Tuesday, March 1, 2011

More Reactions From Gov. Scott Walker's Budget Proposal

Here's the executive summary.

Below are some more of my reactions from Scott Walker's budget proposal.

The budget proposal passes most of the hard choices the government needs to make from the state onto the local governments. By fixing the budget deficit largely through significant reductions in money to local governments, Walker is basically telling the local leaders to deal with the budget deficit instead of taking it on himself.

Walker says he's affected by the pension cuts in the budget, but he's not telling the truth. The WI Constitution says such changes can't take effect until his second term, if he has one. His office even says it believes his pension shouldn't be affected until his next term. So he's flat-face lying.

The budget proposal lifts the cap on the number of charter schools in Wisconsin, reducing the amount of money going to the public schools that employ teachers.

Did you know charter schools hire less educated teachers? We already know our charter schools don't educate our kids better. Charter schools hire less teachers with Master's degrees than their non-charter public counter-parts. While a Master's degree doesn't automatically create a better teacher, the in-depth knowledge acquired is particularly applicable in high school subjects such as math and science.

On top of that, Walker's budget proposal will eliminate the mandate requiring that charter schools hire certified teachers, lowering the education bar for teachers in charter schools even further. If charter schools what to have a whiff of quality, why seek to hire less educated teachers? The proposal would be a joke if it wasn't such an affront to the quality of Wisconsin's education system.

Walker's budget proposal also eliminates Advanced Placement programs that allow high-achieving students to get a head start on their college education instead of twiddling their thumbs in high school. The proposal also eliminates grants for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programs, which are absolutely necessary for our children to compete in the new global economy. We want our children to be the next generation's innovators, not the next generation of McDonald's employees!

It's quite clear that Scott Walker doesn't have the proper knowledge and education to make decisions regarding our children's education!

Our water quality will be reduced to make our state regulations "no more stringent than neighboring states." The proposal also eliminates the requirement for cities and towns to recycle, eliminating state assistance to local governments for recycling.

No mention of why collective bargaining rights must be stripped or how it will save our state money. Mentions exemptions for police and fire fighters "to ensure no gaps in coverage from first responders." However, gaps in our education system and health system are fine with Walker. Think about how much more fruitful our budget discussions would be if this never entered the conversation. We have real problems to solve.

Businesses don't need more tax cuts to create jobs. Watch CNBC for a day and you'll hear how most mid and large businesses are holding on to their increasing profits. Just look at the stock market over the last year. They have money to increase wages and hire workers, but very few choose to do so. Businesses have been given large tax cuts and bailouts since 2008 to try to stimulate the economy. How has that worked out for you?

It's easy to see how tax cuts for the rich add a burden to those less fortunate. The amount people on Medicaid, the poorest in Wisconsin, must pay for their medical services is increased in the budget proposal.

District Attorneys are given funding for increased pay, the only people in the budget to receive such treatment. Do lawyers really need more money? The argument is to "retain experienced" employees. Apparently, Walker doesn't think we need to retain experienced nurses and teachers.

Our education system was supposed to be our vehicle for the future, and we all know it needs to be. What happened to that?

This budget may help fix the deficit, but it will not strengthen Wisconsin. We are taking money away from the engines of our state in order to give money to those who will sit on it. We need to fight for a strong education system and argue why those who benefit from the system and can afford to strengthen it must do so. Not all business leaders and rich people are ignorant, and many realize that such policies build a strong state which increases their ability to make money. Those people will gladly stay in Wisconsin and help to attract other like-minded individuals.

A budget is created around a set of priorities. Does Gov. Scott Walker's budget proposal truly reflect the priorities of Wisconsin?

Updated: (April 24, 11:12pm) Modified paragraph on Wisconsin charter schools, because I was incorrect in saying that Wisconsin charter schools don't hire certified teachers. According to the Wisconsin Department of Instruction, teachers at charter schools must be licensed. However, Walker's budget proposal will eliminate that rule, allowing charter schools to hire uncertified teachers. That's improving our education system.

I've had a difficult time finding recent unbiased research on charter schools, but I did find this 2009 study by the University of Illinois-Chicago. (Forgive me for using a study from Illinois, but it appears as though UW-Madison hasn't done a study since 2004, nor has it done a study looking at these factors.) Some take-aways from the study:
  • Charter high schools enroll 6% to 7% fewer low-income students than neighborhood high schools. 
  • Neighborhood high schools limited-English-proficient student enrollments are more than double those of charter high schools.
  • Charter high schools enroll statistically significantly fewer students with special needs than neighborhood schools.
  • Fully 55% of Chicago Public School teachers hold Master’s degrees compared to 43% of charter teachers.
  • Chicago Public School teachers have, on average, 7.2 years more teaching experience than charter school teachers.
I did find a 2010 study of the Milwaukee charter schools, but the study brings into question it's bias when they specifically highlight "a few studies which are strongly positive" towards the performance of charter schools. Even though the study concludes very little difference between the performance of charter and non-charter schools, the study appears to be a bunch of guesswork, as is with most social science. I can't find any reason to give this study any authority. The previously mentioned study looks at several more factors using solid numbers, though it covers fewer years. It doesn't appear that Wisconsin has done a similar study, and that's unfortunate. We need such a study, because student performance is too difficult to meaningfully quantify in this way.

The CapTimes has an informative interview with a neuroscience entrepreneur-turned-teacher from New Glarus, Jon Joseph. They discuss things such as teacher workload, collective bargaining, and how we might improve our schools. Joseph's statements are rational and clear, and I think he has some very good ideas.

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