“Will the Legislature allow statewide expansion of charter schools and how will that affect my local public school?”

This question is one I hear so often particularly in communities where people are worried about the future of their small local schools.

Last fall, the Senate Education Committee debated Senate Bill 76, which takes away local control by requiring locally elected school boards to replicate charter schools when the charter performs 10% better then local district for 2 years in a row. It also allows certain charter schools to opt out of the state’s teacher evaluation system.

Private charter school companies lobbied hard for complete independence from state oversight but SB 76 did not go that far. School officials and citizens expressed serious concern about how expanding charter schools would impact public schools.

Money to run independent charter schools comes from school aid set aside for all public schools. The more money going to independent charter schools means less money for all public schools. For small cash-strapped districts, the expansion of independent charter could be devastating.

Sixty percent of Wisconsin’s public school districts are rural. As the amount of state school aid shrinks, small schools are particularly hard hit. Many rural districts are forced to pass referendum just to survive. Local property tax payers pick up more and more of the cost of their local schools.

Siphoning off even more state dollars for private independent charter schools will mean less educational opportunities for our children attending our local schools.

The public outcry against statewide expansion of charter schools made a difference.

Last month when the Senate Education committee took final action on SB 76 it was a scaled back version of the original bill. The amendment passed by the committee made the bill provisions apply only to the Milwaukee area.

But the committee did nothing to address the funding problem so public schools will still take a financial hit as independent charter schools expand.

Just as local schools celebrated this small victory, another charter school expansion bill reared its head in the State Assembly.

The bill was introduced in December by a group of suburban Milwaukee Assembly Republicans who are focused on passing a statewide charter school expansion bill before the Legislative Session ends. The bill contains many provisions of the Next Generation Charter Schools Act created and promoted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). The bill is already scheduled for a quick public hearing.

Assembly Bill 549 expands who can authorize an independent charter school and stops local school districts from operating a charter school. Instead school boards must convert any charter school to a magnet school. This bill brings the law closer to the lobbying goals of the private charter management companies: eliminate any local control over charter schools.

Couple this with a requirement that any student from any district could go to any independent charter school and you end up with a world much closer to the goals of the private charter management companies: a privately operated school system that can siphon both money and students from any local public school.

When local schools are not well-funded and the best students are siphoned off, their future is in peril.

The next step in this privatization scheme is closing public schools. This happens because private charter schools drain not only taxpayer dollars but also the best students from local schools – leaving high cost disabled, impoverished and non-English speaking students in poorly funded public schools. With fewer resources and students, many public schools in other states have been forced to close.

Expanding independent privately run charter schools is unnecessary and unwise. Not considering how to pay for the statewide expansion of privately run charter schools is like talking about the color of a new car but not how to pay the car payments. In the end children in our communities are robbed of their greatest educational opportunities.

In the words of Garrison Keillor, “When you wage war on the public schools, you’re attacking the mortar that holds the community together. You’re not a conservative, you’re a vandal.”

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7 Responses to Kathleen Vinehout: Independent Charter Schools: Siphoning off Public Money to Private Interests

  1. nonquixote says:

    If my calculations are correct today marks day 30 for Kathleen, post surgery on her arm. Might be a good idea to drop a note to her campaign volunteers reiterating your support for her to be entering the gubernatorial primary.

    Another instance of IIRC, Mike Tate stated in the comments here not too long ago, that there were 35K paid members of the DPW. (can’t search the comment section so someone correct me if that is wrong) 35K out of 1.6M potential left leaning voters, shouldn’t be dictating the terms of any election cycle just because of the name over a mere shell of an organization. Even if it is 350K, that’s only a fifth of that potential number I mentioned.

    Get Well Kathleen.

  2. “… 35K out of 1.6M potential left leaning voters, shouldn’t be dictating the terms of any election cycle just because of the name over a mere shell of an organization.”

    Yeah, that would be nice…but here is one version of a common quote that explains why that is: “the future belongs to those who show up!”

    • nonquixote says:

      No disagreement there, Ed. The Republican assault on public schools should be a voter motivator with the message presented here.

  3. Duane12 says:

    As I have noted here previously, http://bloggingblue.com/2013/11/get-the-facts-on-voucher-school-expansion/ the Wisconsin taxpayer cannot fund two school systems,one public and one private. Some early evidence of this fact is that my year end property taxes for my local school district, a small one, increased 21,6% for 2013.

    And as I stated in the La Crosse Tribune last year, “Wisconsin Public Schools are in danger.”
    http://lacrossetribune.com/jacksoncochronicle/news/opinion/letter-wisconsin-public-schools-are-in-danger/article_01f0fe68-e343-11e2-af63-0019bb2963f4.html

    We are sunk! It’s going to happen with Captain Walker at the wheel of the good ship, Wisconsin, as surely as it did to Captain Smith of the Titanic. We must stop Captain Walker blinded at his ideological course and ignoring the forecast.

    The sad part is that the victims will not be us, but our children and grandchildren who are the future of Wisconsin.

    Don’t “abandon ship.” Instead, change course with Captain Vinehout at the helm for smooth sailing!

  4. AJ says:

    I think Kathleen Vinehout’s assertion on Charter Schools is true, but my position on Charter Schools is similar to what I believe about vouchers in that they are here to stay. What we need to do is hold all this money to the same standards as money going to regular public schools and have the same local school district level control over all charter school money.

    • Duane12 says:

      AJ, we have always had a form of “charter” schools more commonly known as private schools.

      Catholic and other religious schools have been around for 50 years or more. My cousins attended a Catholic elementary school. There are also such as Montessori and Waldorf here long before Walker. My granddaughter attends a Waldorf school.

      I applaud the effort of such “private” schools; they will continue as long as there is a demand, but I oppose all PUBLIC funding for private or charter schools, especially “for profit.”

      A mix of public and private schools funded by the taxpayer is financially unsustainable and will result in a diminution of the educational performance and effectiveness we have enjoyed in the past of Wisconsin’s public school system.

      • AJ says:

        Duane12, my main problem with Charter Schools and School Vouchers it that almost total control comes from the state and not the local school districts. Why do we mandate a raise a marginal raise to regular public school teacher salaries go before the voters but not that of Charter School or School Voucher accepting schools?

        If these schools can show they are willing to provide great education, by having the same standards, accepting the same students, at the same price as public schools, with the same local control of regular public schools then I can live with it. We are going to have to invest more money in education if we want our regular public schools to be 2nd to none.

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