Borsuk on Post-Election Voucher Reality

By John Forester | October 20, 2014

​In his latest column, Alan Borsuk, education columnist for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, identifies the real post-election issue on vouchers as cost.  In the process, he reiterates the SAA’s argument that voucher expansion is a burgeoning entitlement program for tuition-paying parents of private school students.  Borsuk is always worth the read.

 

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Latest Marquette Law Poll: Dead Heat

By John Forester | October 16, 2014

From WisPolitics…

The latest Marquette University Law School Poll has Gov. Scott Walker and Dem rival Mary Burke tied among likely voters.

Forty-seven percent of likely voters backed each candidate two weeks after the poll had Walker up 50-45.

The poll also found a tie in the AG’s race, where Dem Susan Happ and Republican Brad Schimel were each backed by 42 percent of likely voters surveyed. Last time, Schimel had a 41-39 edge.

Poll director Charles Franklin said there has been a series of subtle shifts in the poll compared to the one conducted two weeks ago. One of the biggest, he said, was the movement among independents.

Partisans are locked in to their party’s candidate with 96 percent of Republicans backing Walker and 94 percent of Dems supporting Burke.

But Burke edged Walker among independents in this poll 45-44 after he led 53-40 among those voters two weeks ago.

“This is where the volatility is,” Franklin said.

In addition to independents swinging toward Burke, more of them also indicated they plan to vote in November compared to those who said the same two weeks ago.

Among partisans, 82 percent of Republicans and 80 percent of Dems say they are likely to vote. That was 80 percent and 77 percent, respectively, two weeks ago.

Among independents, 80 percent said they’re likely to vote, compared to 67 percent two weeks ago.

Franklin said if those numbers hold, it would suggest a turnout of about 2.6 million voters, just eclipsing the number that turned out for the 2012 recall election.

Still, that would be significantly higher than any other non-presidential election in Wisconsin over the past 60 years. A GAB tally of turnout going back to 1948 shows the highest turnout for a mid-term election was 2.17 million in 2010.

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General Aid Certified to Districts

By John Forester | October 16, 2014

From WisPolitics.com . . .

Just over half the state’s school districts will see an increase in state funding during the current academic year, according to an annual report on K-12 aid from the state Department of Public Instruction.

According to the report, 220 of the state’s 424 public school districts will see aid increases totaling more than $120 million, while 204 will see no increase or an aid drop. The 202 districts with aid decreases will see their funding drop by a total of nearly $35 million.

DPI said although overall aid increased by $94.4 million, the districts themselves will only see $85.5 million due to “statutory reductions to general state aid for private voucher schools in Milwaukee and independent charter schools supported by state tax dollars.”

Milwaukee Public Schools — by far the state’s largest district — will see an increase of 0.73 percent, although DPI said the district’s aid was reduced by more than $60 million for the city’s school choice program.

Most other large districts also saw aid increases, including Madison (4.06 percent), Kenosha (2.84 percent) and Green Bay (3.66 percent). Among the state’s 10 largest districts, only Eau Claire and Sheboygan saw aid drops, at 3.98 percent and 0.32 percent, respectively.

The Northwood School District in northwestern Wisconsin saw the largest aid decrease, with an aid level more than 30 percent below its 2013-2014 total. Pewaukee saw the largest increase at more than 150 percent, which DPI attributed to increased enrollment and a loss of property value in the suburban Milwaukee district.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, touted the overall aid increase, saying “our communities are continuing to see the benefits of the fiscally responsible policies of the last two legislative sessions.”

Minority Leader Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, countered the report “exemplifies how our school finance system is broken and inequitably chooses winners and losers among classrooms across our state.”

See the DPI release here.

See state aid totals by district here.

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Rural Superintendents Speak Out on School Funding

By John Forester | October 15, 2014

School superintendents from Southwestern Wisconsin spoke out on the underfunding of their school districts and the impact it has on the students they serve at a press conference in Platteville yesterday morning.  These superintendents did an outstanding job of framing the issue.

For more information, see the NBC15 (Madison) coverage of the event.

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Questions For Candidates

By John Forester | October 14, 2014

With Election Day just three weeks away, the SAA wanted to provide members with a few questions about public education that voters should ask of candidates for state office before entering the voting booth on November 4th.  We are providing these questions in the body of a sample op-ed piece.

Feel free to use this op-ed piece and to modify it for your own use.

Thanks for listening.  And, thanks for all you do on behalf of Wisconsin public school children.

 

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Wistax on School Fund Balances

By John Forester | October 14, 2014

​A couple weeks ago, Wistax released an issue of its newsletter, Focus​, devoted to a look at school fund balances.  Given the political interest generated by the UW System fund balance controversy, it is surprising that the Wistax piece received such limited media attention.

You might recall that the SAA released two school fund balance documents for SAA members in its August 25, 2014 blog post.  In their newsletter, Wistax makes many of the same major points that the SAA did in its work on school fund balances.

I want to leave you with an excerpt from the final section of the Wistax newsletter:

“. . . it is fair to say that many Wisconsin school districts have been building reserves to ensure future fiscal stability at a time of spotty economic recovery, divisive partisan politics, and boom-bust state budgeting.  Ironically, the source of the latter is state government’s inability for years to build any meaningful budget reserves.”

 

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State Paid $139 Million to Terminated Voucher Schools Since 2004

By John Forester | October 13, 2014

​I found this article by Molly Beck of the Wisconsin State Journal to be an interesting look at the millions of dollars the state wasted on voucher schools that have since been terminated from the program.

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Grassroots Anti-Voucher Group to Work in Northern Wisconsin

By John Forester | October 7, 2014

A grassroots coalition, “NoVouchers, has announced its volunteer members will be working in rural communities in Northern Wisconsin to stop the expansion of taxpayer-funded vouchers for private schools .

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AP, SAT Results Strong

By John Forester | October 7, 2014

​​The Department of Public Instruction (DPI) announced today that preliminary data from the Advanced Placement (AP) program showed an increase in the number of state students participating in the program and solid overall results. The AP information comes with state and national SAT scores, where Wisconsin’s 2014 graduates posted strong results, outpacing students in the national cohort by more than 90 points on the college admissions exams.

For more information see DPI News Release here.

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Poll Shows Movement Toward Walker

By John Forester | October 2, 2014

From WisPolitics.com …

Gov. Scott Walker opened up a 5-point lead among likely voters on Dem rival Mary Burke in the latest Marquette University Law School Poll, the first time since March the advantage for either candidate has been outside the margin of error.

Fifty percent of likely voters backed Walker, while 45 percent supported Burke. In the Marquette Law poll two weeks ago, Walker had a 49-46 edge among likely voters.

It was the first time this year Walker has hit the 50 percent mark with likely voters.

Poll director Charles Franklin said with the race now a little more than a month away, he’s starting to focus more on likely voters.

He also called Walker’s lead on Burke among men “astonishing.” For likely voters, Walker led among men 62-34, while Burke led among women 54-40.

See Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Coverage here.

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