Below is a response to an email the Green Bay School Board sent to district residents urging them to oppose school vouchers. Jim Bender, President of School Choice Wisconsin has provided this response for my blog:
In light of the April 8th hearing at Lambeau field for the Joint Committee on Finance, there are
few things to keep in mind. The first is that opponents of expanding the voucher program have
no boundaries. Their misinformation campaign is organized and strategically implemented to
confuse as many people as possible. In the end, it is about control. The status quo never goes
quietly. This more true in education than anything else in our society. How unfortunate for our
Giving low-income Green Bay families more choices in education will not have devastating
effects. The majority of families will continue to send their children to Green Bay Public
Schools. However, for many families in Green Bay the Green Bay Public School system is not
an excellent school system. According to the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) only 64.3
percent of low-income students, 63.9 percent of Hispanic students, and 51.7 percent of African
American students graduate from a Green Bay Public High School in 4 years. Green Bay Public
Schools are clearly not meeting the needs of these families and the parental choice program will
give those Green Bay families the opportunity to choose a different option. This will have a
positive effect on Green Bay families and the community because it will give these students an
opportunity that their traditional public school did not give them—the opportunity to graduate
As to funding, Green Bay Public School students receive significantly more per-pupil in state
and local aid than students in the parental choice program, even with an increase in the voucher.
The per-pupil revenue limit for Green Bay Public School students is $9.215.64 per pupil. Green
Bay Public Schools also receive a significant amount of funding through categorical aids and
federal funding. Students in the parental choice program receive a voucher made up of state and
local aid worth no more than $6,442 per pupil. In total public schools in Wisconsin would
receive about 11.85 billion in taxpayer dollars over the next two years, while the parental
choice program would receive about 381 million in taxpayer dollars over the next two
Schools in the parental choice program are not eligible for other types of aid such as categorical
aids. While public schools in Wisconsin have received significant funding increases over the past
10 years through 2010-11, the per-pupil voucher amount has remained flat and was decreased in
2009-10 to $6,442 per pupil from $6,607 per pupil in the previous year. The proposal in the
budget will not increase the voucher amount next year. The proposal would increase the perpupil
voucher to $7,050 for students in grades K4-8, and $7,856 for students in grades 9-12 in
2014-15, which is still significantly less than public school per pupil funding.
In particular to students in remain in the Green Bay public schools, dollars allocated for the
voucher do not decrease per-pupil funding for public school students. State aid allocated for the
voucher is from a completely separate pot of money than state aid for students in Green Bay
Public Schools just like dollars allocated for medical assistance or other programs. In other
words, Green Bay Public Schools would receive the same funding per-pupil if the parental
choice expanded to Green Bay or not.
Opponents in Green Bay have used some crazy estimates as the effect of the program in Green
Bay. The first problem is their math. They use a $1.2 million property tax figure that comes
from multiplying the maximum voucher payment, $6,442 by 200. In fact, only 38.4% of the
choice payment, or $2,474 per-pupil, would come from Green Bay taxpayers. $2,474 times 200
is $494,800, not $1.2 million.
The second problem is that public schools in Wisconsin are funded on something called a threeyear
rolling average. What this means is that instead of being funded on a district’s current
headcount, the district is funded based on a membership count, which is the average enrollment
of the current year and the previous two years. What does this all mean? This means that if 200
students choose to use a voucher to attend a private school in the first year, Green Bay Public
schools will receive 100 percent funding for those students in the first year, and will not lose a
single penny. Green Bay Public Schools will continue to receive partial funding for those
students in the following two years, even if they are not educating those students. Additionally,
as stated above, the parental choice program will not decrease the per-pupil funding for students
in Green Bay Public schools by a single penny. This amount is determined by the revenue limit.
Green Bay Public Schools will continue to levy property taxes for students in Green Bay as they
currently do with the only difference being what type of school—public, charter, or private
school in the parental choice program—the student chooses to attend.
Property taxpayers in Milwaukee have to pay for a portion of the education funding for
Milwaukee students regardless of whether they attend a public, charter, or private school in the
Milwaukee Parental Choice Program. If the MPCP ended, Milwaukee property taxes would
continue to be used to educate those children in a public or charter school. In fact, over time,
Milwaukee taxpayers would see a much larger tax bill because on average Milwaukee taxpayers
pay less per pupil for a student to attend a private school through the Milwaukee Parental Choice
Program than a public school in MPS.
This would also be the case in Green Bay. The accounting of the local taxpayer cost should
consider the local taxpayer cost if the student would otherwise be in the Green Bay Area School
District. This year the district’s general fund property tax levy per-pupil is $3,073, $599 dollars
higher than the local per-pupil cost for a student in a choice program.
With regards to the supposed “faulty” report card, the Department of Public Instruction was
required by the US Department of Education to create this report card and the report card was
approved by the US Department of Education. Additionally, DPI worked for over a year on the
report card and got input from an accountability task force made up of education experts from
different sectors in Wisconsin.
The report card uses a combination of test scores, achievement growth, high school graduation
rates, achievement gaps, ACT participation and performance, test participation, absentee rate,
and dropout rate to determine a score for the report card. It does not rely on a single factor and
uses more than one year of data.
However, based on the history of data reported by DPI, Green Bay Public Schools have a history
of failing to educate and meet the needs of its minority and low-income students. For example,
for the two years that 4-year graduation data is available only 63.2 and 64.3 percent of lowincome
students graduated high school. Only 41 percent and 51.7 percent of African Americans
graduated high school. Only 57.4 percent and 63.9 percent of Hispanics graduated high school.
Only 47.1 and 47.5 percent of American Indian/Alaskan Natives graduated high school. Green
Bay Public Schools has a truancy rate of 17.7 percent, 49.3 percent were African Americans. In
Green Bay Public Schools African Americans have had a truancy rate of greater than 40 percent
since 2004-05 according to data from DPI. Fewer than 18 percent of African Americans have
taken the ACT since 2004-05 according to DPI. These are only a few of the dozens of statistics
that are publicly available from DPI for the past several years.
Know the facts. Understand the goal of those opposing these changes. Be heard.
April 8th is your time to speak to those who will decide the future of education in Green Bay.
School Choice Wisconsin