The achievement gap between black students and white students in Wisconsin is the largest in any state, according to a new national report card published this week. This news is especially alarming given that Wisconsin’s cuts to education are among the deepest in the country, leaving Wisconsin schools with limited resources to address the opportunity gap facing students.
The Nation’s Report Card, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, assesses the reading and math skills of 4th graders and 8th graders, and rates students’ performance on a scale. Students scoring above a certain level are deemed to be proficient at math or reading. Results for 2013 were released this week, and can be seen at this site.
Unfortunately, the report card shows that black students in Wisconsin are achieving at very low levels. Across the board, black students in Wisconsin scored worse than black students in almost any other state. Read more
Governor Walker proposed a $100 million property tax cut at a hastily-called press conference today. The tax relief would be delivered through the school aid formula – by adding $40 million this year and $60 million next year. Because the school spending caps aren’t being raised, schools will have to reduce property taxes to offset the increased state aid. The Governor is calling a special session for next week to expedite legislative action on the plan.
According to a story on Channel 3000.com, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said the bill will be introduced tomorrow, and he would like the legislature to pass it by the end of next week. The Governor is pushing for fast action on the proposal so the tax cut would be in effect when property tax bills are being calculated later this year.
Walker said that the funding for the property tax cut would come from the state budget surplus. Read more
A Significant Economic Hit to the National Economy and a Gradually Expanding Erosion of Key Programs
Economists expect the federal government shutdown to have significant adverse consequences for the national economy. This LA Times article reports that some project that even just a two-week partial shutdown will cause a reduction of 0.3 to 0.4 of a percentage point from national economic growth in the fourth quarter. That’s particularly a problem when the economic recovery is already so sluggish that job growth has been barely keeping ahead of population growth.
I worry about those economic consequences, but I am also very concerned about the effects of the shutdown on children and families in our state – especially for low-income and vulnerable families. Fortunately, most federally funded programs for those families will continue at least through October, but the consequences could be very serious for vulnerable families if the shutdown lasts well into the fall. Read more
Low-income students have a much greater chance of attending a failing school than do other students, according to new school performance information released this week by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. This news comes on the heels of an announcement that Wisconsin is among the states that have made the deepest cuts in state support for K-12 education since the recession.
Statewide, 1 in 11 students from low-income families attend schools that do not meet the Department of Public Instruction’s expectations. In comparison, just 1 in 102 students who are not from low-income families attend failing schools.
The student bodies of the highest-performing schools and the lowest-performing schools look drastically different, according to the information released by DPI. In the lowest-performing schools, 84% of students are economically disadvantaged, compared to only 16% of the students in the highest-performing schools, as show in the chart below. Students in the lowest-performing schools are far more likely to have disabilities or difficulty speaking English, compared to students in the highest-performing schools. Read more
Wisconsin’s cuts to education since the start of the recession are the 7th largest in the country, according to a new report. These cuts deepened the recession, slowed the recovery, and have the potential to make Wisconsin less prosperous in the future.
Wisconsin has cut state investment in K-12 schools by 15.3% since 2008, a deeper cut than 43 other states, according to a report released by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a non-partisan policy research organization. Percentage cuts in each state, which are calculated after adjusting for inflation, are shown in the chart below.
When cuts in state aid for education are measured in dollar amounts rather than percentage terms, Wisconsin’s cuts to education since the recession rank second in the nation, trailing only Alabama’s cuts. In 2014, Wisconsin will spend $1,038 less per student in state aid for K-12 education than it did in 2008, after adjusting for inflation. Read more
The number of teachers in Wisconsin public schools has fallen dramatically over the last several years, according to a new publication from the Wisconsin Budget Project. Even before the budget cuts and collective bargaining changes of 2011, Wisconsin was losing teachers at a rate faster than most other states
Wisconsin lost 2,900 teacher full-time equivalents (FTEs) between the 2004-05 school year and the 2010-11 school year, as shown in the chart below, or nearly 1 out of every 20 teachers working in public schools. The most recent school year for which the National Center on Education Statistics has information is 2010-11.
This analysis relies on national figures so as to be able to make comparisons among states. State-level figures show that the number of teachers in Wisconsin has dropped slightly since 2011.
Only seven other states lost a bigger share of their teacher workforce over this period, according to the Wisconsin Budget Project’s new report. Read more
States can raise wages and build a strong foundation for economic success by making investments in education, particularly higher education, according to a new report from the Economic Policy Institute.
The report, “A Well-Educated Workforce is Key to State Prosperity,” makes the following points:
- High-wage states have a well-educated workforce;
- Expanding access to high-quality education strengthens economic opportunity for residents and boosts the state’s overall economy;
- Trying to outdo other states in cutting taxes makes it harder for states to invest in education; and
- Investing in education is good for state budgets in the long-run, since highly-paid workers contribute more in taxes.
The conclusions of this report might seem like common sense to many people in Wisconsin. After all, education has long been an engine of our state’s economic growth. We have depended on a well‑educated workforce, shaped by excellent public schools, to lay the foundation for our prosperity. Read more
Most children applying to the state’s expanded school voucher program already attend private schools without the help of taxpayer dollars, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The state is spending $10.5 million over the next two years to expand school vouchers statewide.
The 2013-15 state budget expanded the school voucher program, which had previously been limited to Milwaukee and Racine, to school districts across the state. Just over 2,000 students applied to receive vouchers at schools participating in the new program. Sixty-seven percent of the students applying already attend private schools.
Because participation in the voucher expansion outside of Milwaukee and Racine is capped at 500 students for the 2013-14 school year and 1,000 students in 2014-15, a lottery will be used to determine which students will receive vouchers. Students in public school will not receive priority over students already in private schools. Only students from families with incomes of less than 185% of the federal poverty limit are eligible to participate in the statewide voucher expansion. Read more
In a long Q & A format interview in the Capital Times, I described a number of the faults of the 2013-15 budget bill. One of the defects I mentioned in that interview is that the bill employs a “Robin Hood in reverse” strategy for allocating resources. Because the article doesn’t provide much explanation of the reasoning behind that charge, I feel obligated to elaborate.
Actually, I think there is a very broad range of reasons for concluding that the recently enacted budget shifts resources from the poor to the rich. A new Wisconsin Budget Project paper explains ten of those reasons, which are summarized more succinctly below:
1) Diverting federal block grant funds for low-income families – The bill siphons off funding from the federal block grant known as Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) and indirectly uses those funds to build up the state’s surplus, which helped lawmakers enact larger income tax cuts that primarily benefit the wealthy. Read more
Interest rates for many subsidized student loans doubled on July 1, potentially raising education costs for thousands of students in Wisconsin.
The interest rate for subsidized Stafford loans increased from 3.4% to 6.8% last week. The federal government makes about $28 billion in subsidized Stafford loans a year, accounting for one out of every four dollars of loans provided by the federal government. The change in interest rates will affect new student loans, not the loans already in existence.
The 3.4% rate was originally set to expire in 2013, then pushed back to 2012 as part of a compromise with Republicans, and then changed again to 2013. This excellent explanation at the Washington Post has more details about the history of subsidized Stafford loan rates as well as the different plans advanced by various policymakers to address the increase in loan rates.
Higher interest rates on subsidized student loans would make higher education more expensive for students from low- and moderate-income families, and could increase the overall debt level for students. Read more