By Jeff Simpson
To quote the B Movie Actor Ronald Reagan - "There you go again, Christian Schneider".
Sschneider is back using his unexplained pulpit, to spread misinformation and outright lies about our public education system.
But these claims are wildly misleading and lack important context. Indeed, when Walker took over in 2011, he lessened state aid for schools and reduced revenue caps so districts couldn't just make up the reduction in property taxes. But the spending reduction was offset by the reforms in Act 10, Walker's plan requiring higher pension and health care contributions from public employees. To call Walker's school plan a drastic cut, you have to pretend Act 10 never happened.
In 2013, the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance assessed the total effect of Walker's plan on school districts. In 2011-'12, Walker reduced district revenues by $450 million, which shows up on the books as a spending cut. But the higher teacher benefit contributions canceled out those cuts; in 2012, district benefit costs dropped 15.6% because teachers were kicking in more for their own health and pension benefits. That helped districts raise $451.1 million in additional revenue, saving them from the catastrophic scenario Democrats are now trying to pass off as reality.
Thus, the idea that schools were drastically cut only applies if your memory has a four-year expiration date. If one were to consider teacher benefits as per-pupil spending and add that money back to the pot, Wisconsin would be faring much better in the national rankings. (The ECS numbers, incidentally, come from the National Education Association — the nation's largest teachers union — and not the more universally accepted National Center for Education Statistics.)
Jake has already universally debunked this BS, which is probably why the Bradley Foundation gave this assignment to Schneider.
It is especially noteworthy that these districts are having financial difficulties 3 years after Act 10 was put into effect in many of these places. Walker and WisGOP honks may talk up the “savings” from Act 10’s “tools”, and sure, they did lower costs to the general taxpayer in the short-run (by raising the costs to that certain group of taxpayers called school district employees), but those haven’t been nearly enough to make up for the continual cuts to public education, especially in rural Wisconsin. Add in the problems in attracting and retaining teachers in many districts, with the huge amount of retirements in the field over the last 3 years and fewer UW System students entering teacher training programs after seeing the denigration of the profession, and you can see how imperiled the quality of our state’s education system is.
Debunking Schneider is the easy part, getting him to actual answer for his BS is the hard part,
However the point of this column is to touch on something that is a Republican talking point(which is why it made Schneider's column.
For instance, now districts can hire and fire on the basis of merit rather than seniority; students get a better education and it has nothing to do with per-pupil funding numbers.
I have yet to be able to find any of my friends on the right that can define merit in terms of teaching evaluations. If you look at school districts who are basing pay on a merit based system, then you will look long and hard as only a small handful of schools are even trying this.
Most people also understand that the longer you do your job, the better you become at it.
Things are not as cut and dried in education as they are in journalism.
For instance, if someone makes up a story that a Congressman's husband assaulted someone from his opponents campaign. you know they failed as a journalist and should be in a different profession.
So I am open to all suggestions. Please tell me how we can judge "merit" in our schools.