Senator Lehman is Wrong that Voucher Schools are Underperforming!

Rebuttal to Racine Journal Times article on Wednesday, April 24. Benefits of School Choice...

Next year our son will be attending Shoreland Lutheran High School using School Choice. I read the article in the Racine Journal Times on April 24th about Senator Lehman “pouncing on school testing scores.” He says that the voucher programs are underperforming. I went to the Department of Public Instruction's website to look at the information Senator Lehman was referring to and the chart had double asterisks that indicated that both of the years tested very small numbers of students making changes and comparison of results unreliable.   

Then I decided to do more research...   

On April 18, 2013, Greg Forster, Ph.D. posted a compilation of the Empirical Studies on School Choice. The study showed that School Choice had a positive effect on the academic outcomes of choice participants AND public schools. It
has had a positive effect on fiscal impact on taxpayers, racial segregation in schools, and civic values and practices. According to Forster, 'These results are not difficult to explain. School choice improves academic outcomes by allowing students to find the schools that best match their needs, and by introducing healthy competition that keeps schools mission-focused. It saves money by      eliminating administrative bloat and rewarding good stewardship of resources. It breaks down the barriers of residential segregation, drawing students together from diverse communities.'   

I also just recently read an article in THE CHOICE, Private Schools Report to the Community 2013. They reported that children in the Choice program are coming to school more than 94% of the time and that the average School Choice high      school grade point average is 2.74, a B-!  The Shoreland student who was interviewed in this report used to have a 1.0 grade point average at Park HS and now has a 2.2 at Shoreland! Because the Choice Program is so new, test scores are showing a baseline from which the students will grow. These students who would normally be “trapped” in failing schools have opportunities to thrive in      accredited schools with great reputations and total accountability. Did you know that every last dollar is accounted for and audits are done by independent CPAs. From what I've seen money has not helped our local public schools' performance. I'm glad to be able to send my child to a successful, accredited school. I think this program can only benefit Wisconsin. The goal is to give children an excellent education and a springboard for success in life. Let parents choose where they want that to take place. This is what our public school system needs to become more competitive and use our tax dollars more wisely.  

    Julie Uher


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CowDung May 02, 2013 at 06:03 PM
Can you post a link that verifies that claim, Scott?
CowDung May 02, 2013 at 06:07 PM
The 'public' in 'public education' just means that it is paid for by public funds, not that one cannot get their public education in a private school.
annhope May 02, 2013 at 06:08 PM
Please explain how the taxes went up due to vouchers or is that just a convenient excuse? The schools are educating less students and still keep half of the money.
Ed Holladay May 02, 2013 at 07:06 PM
Taxes often end up going up with the vouchers, because eventually (if not immediately) you end up giving vouchers to kids that may have been educated in the private school anyway (without a voucher). So in Waukesha a student goes to a private on the parents' dime, but that same student may end up on a voucher here in Racine. The other reason though, which I think played a larger role in this last increase or two, was the reduction in state aid.
CowDung May 02, 2013 at 07:33 PM
Not really, Ed. There are income limits that dictate who is eligible for vouchers. If they make enough money to be sending kids to private school, they likely make too much money to be eligible for a voucher.
CowDung May 02, 2013 at 08:12 PM
Not if they entered the choice program as a 4th grader...
Ed Holladay May 02, 2013 at 08:27 PM
Cow - That is a valid point, and I am sure it mitigates the number. However, there are many families who sacrifice financially to send their kids to private school. That is the part of the voucher program I respect: that they may help a poor family out. So, while helping those families out, we do add a bit to the tax burden. This is not the case in most other parts of the state, which do not offer vouchers.
Ed Holladay May 02, 2013 at 08:29 PM
Point granted Cow. However, I would think there would be quite a few (probably a majority) that have been in the program for a few years already.
CowDung May 02, 2013 at 08:36 PM
If I understand the budget correctly, the voucher program is funded by the state, not the locality. The program should have very little (if any) effect on one's local taxes.
The Anti-Alinsky May 02, 2013 at 08:36 PM
@Scott Schroder, you started off claiming Julies comments were false, the claimed you were going to "post some REAL facts for you all." Lets look at those facts: 1) broken link 2) someone from the School Administrators Alliance that just randomly added some number together and claimed it showed the voucher program could not be expanded 3) the Daily Kos (yea, they're unbiased) 4) the ACLU (every bit of integrity as the Daily Kos) 5) Burlington area Progressives (no agenda from them) 6) WEA (Enough said for this one) 7) another broken link that when finally fixed only focuses on special needs students AND of suspicious origin. Every one of your link are to biased sources with a vested interest in stopping voucher expansion. Here is the real issue, our students need to be educated NOW. We can't wait 20 years (and I am being kind) for RUSD to get it's act together. If a public school system can't educate them, a good voucher system will. You want to look at facts, go the DPI reportcard website and look at how Racine schools are performing. ( http://reportcards.dpi.wi.gov/rc_racineunified) Just focusing on the high schools: Case: 45.1-fails to meet expectations Horlick: 47.5-fails to meet expectations Park: 42.8-fails to meet expectations Walden III-71.3-meets expectations (1 out of 4 are OK) THOSE are facts Scott. RUSD is failing to educate their kids. That's why you need a voucher program!!!
CowDung May 02, 2013 at 08:38 PM
How many does it take to skew the data? If a school has only a few voucher students to begin with, one new kid can weigh pretty heavily into the data set.
Ed Holladay May 02, 2013 at 09:47 PM
It is funded by both, just like the other schools. That is how it was explained to me.... I think the district also has to provide certain services for them.
Brian Dey May 02, 2013 at 09:55 PM
The numbers ARE accurate. Right from the DPI. We don't complain about higher taxes, we complain about wasted tax dollars. So let's just follow your theory, which is very prejudicial and discriminating, and only rich kids can go to private schools. So only those with means get a good education and poverty perpetuates itself because the monopoly called RUSD throws up their hands and says we can't teach them because they are poor. How so, when the voucher schools are graduating children at a much higher rate than RUSD? And come on man...if you are increasing per pupil spending, and have to educate less children (to the tune of 2,000 next year leaving the district), you should have more money (which you do) to educate those who choose RUSD. Really Scott, you need to think about the crap that is being fed to you by WEAC. It just doesn't make sense, and that my friend, are the facts.
Brian Dey May 02, 2013 at 09:59 PM
The taxes went up because RUSD increased the levy. Not because of vouchers. And really, there was no need to increase it. They have $34 million in a reserve fund, and they gave back $1,000 in HSA, even though the union negotiated the healthcare cuts. Without the give back, RUSD would have had additional $19 million in reserve. So the taxpayer got suckered again and we have a worse product than the year before. You really need to do your homework, Scott.
Brian Dey May 02, 2013 at 10:10 PM
And please Cow and Ed, remember if you have less students, you need less resources. i.e. less teachers, less schools, less administration, less desks, etc... If you translate last years numbers of roughly 1,500 that opted out of the district to other districts or vouchers, you would require 43 less teachers assuming class sizes of 35 per class. That translates into $3.4 million less in salaries and benefits based on the DPI reported average compensation for RUSD teachers of $78,000 per year. That means less aides, less groundskeepers, and so on and so. But here's the trick. You have to have a school board that is going to monitor what is needed and what is not needed and you also need a CFO who is going to be held accountable if staff reductions are not made based on student population loss. It only stands to reason that if you have more students, you hire teachers. If you have less, you don't staff the same.
Steve ® May 02, 2013 at 10:11 PM
Ooohh look I feel like I'm in 1998 with those .gifs
Steve ® May 02, 2013 at 10:14 PM
Perfect example of copyright infringement. But WEAC likes to steel stuff.
Ed Holladay May 02, 2013 at 10:47 PM
So there are too many teachers in RUSD? A previous article in the Patch put us at about the state average despite more special education students. My kids have awfully large classrooms.
Ed Holladay May 02, 2013 at 10:54 PM
Also: the 1000 HSA.... I thought that was established by some "Board of Adjustment": a union and district conglomeration established after the contract. It was designed to look for ways to mitigate the large deductibles, After much larger than expected savings they agreed to these HSAs. I guess it really sticks on your craw that the teachers can mitigate these deductibles via this thing. You would not have approved it I suppose.
Ed Holladay May 02, 2013 at 11:31 PM
Brian - what do you mean with the 1500 less students? The article I sited up above reflects an overall decline of 880 students (although special ed students remained about flat.) Are you suggesting that we lost 1500 students from last year?
GearHead May 03, 2013 at 02:05 AM
Scott, are you a math teacher? Please tell me how removing a child from RUSD (via vouchers) INCREASES class sizes? It's subtraction, isn't it?
Brian Dey May 03, 2013 at 11:19 AM
Ed- According to DPI numbers, RUSD lost a little over a 1,000 students who opted out of the district to attend surrounding public school districts. RUSD aslo lost approimately 500 to vouchers. They had about 20 students transfer into the district. As far as teachers, in 1991 the enrollment in RUSD was 31,000 and the district had 1,600 teachers. The 2012 K-12 enrollment was 18,500 and there were 1,600 teachers. In 1991, that equated to 1 teacher per 19.4 students. If you add in the k4 students, the total enrollment was 20,500. In 2012, that equates to 12.8 students per teacher. Take out 50 teachers and that leaves you with a 13.2 student to teacher ratio, which coincidentally is the state average. Those 50 extra teachers costs us $3.9 million. That would be okay if those extra teachers were translated into higher graduation rates, lowere truancy and dropout rates and higher test scores. But they have translated into poorer performance in the majority of categories.
Brian Dey May 03, 2013 at 11:26 AM
ED- The union healthcare cuts were presented and negotiated by the unions. It was there choice to take the high deductibles. They were presented with other options with less out-of-pocket costs. Had the district not levied an additional 3%, I wouldn't have had concerns. The HSA's cost the district $2.5 million, coupled with the $3.9 million that they pay out in additional staff, that equates to $6.4 million. That $6.4 million equates to the additional levy. That levy was not needed. And then for the administration and certain board members saying they needed the funding because of lost revenue to vouchers, just simply is bologna. That is why it sticks in my craw. If the unions specifically chose the high deductible plan, which again, it was their choice, there was no need to open up an already signed contract and dole out taxpayer dollars for something that was already negotiated in good faith.
Ed Holladay May 03, 2013 at 01:37 PM
Your're right about those FTE ratios. However, due to a number of factors (special education chief among them, those ratios do not equal smaller class sizes. My kids are in elementary classrooms with 25-28 kids in there. We could compare apples to apples by eliminating all special ed teachers and students from the equation, and then recalculating. That might prove your point, or maybe not. I would be curious to see. How many kids should we have in these classes? I think they are plenty packed enough. Sure, they negotiated the deductible... and they negotiated a "board of adjustment." Based on much larger than projected savings, the "board of adjustment" agreed to give the teachers a little back. Should they ignore what they had negotiated? Weill, soon enough they can do what they please when the contract expires... The one set of numbers that you are putting out that seem strangest to me are regarding the decline in enrollment. You are talking about 1500 less kids, but compared with what? They did not lose 1500 between this year and last year. Kids have been opting out for many years. I can't claim to know what went on in 1991. Were the classes much larger then (35 students in a 3rd grade)? Was there very little special education mandates and such? If you know, please share.
Ed Holladay May 03, 2013 at 01:42 PM
Good point Cow. Numbers can easily be skewed. lol. You are more right than you know. Seriously, that is an excellent point that can be applied to a whole slew of data we are presented: in education and elsewhere. smh. If every American thought as critically as that, we would be in much better shape. I appreciate your scientific attitude.
morninmist May 04, 2013 at 03:59 AM
Thanks Scott. very informative. Hey Brian. Would you care to discuss the video or just smear it. Typical!!
Steve ® May 04, 2013 at 05:00 AM
Lol informative.
Steve ® May 04, 2013 at 05:01 AM
Steve ® May 04, 2013 at 05:02 AM
Scott runs away wonder why http://images.iverifytherecall.com/images/sw/sw116395.png
MikeMarx May 06, 2013 at 06:09 AM
"a disproportionate number of our students are doomed to fail" I don't think I have ever heard a teacher say that their students are doomed to fail in my life. If you are already expecting your students to fail, they will. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Seriously? Isn't your job to teach these kids and help them along the way? There may be more difficulties but condemning them before you even meet them, that is wrong. There may be more than budgetary cuts in the reason that you lost your position. I would NEVER want my children to be taught by someone who thinks that, due to poverty levels in my area, students are DOOMED to fail. That is a seriously wrong way to look at your students. You need to reevaluate whether you are a good fit for the position you wish to hold.


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