MADISON – Mere months after Scott Walker and his Republican Party rammed through their drastic budget that slashed $1.6 billion from public education, school districts all over Wisconsin are reporting that the “tools” Walker gave them to manage the devastating cuts are not working.
Last week, the results of the Department of Public Instruction’s survey of Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators found, among other troubling facts, that four in 10 students attend a district with higher class sizes in elementary grades, while seven of 10 students attend a district with fewer teachers. On top of that, four of every 10 students saw cuts in core courses – science, mathematics, English, and social studies.
This unfair budget has real consequences for our children, as the responses to the survey from around the state reveal:
- Horicon says, “We have made significant reductions in staff during the past three years and we can no longer compete with area districts. We lose more than 100 students to open enrollment.”
- Royall has been forced to close one school and has made cut to the foods program, and there are now fewer hours of science and math.
- Shullsburg, already down to one administrator and one guidance counselor for the entire district, has received significant concessions from staff in an attempt to balance the budget. However, they still anticipate that, “next year we will be making significant staff cuts to attempt to balance the budget again.”
- The news from Clayton is similarly somber: “No cuts were made in programs for the 2011-12 school year because there isn’t anything left to cut without causing a disruption in educational opportunities.” The district is “very concerned about what the future holds for small community schools.”
- Other districts are getting by only thanks to President Obama’s federal funding. Germantown notes that, “federal stimulus money is supporting our staff,” while Bowler reports that, “Federal impact aid is a blessing to our school district.”
Even the districts that Scott Walker highlights as examples that his “tools” are working are in deep trouble. Waukesha, for instance, has seen record retirements, larger class sizes, reduced benefits and shorter planning periods for teachers and staff. What’s keeping the wheels from coming off is federal funding: Waukesha received more than $8 million in federal stimulus over the last few years, which offset Walker’s $5 million cut.
“The numbers don’t lie. Scott Walker’s radical cuts to public education are limiting educational opportunities for our children,” Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Mike Tate said Friday. “But Walker’s cuts are more than numbers. These cuts have real consequences, as we are now hearing right from the district administrators who have to make the tough choices Scott Walker would not. Our schools are suffering today and these cuts will come back to haunt our state tomorrow.”