Today, I wrote this post on our school’s blog. It will also serve as the front page for our school newsletter next week. We need to advocate for what’s right for our students, families and staff. To not advocate is to concede our authority as the experts in our profession.
Before sharing details regarding the state’s proposal to reduce school funding, consider the following:
• Wisconsin has the highest high school graduation rate of any state in the U.S. (Source: National Center of Education Statistics)
• There is a correlation between increased funding for public education and higher achievement for students, especially for students living in poverty. (Source: Education Policy Analysis Archives)
• The longer a student stays in school correlates not only with a longer life span for that student, but also for that student’s parent(s). (Source: Washington Post)
Knowing this information, why would any state leader propose to reduce funding of a successful institution that not only improves students’ learning outcomes, but their family’s own health and happiness? This is a question that needs to be answered by our local legislators. To be able to ask this question, we need to understand how funding for public education is being cut and why.
Cuts to public education are happening in a couple of ways. First, this year’s proposed state budget calls for a $150 decrease in per pupil funding. That means that for every student in Wisconsin Rapids, the district would receive $150 less than we normally have in the past. Second, there is a request to expand the school choice and voucher program throughout the state. Specifically, some government officials are asking that the cap on the number of vouchers be lifted. This would allow even more families to enroll their child(ren) into private schools using public dollars.
While some suggest that public schools have enough money and that the competition created by school choice/vouchers helps improve education for all, the evidence shows otherwise. In fact, research from Public Policy Forum has shown that in Milwaukee, public school students outperform private school students. This is a startling fact, especially since public schools have to enroll all students regardless of poverty, behavior, or ability level. Private schools have and use discretion on who they enroll in school.
What you can do
This is not an issue with private schools per se, but with how the system is being (mis)used to defund public education. As parents, the best thing we can do is to contact our representatives and ask them why these harmful proposals are being considered. Thank you for advocating on behalf of our kids!