Thursday, November 10, 2011

Survey shows Walker's budget did more harm than good to schools

School districts wind up slashing programs, grow class sizes, to make up for losses

When Gov. Scott Walker signed into law his budget bill that cut education by nearly a billion dollars, many progressive minds in the state predicted that the resulting action would be a greater number of layoffs, larger class sizes, and cuts to programs within many school districts.

Turns out, they were right (PDF).

According to a survey conducted by Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators (WASDA) -- in which 82 percent of the districts asked to participate actually responded -- most districts in the state have seen a net loss in the number of teachers, administrators, and other staff as a result of the Walker budget passed in June. Nearly 90 percent of students in the survey are affected by this drop, with almost 70 percent of students affected by teacher losses alone.

As a result, class sizes have reportedly increased in more than 4 in 10 of elementary schools responding to the survey.

That's not the worst of it: two-thirds of districts surveyed said they were actually expecting to make the same budget cuts (or worse) next year. Indeed, half of the districts reported utilizing "one-time federal funds to offset even deeper cuts," an option they won't have in 2012 when they have to form new budgets. Less than 13 percent of school districts surveyed thought they would be making fewer cuts next year.

Without missing a beat, however, Gov. Scott Walker's office touted the reforms as "working."

"Even according to the WASDA's own data, 60 percent of districts have class sizes that are staying the same or getting smaller," Walker's spokesman Cullen Werwie said.

Such a lackadaisical approach to the problems our schools face is troubling for this governor to employ. Were it not for the aide of federal funds, even more schools would have faced budget crunches, resulting in higher class sizes in more districts than we're seeing today.

The large portion of schools growing their class sizes (it's actually 44 percent of districts in the survey) is nothing to sneeze at -- that's more than two out of every five districts facing higher class sizes.

Schools are also being forced to cut programs intended to help their students, especially those who need it most. Nearly 3 in 10 districts made cuts to foreign languages, more than 5 in 10 to career and technical programs, and nearly 5 in 10 districts made cuts to the arts, music, and physical education. Additional extracurriculars faced cuts in 1 in 10 districts, and a quarter of the state's districts saw increases in fees. 3 in 10 districts are making cuts to special education.

In all, nearly 7 in 10 districts are cutting at least one program; 45 percent of districts are cutting two or more; and in 28 percent of the districts, 3 or more programs will be canceled.

Less teachers for our kids. Higher class sizes in our schools. And less opportunities for our students to excel. Yup, Scott Walker's plans for our schools are "working" alright...working against the chances of your kid getting a quality education.


  1. In a "Fiscal Emergency" I can see making cuts and raising revenues. Why is the entire Walker budget made up of just cuts? I'm sure revenues could have been raised to preserve the educational system. Although I have no children in grade/high school, I still believe that education should be a number 1 priority.

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