Voucher Expansion Would Be an Enormous Mistake

May 28, 2013

Dear Senator Lassa and Representative Krug:

I am writing regarding the Governor’s 2013-15 Budget proposals relating to K-12 education. Specifically, I strongly encourage you to:
• Support removing all private school voucher expansion proposals from the budget.
• Support removing all charter school proposals from the budget.
• Support the Ellis/Olsen plan to increase the revenue cap by at least $200 in each year of the biennium.

Voucher Expansion
Voucher expansion would be an enormous mistake because:
• Vouchers do not improve student achievement. These are the findings of numerous studies over the years, including the most recent five-year longitudinal study conducted by the Wisconsin Legislative Audit Bureau.

• Vouchers eliminate public accountability. And this stands in stark contrast to the strong controls placed on public schools in many areas, including teacher certification, instruction/assessment requirements, graduation requirements, student admissions and due process protections, and financial oversight. (Click here for Disability Rights Wisconsin’s informational flyer that explains this further.)

• Vouchers take resources away from public school students and increase local property taxes. Two school districts that currently have voucher programs, Milwaukee and Racine, have experienced state aid reductions and property tax increases. Private school voucher expansion means property tax increases and reductions in student services at the local level. (Click here for the Green Bay Area Public School District’s informational flyer that explains this further.)

Charter School Oversight Board
The Governor’s budget proposes to create a state-level Charter School Oversight Board (CSOB) to approve contracts with persons to operate independent charter schools.

Stripping the power to open and fund schools from locally elected school boards and putting it in the hands of political appointees in Madison violates principles of effective governance and public accountability. Furthermore, independent charter schools are funded from a first draw on the general aid appropriation. Therefore, the independent charter schools authorized by the CSOB would siphon state aid dollars from all local districts regardless of where the independent charter schools are located, causing many school boards to raise local property taxes to make up the difference.

I encourage you to remove all private voucher expansion and charter school proposals from the budget. Major changes in education policy do not belong in the budget bill but rather as separate legislation that is debated in the light of day and stand, or fall, on their own merits.

School Funding
A strong public school system has been a civic and economic priority in Wisconsin since we ratified our Constitution in 1848. The Governor’s budget proposal would freeze school district revenue limits while increasing state spending by $1.7 billion. If enacted, this proposal would literally and symbolically end the Badger State’s emphasis on quality education. Specifically, class sizes at Howe Elementary School would most likely rise, while student services would probably decrease. My school is not experiencing declining enrollment. Even so, the support needed to help all kids reach their potential may be reduced.

I encourage you to support Senators Ellis and Olsen’s plan to increase the revenue limit by at least $200 in each year of the biennium.

Thank you for your service in the Legislature and for considering my thoughts on these issues of critical importance to our State.

Sincerely,

Matt Renwick
Principal
Howe Elementary School
Wisconsin Rapids, WI

Note: Thank you to the Association of Wisconsin School Administrators (AWSA) for providing the framework and much of the language in this letter. I couldn’t have written it better or agreed with it more.

Author: Matt Renwick

Matt Renwick is a 17-year public educator who began as a 5th and 6th grade teacher. After seven years of teaching, he served as a dean of students, assistant principal and athletic director before becoming an elementary principal in Wisconsin Rapids. Matt is now an elementary principal for the Mineral Point Unified School District (http://mineralpointschools.org/). Matt tweets @ReadByExample and writes for ASCD (www.ascd.org) and Lead Literacy (www.leadliteracy.com).

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