One Wisconsin Institute Report: ‘D is for Dismantle’

Dismantling Public Education to Support the Private School Industry Hurts Schools, Students, Wisconsin's Economy

MADISON, Wis. — A comprehensive analysis entitled “D is for Dismantle,” authored by the non-partisan One Wisconsin Institute shows that despite claims from Gov. Scott Walker, Wisconsin schools are not failing, instead his budget cuts and disastrous education policies endanger our proud tradition of excellent schools. The report from One Wisconsin Institute, the education and research partner of One Wisconsin Now, includes research that contradicts Gov. Walker’s assertions about public schools and students not performing at the highest levels.

“In his campaign to dismantle public education and take away the collective bargaining rights of teachers, Gov. Walker used phony assertions about failing schools and false claims about teacher salaries to justify the largest cuts to education since the Great Depression,” said Scot Ross, One Wisconsin Institute Executive Director. “The budget cuts were unnecessary and unfair. Walker gave over two billion dollars in new tax breaks to corporations and the wealthy, meanwhile budget cuts hit poorer school districts the hardest.”

Walker and his extremely well-financed allies have manufactured an alleged education crisis to justify his efforts to privatize schools in Wisconsin by expanding the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program. This report evaluates the unique challenges Milwaukee schools face and considers the testing data and graduation rates of its public and school choice programs. The report finds that when comparing “apples to apples” Milwaukee’s Public Schools fare better than the choice program.

“Wisconsin education cuts were among the deepest in the nation this year, and our children now face reduced programs, less experienced staff and the loss of many vital programs,” said Scot Ross, One Wisconsin Institute Executive Director. Our research indicates that Gov. Walker’s agenda of slashing funding to public schools and increasing investment in efforts to promote private voucher school programs won’t improve the quality of our children’s education.”

The major findings of the 55-page report include:

  • Wisconsin’s graduation rate is #1 in the United States and Wisconsin is a national leader in ACT scores. Four out of five Wisconsinites give their public school teachers high marks, while Wisconsin teachers earn less than the national average salary.
  • Walker allies have misrepresented testing data to smear Wisconsin teachers and students. In fact, Wisconsin ranked above the national average score in all categories of the National Assessment of Education Progress test in 2009 and 75 percent of Wisconsin students scored in the top two categories in the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination test in 2009.
  • Walker undermined schools by shortchanging them $1.6 billion over two years, which includes the deepest cuts to education in Wisconsin since the Great Depression. The cuts were unnecessary and they resulted in larger class sizes and reductions in teachers and programs. Gov. Walker’s education cuts are two to three times deeper for middle class districts than wealthier districts.

Walker expanded the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program despite the fact that Milwaukee Public Schools outperform the vouchers schools in “apples to apples” standardized tests.

“We always must strive to improve public education, but the data prove that his efforts to cut funding to public schools deny students the support they need to excel,” said Ross. “Gov. Walker’s budget has shifted public funds in Wisconsin away from the middle class, by cutting funding to our public schools and providing larger tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy.”

The Institute’s research suggests the following conclusion about the motives of Gov. Walker and his like-minded allies in the school privatization industry:

“Unsurprisingly, the cuts to public schools and efforts to dismantle teachers unions and expand vouchers were never about improving education,” said Ross. “The research more than suggests that Gov. Walker is systematically undermining our public schools in favor of unproven, unsustainable and unaccountable private school schemes.”

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