May 22, 2014
by Christian D’Andrea
MacIver Institute Education Policy Analyst
A recent release from the Democratic Party of Wisconsin railed against reforms in last year’s budget that increased funding for voucher schools. However, that release failed to paint the whole picture behind per-student tuition in the state’s K-12 classrooms.
It’s true that state per-pupil funding for the Wisconsin’s voucher schools increased in 2013 – from $6,442 per student to $7,210 per student in grades K-8 and $7,856 per student in high school. It’s also true – but not acknowledged by DPW – that the per-pupil funding for the state’s traditional public schools increased in 2014 by $150 per student and stands to do the same in 2015. That’s not even the most misleading part of DPW’s statement, however. It’s this:
In 2012-2013, the most recent year of data available from the Department of Public Instruction, Wisconsin schools, on average, received nearly double the per-pupil aid of their voucher peers. If you compare these numbers to the two districts where the majority of the state’s voucher students reside, you see an even bigger disparity in Milwaukee – but a slightly smaller one in Racine. When you factor in the recent increases in per-pupil voucher amounts, you see that this tuition raise still funds voucher schools at a rate that is around 60 percent of what Wisconsin’s traditional public institutions receive.
While DPW bemoans this increase in voucher funding, they completely ignore how underfunded these schools are compared to the state’s traditional public schools. Voucher schools aren’t the only schools of choice that end up on the wrong side of Wisconsin’s funding formula, either. The state’s independent charter schools will receive just $8,075 per student for the 2014-2015 school year. Their peer institutions in Milwaukee will receive close to $15,000 in aid per pupil in that span.
The additional funding for voucher schools – the first bump for these schools since 2008 – was not an unjustifiable slap in the face for public schools. It was a step towards closing a significant funding gap between the two programs. It was a motion that should help more voucher schools become viable into the future and give parents more, higher-quality educational options.
When put in proper context, you see that this raise wasn’t only justifiable – it was long overdue.