Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Governor's Fantastic Math for Public School (De)funding

Governor Walker is doing some fantastic math these days. And our public schools are going to suffer for it.

The Governor claimed in a media conference, which was closed to the public yesterday, that projected revenue losses for local public school districts could be made up in most cases from employee benefit concessions. In reaction, educators immediately pointed out to the media that his figures are misleading because they fail to take into account a variety of factors, including inflation, existing contractual obligations, and disparities in wealth among districts.

“The Governor’s privatization ideology appears to have blinded him to the stark realities Wisconsin school children will face if a budget is passed with a $834 million cut in school aids over the course of the biennium,” said ACLU of Wisconsin Executive Director Christopher Ahmuty. “Walker’s de-funding scheme coupled with a costly and wasteful expansion of the failed private school voucher program in Milwaukee and independent charter schools statewide will privatize public education in Wisconsin.

“The failed privatization effort in Milwaukee has reduced resources for public schools statewide. Even though the private schools in the Milwaukee have resisted meaningful accountability and evaluation, it is clear that they do not, in most cases, achieve better outcomes for students than public schools.”

Wisconsin is not the only state where public schools are facing privatization. Ohio Governor John Kasich’s recently released budget also includes deep cuts and an expansion of vouchers. It appears that national proponents of privatizing public education have found more than one receptive Governor to defund public schools.

“The ACLU of Wisconsin calls on Governor Walker to stop serving national special interests and listen to the people of Wisconsin who are served by strong public schools," said Ahmuty. "The ACLU of Wisconsin remains open to working with legislative leaders to bring sanity into efforts to reform education funding.”

Our state budget must not be balanced by shortchanging public school children and busting teachers' unions. If public schools keep getting defunded, maybe the only math lessons our kids will be learning will be as fantastic as the Governor's budget calculations.