Monday, February 16, 2015

Time to call the Voucher/Charter Movement What It Is

Let's start with some data.  Here are the total private and public school enrollments for the State of Wisconsin 2008-2014, and then again 2000-2004.

*I could've mistyped or incorrectly added any number- doesn't change the obvious

Year   Private Enrollment   Public Enrollment   Total Enrollment   Private %   Public %

2014        119,801                       874,414                  994,215                12             88
2013        122,949                       872,436                  995,385                12.4          87.6
2012        124,668                       871,105                  995,770                12.5          87.5
2011        125,372                       872,286                  997,658                12.6          87.4
2010        126,812                       872,436                  999,248                12.7          87.3
2009        130,800                       873,586               1,004,386                13             87
2008        133,606                       874,633               1,008,239                13.3          86.7

2004        137,852                       880,031               1,017,883                13.5          86.5
2003        142,619                       881,231               1,023,850                13.9          86.1
2002        146,145                       879,361               1,025,506                14.2          85.8
2001        148,336                       879,476               1,027,812                14.4          85.6

Three obvious facts:

1.  We are a declining enrollment state.

2.  The overall percentage of students attending public and private schools has remained remarkably steady

3.  The overall percentage of students attending private schools is down slightly

Here is my story built on those facts.

The last decade or so has seen unprecedented attacks on public schools.  The drumbeat of negativity is relentless.  Public schools are failing.  We are a nation at risk.  Public schools are horrible.  Achievement is down.  Have you heard that the Common Core is teaching students to masturbate?  What we need is a voucher in every backpack.  School Choice is the answer.  On and on and on it goes.

All politics is local.

I believe that the public is buying into this national, and statewide narrative, even as they continue to believe that THEIR local school is basically fine.  If there was ever going to be a decade when people abandoned their crummy local school in favor of a superior private experience- it would've been the last one.  And yet, the percentage of people attending public schools has remained relatively constant.  

In the meantime, those who would seek to destroy public education have slowly accumulated political power- and they aim to use that power.

The public has bought the overall narrative, and they don't see the negative consequences at the local level, so they are silent to supportive of many education reform efforts.

Well, the time has come to say ENOUGH.  Public schools serve most students in most communities, often the most vulnerable.  Public schools are not failing- that argument is built on manufactured data. 

Do you know why people around here support Friess Lake School?  Because we're good!  You know what else we are?  Very much like most other public schools. 

Governor Walker's budget is bad for public education.  It is bad for the almost 90% of students served by public schools.  It is bad for the State of Wisconsin.

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