Forward Institute Board Members Scott Wittkopf and Julie Wells participated in an American Association of University Women (AAUW) discussion on the Walker Education Budget proposals on Monday, March 11 in Fort Atkinson. Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction policy advisor Jeff Pertl presented current budget information on school evaluations and proposed voucher expansion. Forward Institute contributed Report Card study findings and new information from the forthcoming poverty and education study.
A local news report was published in the Jefferson County Daily Union. Key quotes from the discussion:
Walker’s proposed 2013-15 budget allocates $64 million in education “performance funding” that would be divided among schools based on their report card score. Schools in the bottom two achievement categories would compete for $10 million of the funding, $24 million would go to schools in the top two categories, and the remaining $30 million would go to schools that improved their report card performance by at least one point.
Pertl voiced concern about the fact that the report cards were being used to make “high-stakes funding decisions.”
“We really didn’t design this instrument for making these types of decisions, so we (the Department of Public Instruction) are opposed, concerned about using this system for that purpose,” said Pertl.
“There’s a really high correlation between poverty and student performance,” said Pertl.
Pertl’s statement is consistent with FI’s Report card study, finding that nearly 50% of the difference in school report card scores can be explained by difference in level of poverty from school to school.
Wittkopf presented data from a Forward Institute study to be released later this month that he said shows that students in Milwaukee’s voucher schools had much lower rates of tenth-grade students reading at proficient or advanced levels than at Milwaukee public school. Milwaukee largely is characterized as being a failing school district.
“If you don’t have students reading at a proficient level by tenth grade, they can’t learn in time to graduate at a proficient level,” Wittkopf said, noting that voucher schools often tout higher graduation rates than public schools. “I think the question we’re raising is, ‘Are you creating a diploma mill?’
“What we would be advocating would be to not increase aid to the voucher schools,” said Wittkopf. “It costs about $7,200 to get a student to advanced or proficient in mathematics in the 10 poorest districts in the state. In the voucher schools, it’s about $14,000.”
The full Forward Institute poverty and education study is expected to be released in late March.