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The war on public education in Wisconsin continues, with more evidence that GOP-led privatization and curriculum control is failing the state. This has shown in 2 different stories that emerged last week.

1. The first involves the Department of Public Instruction releasing information on the first group of students included in the expanded voucher program that was part of the budget passed by the GOP-run Legislature, and signed by Governor Walker.  

For the 2013-14 school year, there are 512 students receiving a voucher, which totals 499.9 full-time-equivalent (FTE) students. Four-year-old kindergarten students attending partial day programs are counted as 0.5 FTE or 0.6 FTE, depending on the services provided. Of students receiving vouchers this year, 406 (79 percent) did not attend a Wisconsin public school last year. Twenty-one percent of students (106) were from public schools and 73 percent (371) attended a private school during the 2012-13 school year.

Participating Appleton and Green Bay/De Pere private schools have the highest voucher enrollment, each with 53 FTE students. Private schools in Oshkosh are enrolling 49 FTE voucher students for the 2013-14 school year, followed by Wisconsin Rapids with 43 FTE; the Eau Claire/Altoona area with 37 FTE; and Manitowoc with 36 FTE students.

And even those numbers don't give you an indication of the scam that this expanded voucher system is proving to be. When you account for all students that attended ANY type of school in Wisconsin last year, the private school percentage goes up to 75.9%, and another 2.5% were homeschooled. 22 others didn't attend school at all, and many of them also might have been going to private school this year before they received a voucher.

So at least 3/4 of those who got vouchers ALREADY WOULD HAVE GONE TO SCHOOLS LIKE THIS, which means the schools (via the families) are getting nothing short of a taxpayer-funded subsidy for these students, and trading it for any tuition costs. And yes, every one of these schools are Christian-based, with more than 3/4 being Catholic.

So we're giving straight cash to churches, which very likely is going to "other needs" outside of education (and very possibly to things no public school would ever be allowed to get with), while taking money away from every other public school district in the state to pay for this program. And there's  no real evidence that these schools do any better in educating students. Even the right-leaning Politico called out the bad performance of voucher schools this month.  

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 the public schools, many of which are rated D or F, state data show.

And speaking of tests and school standards, that was part of the next level of GOP education fail.

2. Wisconsin was one of 45 states to go along with national, Common Core standards in 2010, but the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee inserted a provision into the last budget allowing for reconsideration about the standards. As part of that GOP-approved provision in the budget, the Legislature and DPI have held hearings in various locations of the state to discuss how Common Core would work in Wisconsin, and whether the state should stick with it.

State Rep. Christine Sinicki pulled back the curtain on these hearings,saying she would not continue as a Dem reprentative to these Common Core hearings, and denounced them as a GOP-led sham.

It has become painfully clear that this committee and its activities are occurring at the behest of interested parties outside of this Legislature, and even this state. I believe that this SCCCS is primarily a roadshow, in conjunction with the Republican National Committee (RNC) and its April 2013 resolution, to distract from that party’s recent national failures. The general criticisms of the Common Core Standards here in Wisconsin echo the extreme statements coming out of the RNC, which is a campaign organization, and other Republican sources in Washington, D.C. and around the country.

This extremism about common standards, not to mention public education in general, seems to emanate from the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party. And in turn, they have attracted another extreme and very rich ally in the national John Birch Society (JBS), which is conveniently headquartered here in Wisconsin. Each of the SCCCS’s informational hearings have featured speakers suggested to the SCCCS chairs by the JBS, and whose travel expenses from distant parts of the country have been paid for by the American Opinion Foundation (AOF), a proud arm of the Birch Society. On Wisconsin Eye video of the Eau Claire SCCCS hearing, these invited speakers from other states say, bizarrely, that they don’t know who it was that called and invited them but that, upon arrival, they were handed expense checks issued by AOF (which they then show the committee members). In the meantime, actual Wisconsin educators who have attended the hearings on their own initiative have often been turned away from testifying due to the bulk of attention and time being reserved for invited speakers.

On top of the above, the last straw for me as a Milwaukee legislator has been the omission of Milwaukee Public Schools in the SCCCS’s hearing schedule. MPS is the state’s largest school district and its educators have already spent thousands of hours designing curricula for hundreds of different classrooms under the guidance of the Common Core Standards. These experienced staff should have had the chance to talk about their successful effort with the CCS without having to drive hours away to do so.

Blue Cheddar has more on the John Birch connections, with video of the meeting Rep. Sinicki references. It is also worth mentioning that the Wisconsin public school officials that have testified at these meeting have almost universally said that they want the state to continue to adopt Common Core. If the state would not do so, it would cause districts to have to go back to the drawing board, wasting many hours that have been spent adjusting school curricula and standards, which would likely hurt public schools' performance and morale of staff.

Not surprisingly, that doesn't matter to the bratty kids that define today's WisGOP. And they weren't going to let Sinicki's statement about the Tea Party-led effort to screw up Common Core go quietly. Democurmudgeon does a good job laying out today's low-class insults and borderline misogyny by Waukesha County GOP Sen. Paul Farrowand fellow Bagger Rep. Jeremy (let the homeschoolers play for whoever they want) Thiesfeldt. That might impress the dead-enders that listen to Milwaukee hate radio, but it sure doesn't help our state figure out the best way to teach its K-12 students.

Of course, screwing up public schools isn't something that concerns today's GOP, in fact, they'd probably prefer it, so they could justify cutting further aid to those schools, and sending more money to vouchers, who in turn send the money back to GOP legislators in the form of campaign contributions. Look at how convicted criminal Scooter Jensen is trying to buy the South Milwaukee-area Assembly race for voucher puppet Jessie Rodriguez.

Given that we know that facts and results don't matter to today's WisGOP, only money and power do, it means they won't adjust their thinking on their own. So we have to take these radical haters of public education out of office, and put the failed school privatization movement into the dustbin of Wisconsin history, before we lose any more of one of our state's few economic advantages- strong public schools. With three GOP-leaning-but-winnable Assembly seats being decided in the next 50 days, there's no better time than now to start making these bums pay.

Originally posted to Jake formerly of the LP on Sun Nov 03, 2013 at 12:35 PM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight and Badger State Progressive.

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Comment Preferences

  •  It seems that some of what's going on in WI (18+ / 0-)

    is a less than veiled assault on the teachers once again.  It makes me wonder who would be in the classrooms if all schools were private.  Would it not be these same teachers?  Doesn't WI have certification requirements, or can private schools hire just anyone off the street?  Sooooo, if the teachers are all so inept in the public schools, why would they be any different in the private schools?  And can the vouchers be used in madrassas?

    Building a better America with activism, cooperation, ingenuity and snacks.

    by judyms9 on Sun Nov 03, 2013 at 01:12:04 PM PST

    •  Reads to me more like an assault of teachers' (18+ / 0-)

      unions than on the teachers themselves. Republicans don't mind teachers, as long as they live on the charity of their students and board with families, as they did in the good old days on the frontier.

      They just don't like it when the teachers insist on being treated with respect and dignity and form a union to guarantee that treatment.

      •  It's about control (18+ / 0-)

         GOPs don't mind if teachers make bargain-basement wages and don't give any feedback about how things might be working in the classroom. But if they actually ask for wages that are near the average college graduate, or give any advice on what might improve things? Then they're being uppity and greedy. And the GOPs don't care if bashing unions devalues education as a career choice and lowers the talent pool.

            It also allows corporations and fundie PTA moms to draft the school curriculum, instead of having independent agencies and/or the common good be the ones to decide how to educate our children, and what they should teach. And as we've seen in Wisconsin and other places, the privatization model has not improved results in any way.

        •  It's about control of key groups of students too (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          isewquilts2, JVolvo

          The Charter and Private schools don't want students falling on either end of the above Bell Curve.  The Charter and Private Schools are targeting the easily educable segments of the spectrum of our compliant and conforming kids who can be handled with formulaic 'education'. And you already know that is aimed at teaching to the test.

          This is a zero-sum game being played with our kids and teachers and it is intended to remove diversity, remove the need to teach curriculum appropriate to all sections of the Bell Curve.  

          What ever student groups are drawn out of the public pool of students leave a vacuum behind in the wake. Drawing away from public schools those students with average to above average IQs with 95 to 125 or 130, and social skills,. and an interest and ability to conform to the formula for that Charter school, causes an exodus. It leaves a gap behind concentrating more 'problem kids' in the remaining public classrooms.  

          The remaining public classrooms need to modify their approach and materials to meet the learning needs of the remaining and more concentrated groups of slower learners or learners with physical or emotional challenges.  

          Tje charter/private schools won't be pursuing educating the non-mainstream slow learners on the low end of the intelligence scale.  Too much trouble to rescale education plans tailored to the indivdual and individualized attention would be required daily. Factory methods don't work.

          The charter/private school administration also finds dealing with the gifted & talented (upper 5% or 2% of student body, depending on State DPI interpetations) cost them time and accountabiity they don't want.  (If they don't just try to turn them into junior teacher/tutors and use them as free labor.) Federal law on this is clear.  

          The identification of Gifted & Talented kids should trigger the school system staff proffessionals to meet, review and prepare an IEP (Individual Education Plan) The IEP is created by a cross-discipline staff with expertise in what these extremely bright kids should be receiving as a challenge commensurate with abilities. The gifted kid can stay in the classroom if the teacher provides suitable enrichment materials that challenge him or her, and it helps to have district, region and state resources to draw upon for teachers to succeed in meeting these EENs.  The goals of IDEA to try and integrate special need kids in regular classrooms, to keep social maturity and development normal, and build the expectation that the less able are equal participants in having access to an appropriate education. And we can accept them with their difference.

          So we can predict that most of the average to above average students eventually become drawn towards the Charter/Private schools, making these schools more homogenous and less diverse. This leaves the public schools with the job of handling every student entitled to IEP commensurate with their EENs, behaviorial issues, etc. and requiring teams of specialty staff assigned to make it work.

          Let's say the non-IEP kids cost $8,000/year to educate. Kids with EENs and IEP may add $5,000 or $10,000 costs, perhaps even more. So now the per-student costs, averaged across those attending the public school tend to rapidly skew upwards far higher than average costs for the Charter and Private schools who are just stating by fine. And it's likely the can show a 'decrease' in average costs thanks to grabbing the 'plum' segments of the student population. And the bean counters will celebrate how cost effective Charter schools are while the public schools inexplicably have per pupil costs rising far faster than inflation.

          With the ability to switch school districts in Wisconsin (to better nearby schools), and the flow of dollars being transferred at 'average' costs, out of district students transferring in with special needs will also shift greater costs and stresses onto the local district than they get offsetting 'vouchers'.

          It won't be hard to see how this will go. Specialty regional schools may be proposed to deal with the kids on either end of the bell curve will be promoted as the 'reform' needed to privatize their education too, and they'll make sure to seek and get the necessary resources and facilities, and get to cut the redtape current districts face trying to make special education work and meet district, audit, and state reporting requirements.

          The loss of public accountability, transparency, and ability to truly measure meeting Dept. of Education/Instruction goals will be taken away from average citizens. The governor will want to appoint his team of experts to manage all that.

          When life gives you wingnuts, make wingnut butter!

          by antirove on Sun Nov 03, 2013 at 10:53:13 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  There are no baseline standards (12+ / 0-)

      for the voucher schools and IIRC, teachers don't have to be qualified either.  That's the real problem.

      They exist for profit and the out of state companies that profit from them were among Scott Walker and GOP legislators biggest campaign donors.  They've reaped a rich harvest for their "investment".

      Republicans want to privatize everything.  Putting public services into private hands means lots of potential campaign donations and "jobs" for them when they're out of office.  They don't care a bit about the quality of services rendered or the final product produced.

      It's all about the money.

      There already is class warfare in America. Unfortunately, the rich are winning.

      by Puddytat on Sun Nov 03, 2013 at 02:43:23 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  They DON'T want choice (10+ / 0-)

          Because "choice" implies that all schools are equal, all schools have to take kids with special needs, and all schools face the same accountability measures. GOPs in Wisconsin have wanted to avoid having voucher schools face all 3 of those attributes, unlike the public schools.

          Combine that with the upcoming $10,000 tax break for anyone who pays for private school tuition,and you have the grounds for another Brown vs. Board of Education type of lawsuit, as you could certainly argue that WisGOP is promoting a two-tier education system.

        •  Sounds like they took a page from Alabama. (6+ / 0-)

          Regardless of income, any family in Alabama whose neighborhood school is failing per state criteria can get a tax credit of 80% of private school tuition if they live in a failing district.

          The one caveat is that the credit stops when the student finishes the highest grade offered at the failing school. In my city, the proportion of failing schools varies greatly by grade level. Elementary schools are a mixed bag, middle schools are uniformly awful, but somehow almost all the high schools are OK.

          This is an issue because crimes rates have improved dramatically, but the school system has lagged behind. Well paid professionals can purchase a gazillion-dollar home in a re-gentrified neighborhood, 5 minutes from the office, knowing full well that the school is failing. But they will get a huge tax credit like they are needy and suffering hardship through no fault of their own. They could easily afford to live in a good school district with a very short commute.

          There is also a tax credit for individuals or corporations that donate scholarships to qualifying students who attend qualifying schools. Scholarship students actually have to come from  families < 150% of federal poverty, and the school where tuition will be paid must report scores from either the state testing program or a nationally recognized test.

          Guess what? Virtually no schools are signing up! They don't want to serve poor kids, and lord knows we can't be holding them accountable for results. Not a big fan of standardized testing, but hey, the public schools have to do it. Making the private schools prove that they actually get better results on the same or similar metrics seems reasonable.

          The whole thing is a scam. Option one is welfare for people who are not at all needy and are not "trapped" in lousy districts. Poor families can't pay and wait for a tax credit. But almost nobody is willing to sign up for the option 2 program that at least would serve families who truly can't afford to move or pay on their own.

          Just because you're not a drummer doesn't mean that you don't have to keep time. -- T. Monk

          by susanala on Sun Nov 03, 2013 at 07:21:58 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  from Blue Cheddar at the link, a righteous rant... (26+ / 0-)
    I have for a while been having it up to motherf***ing here with lobbyists and legislators getting their hours and hours at the mic at public hearings at the Capitol while citizens who drove for hours sit and often NEVER get a turn at the mic. The notion that some man – expert or not – from California gets to have a front seat at the testimony table, taking hearing time away from ANY CITIZEN from Wisconsin – be he or she conservative, libertarian, liberal, or what-have-you – - this disgusts me and it should disgust everyone who is forced to witness the sham of Wisconsin government.
    Blue Cheddar has a finger on the pulse, that's for sure.

    If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality. - Bishop Desmond Tutu

    by AnnieJo on Sun Nov 03, 2013 at 01:42:48 PM PST

  •  as a recently retired WI teacher (17+ / 0-)

    You are spot-on with your assessments.  All the way down the line, our GOP legislators are killing public education in WI.  Sadly, they are winning.  We are going from a high performing public education system to one that is an embarassing sham, and it is happening very quickly....make no mistake, this operation has been planned and funded for a very long time, and our few resources to combat it are woefully inadequate.  

    Wisconsin: It's war, you know. We didn't start it, but we'll keep fighting in it until we win

    by isewquilts2 on Sun Nov 03, 2013 at 02:20:53 PM PST

  •  Right behind you, sadly... (10+ / 0-)

    here in Ohio.  Our newly-minted "celebrity" governor, since he relented on the whole Medicaid/ACA mess, has people just getting in line to hear his wisdom.  Gak.  The goal, I believe, is to dismantle public education in big urban (read: underfunded, poor "performing") districts and turn over the education of the neediest children to the whims of educational complexes and 'foundations' aka The Broad Foundation, Gates Foundation, etc.
    My grandfather, born in the late 1800's, was pulled from public school and put to work in the woods chopping railroad ties.  I suspect the Corporate Overlords would do much the same thing if given the opportunity.
    Damn them to hell.

    Think what you are doing today. -Fred Rogers

    by JanL on Sun Nov 03, 2013 at 02:21:50 PM PST

  •  I think you can attack this and other forms (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Amber6541, JanL, semioticjim, arlene, LookingUp

    of government privatization from a financial point of view.  As I demonstrated in my last diary, the financial metrics of outsourcing can be a disaster.  I would bet if you approached this from a financial conservative point-of-view and demanded to know what you were getting for your money - i.e. what is the cost per teacher-hour for these voucher-students, you'd find the metrics blow.

    Remember, these schools get the same district funding as a public school, but have to turn a profit.  Even if they are non-profit, that doesn't mean someone isn't getting paid.  Simply demand the application of simple financial metrics like cost per teacher hour (not teacher pay, I'm sure they get paid peanuts), cost per square footage of the facility, cost per hour of the support staff, etc. etc..  Then just sit back as the portion of the tea party that hates public schools defends itself against the portion of the tea party that hates seeing people get rich off their tax dollars.

    And we love to wear a badge, a uniform / And we love to fly a flag But I won't...let others live in hell / As we divide against each other And we fight amongst ourselves

    by ban48 on Sun Nov 03, 2013 at 02:53:13 PM PST

    •  Depends if they have to take every student (4+ / 0-)

        If they can cherry-pick the student body and not have kids that need extra attention and aides, then yes, you can run it for "cheaper". But if you're giving taxpayer funds, these vouchers should be forced to have the same responsibilities and burdens that they public schools have, and not surprisingly, it wouldn't be as cheap.

         But since apples-to-apples comparisons and fairness is NOT what WisGOP and the privatizers want, then you get the double-standard that we have today in Wisconsin, and other places.

  •  Against vouchers but... (0+ / 0-)

    Remembering that we are talking about Wisconsin, where the private schools are mainly Catholic and Lutheran.

    Money given as tuition assistance to parents does not go straight to the churches. The schools have their own budgets, which the churches contribute to. Any overage in the budget is not available to be shunted to parish operations. It may cut how much money parishes contribute in coming years, but the flow of money is from the parish to the schools, not the other way around. I can guarantee that no Catholic school in Wisconsin is turning a profit, though some run surpluses and have contingency funds and endowments.

    As for Catholic school teachers being certified, yes they are. In all subjects except religion, for which no state certification exists.  Even there, there is a certification that must be met. Principals have administrative certifications.  All diocese require this. This was true when nuns ran the schools and is remains true today. One of my relatives was the first nun to receive state certification, in the 1880s.

    Charter schools are another animal entirely.

    And BTW, the Catholic bishops have come out in support of Common Core, which Catholic schools are implementing despite resistance from neo-con Catholics. Crazies everywhere.

    •  I went to private catholic grade school. The way (7+ / 0-)

      they ran it back then was the parish subsidized the school, and if you had kids in the school you were supposed to make up for it in the weekly donation.  They had it figured out and gave you the expected weekly contribution.  They couldn't force you to pay, but they did not have to accept your kid either.  This allowed you to effectively write off your private school tuition as a charitable donation to the parish.

      And we love to wear a badge, a uniform / And we love to fly a flag But I won't...let others live in hell / As we divide against each other And we fight amongst ourselves

      by ban48 on Sun Nov 03, 2013 at 03:46:58 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Bishops in support of CCSS? Think again... (0+ / 0-)

      The bishops are taking their time thinking about this issue especially after receiving this letter from US Catholic Scholars:

      Educational experience based on non-consensual behaviorism is authoritarian mind control.

      by semioticjim on Sun Nov 03, 2013 at 09:33:36 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  In Wisconsin (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        The Catholic bishops have written asking that attacks on Catholic schools for adopting Common Core stop.  On the national level, the bishops are all neo-con all day, but in their own home grounds, they don't want extra trouble. In Appleton, the biggest opponent of Common Core is from the local university. No, he doesn't have an education or administrative background, but he did stay at a Holiday Inn Express.

      •  Pretty much (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        They are giving some time to listening. Not such a bad thing for them to listen, they need to do more of that not less.

        Milwaukee diocese, home to a lot of crazies, is proceeding despite objections. see Milwaukee adopts Common Core.

        Crazies abound, bishops are busy taking calls and listening,  but they are also letting the schools move ahead. Bash the crazy parents, but the religious schools in Wisconsin are behaving much like the public schools and facing the same opposition.

  •  badger radio stations will point out how public ed (0+ / 0-)

    and and teachers unions are to blame- somehow but certainly.

    This is a list of 76 universities for Rush Limbaugh that endorse global warming denial, racism, sexism, and GOP lies by broadcasting sports on over 170 Limbaugh radio stations.

    by certainot on Sun Nov 03, 2013 at 06:06:30 PM PST

  •  A lot of folks across the country are wondering... (4+ / 0-)

    ..what in the hell is happening to their public schools....

    Educational experience based on non-consensual behaviorism is authoritarian mind control.

    by semioticjim on Sun Nov 03, 2013 at 09:36:01 PM PST

  •  Missing critical data here (0+ / 0-)

    What is missing is what the cost of tuition for these schools is and how much the voucher covered.  Also missing is the income level of those receiving the vouchers.

    The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones! - John Maynard Keynes

    by Do Something on Mon Nov 04, 2013 at 08:03:28 AM PST

    •  Income level has to be within (0+ / 0-)

      185% of poverty.

      Voucher amount is around $6000.

      Most private-school families at that income level are receiving considerable subsidies/scholarships from the church to cover the tuition....

      If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality. - Bishop Desmond Tutu

      by AnnieJo on Mon Nov 04, 2013 at 02:37:11 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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