By Wayne Kudick
Joel Kitchens, should not receive our votes for re-election to the Assembly, reasons why:
Governor Walker’s proposals to cut public school funding have been supported by Mr. Kitchens. Yes, as typical, the Governor proposes conservative BIG cuts and as an appeasement image the Republicans “restore” a pittance to curry voter favor. But, what matters is the actual amount of dollars going to kids through time.
Mr. Kitchens supported the statewide private school voucher program increases each of the next ten years, after which enrollment caps are removed altogether. He said at the League of Women Voter Debate: “Voucher schools are not a problem here; we have no voucher schools.” The truth: $800 Million will be taken away from the education of children attending Wisconsin public schools to fund voucher schools, affecting their lives and their education. Mr. Kitchens is complicit in these thefts from Wisconsin’s Constitution guarantee of access to public education.
Mr. Kitchens rejected the latest of three Department of Public Instruction “Fair Funding” proposals by Secretary Evers, plans that can hold property taxes and provide needed funds to Public Schools. Nor has he told us of a DPI report in September of 2015 that reported 53 Voucher Schools received $139, 617, 701 of State Taxes and spontaneously closed / causing mid-year chaos to the rescuing public schools and these children and parents.
The Legislative Fiscal Bureau (August 12, 2016) reports that net general aid payments to school districts declined nearly $200 million between the 2010 and 2015-16 school years. The vast majority of school districts received less state aid in 2015 than in 2010. As state aid decreases, districts are forced to rely more and more on local funding. Mr. Kitchens does not tell us that time consuming and expensive local public school referenda, in effect, pull more hidden tax $$ from local taxpayers. Nor does he reveal that referenda hurt economically challenged areas the most. Nor has Mr. Kitchens told us he supports sustaining yearly tax deductions of $4,000 / elementary pupil and $10,000 / high school student tuitions. A $60,000 tax escape for private school tuition payments.
Mr. Kitchens does not tell us that per pupil revenue also declined the last 5 years. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reports Wisconsin with a 14.2% reduction in per pupil revenue, the 8th largest cut in the nation between 2008 and 2014. These cuts have caused incalculable damage to the teaching profession; teachers leaving because take home wages declined, UW Oshkosh revealed a 26% decline in Education majors.
Higher Education: The legislature cut $250 Million from the University of Wisconsin, one of the nation’s leading research institutes and a major driver for Wisconsin’s economy. The cuts forced layoffs and dampened salaries across-the-board. Top faculty are being lured away. In February 2016, the University Extension—nationally recognized for bringing business and agricultural research to rural communities around the state—announced a new round of layoffs,
Mr. Kitchens’ policies have undermined support for public schools. The voucher system will further drain resources away from public schools in the years ahead. Mr. Kitchens has not fulfilled his promise to protect public education. This is the overriding issue confronting our state and does, today, and in the future will cause continuing weakening of our local public schools. Mr. Kitchens’ claims about support for specific projects to help public education are ill-funded and deceptive diversions that hide this larger truth.
How to fix this? Vote for a true advocate for Public Education who will support public schools, Lynn Utesch, for Assembly.
Wayne Kudick, Fish Creek.