change it
AFC is a combination of money from the DeVos family(Amway) and the Walton family(Walmart) all blended together under the ALEC umbrella.   AFC has spent MILLIONS(plural) of dollars on Wisconsin elections alone and Jensen alone makes $102,734/yr (the cost of two teachers) to just be their "senior advisor"(with a Governor & legisature so woeful at creating jobs, you cant blame him for taking what he can get).
The question many would ask is why would DeVos and Walton families(who do not even live here) spend millions to increase voucher schools in WI?
Do they truly care about the children of the inner cities and poor?
The answer is simply no!  They do not!
The real answer is it is all part of the "Shock Doctrine".  The money is flowing in, to try and make a massive push to privatize all education!
Or to steal a phrase from our past -
"There's Gold In Them Thar Classrooms!" 
Luckily for us, the people trying to steal it are very very visible!


  1. The American Federation for Children is running anti-Gordon Hintz ads that are essentially character assassination. No political issues are discussed. American Federation for Children wants more school vouchers. Democrat Hintz does not want vouchers. American Federation for Children is a 501(c)(4) organization which means it is a Social Welfare organization that takes tax deductible donations to promote social welfare. The irony turns my stomach. Why isn't the American Federation for Children talking about school vouchers instead of running character assassination ads against someone who opposes their goal for more school vouchers?

  2. The voucher people are doing the same thing in SW Wisconsin for Marklein and Novak- running anti-Dem ads while not saying that their goal is to privatize all education, and leave most of rural Wisconsin out in the cold. And always remember, the AFC = convicted criminal Scott Jensen.

    Thanks for writing this and getting it published, Jeff, because the anti-union, anti-education Journal-Sentinel will never give the straight talk on just how failed vouchers are as a policy, and how costly it is for taxpayers in and out of the classroom.

  3. Christian Schneider is SO bright...said no one EVER.

  4. Off topic, but VERY share worthy. Please pass it on. http://www.wisconsingazette.com/editorial/burke-has-the-skills-commitment-and-decency-wisconsin-needs-to-prosper.html