Ever since implementing cuts to public education funding under the guise of “reforms,” Republican Gov. Scott Walker has had a hard time articulating exactly how his cuts to public education funding have been a good thing for Wisconsin’s students.
Earlier this week Gov. Walker tried once again to defend his deep cuts to public education, but in the process he actually admitted the failure of his cuts to public education funding.
But consider the governor’s response to the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators survey of districts across the state. The survey found that the majority of Wisconsin students now attend schools that have experienced significant cuts in teaching staff and education aides and that the deepest cuts were to special education programs. The report was broadly seen as a damning indictment of the governor’s approach. Walker had to say something.
On Monday, the governor’s office put out a press release headlined: “WASDA Survey Results: Myth vs. Reality.” The statement had the governor chirping: “The reforms put in place earlier this year have not only helped schools balance their budgets without massive layoffs or property tax increases, but these innovative changes have also helped improve education, which is good for students all across Wisconsin.”
Yet the statistics the governor chose to focus on — in an apparent effort to “back up” his claim — revealed:
One in four school districts (25 percent) that responded to the survey had been forced to increase class sizes for kindergartners and children in first, second and third grade.
One in three districts (33 percent) had been forced to increase the class sizes for children in fourth through sixth grade.
These numbers add up to less teacher time per student in the critical early grades for tens of thousands of Wisconsin children.
Perhaps the most damning criticism of Gov. Walker’s cuts to public education funding comes from the very press release issued by his office that acknowledges how Gov. Walker’s cuts to public education funding have negatively impacted special education students, who represent some of Wisconsin’s most vulnerable students. According to Gov. Walker’s press release, 26 percent of school districts have cut special education staff, resulting in larger class sizes for those students who most need help from teachers and paraprofessional staff.
It’s clear Gov. Walker’s cuts to public education funding aren’t “reforms,” but they are a slap in the face to anyone who values public education.