Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Doyle Comes Through on Fixing Funding Flaw

It's good to see Governor Doyle offer up a significant solution to the school voucher funding flaw. A couple of weeks ago, the governor was clear that a solution would be included in his budget, but he was unclear about the significance of the solution.

Doyle's plan is still a bit vague, but he did note that the state would cover the entire cost of the voucher expansion agreed upon last January. This means the roughly 15,000 students who were in the program before the expansion still will be part of the funding flaw and, subsequently, continue to cost Milwaukee residents about $15 million per year more than what 15,000 of their MPS counterparts cost to educate.

And it's a tad disingenuous for Mayor Barrett to take a swipe at Doyle's plan, as he did in the JS article this morning, by saying he'd prefer the state cover all voucher students considering Doyle's proposal appears to be a mirror image of the one offered up by Barrett himself last year. I can understand why Barrett may prefer to have all students covered, but he is the one who established covering only expansion students as a reasonable proposal.

It seems likely Doyle's plan will come under attack by some in the state legislature who will frame it as more state handouts for Milwaukee, but, as I've noted before, they won't have a leg to stand on with this argument. The fact is other school districts are making money off the school voucher program -- to the tune of about $3000 per student.

To be sure, if the voucher program was ended last year rather than expanded, the Legislative Fiscal Bureau reports that the property tax levy in Milwaukee would've decreased by $25.6 million while increasing in other districts by a combined $121.4 million.

All Doyle's plan does, it seems, is take $1000 of the $3000 the state saves and use it to even out the score with Milwaukee residents who right now are paying about $1000 more to educate each voucher student than they are to educate each MPS student. The other $2000 the state saves will continue to be logged as savings.

And, again, this is just for the voucher students who enter the program between the old cap of about 15,000 and the new cap of about 22,000.

Let's hope the state legislature doesn't muck up this already very modest and very necessary proposal.


Blogger Russ said...

If MPS were a private school district their spending would decline each year as more and more students transfer to voucher schools. Of course the opposite happens, spending continues to increase. Why does MPS spending continue to increase during declining enrollment. Because there no mechanism to force spending cuts. The governor, MPS school board, and the City of Mliwaukee politicians all allow it to increase. That is the level of fiscal irresponsibility we have reached in this state. MPS must be forced to operate like a business and cut costs when enrollment is declining.

February 07, 2007  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

The issue is per student cost, Russ, not total cost. As enrollment decreases at MPS, so does its membership aide from the state, and that's the same for every district in the state.

February 07, 2007  

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