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Kevin Fischer is a veteran broadcaster, the recipient of over 150 major journalism awards from the Milwaukee Press Club, the Wisconsin Associated Press, the Northwest Broadcast News Association, the Wisconsin Bar Association, and others. He has been seen and heard on Milwaukee TV and radio stations for over three decades. A longtime aide to state Senate Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature, Kevin can be seen offering his views on the news on the public affairs program, "InterCHANGE," on Milwaukee Public Television Channel 10, and heard filling in on Newstalk 1130 WISN. He lives with his wife, Jennifer, and their lovely young daughter, Kyla Audrey, in Franklin.

We can survive cuts in education


WEAC, the state teacher’s union, wanted it gone.

Because WEAC wanted it gone, its puppet, Jim Doyle wanted it gone.

Liberal Democrats in the state Legislature wanted it gone.

Beleaguered taxpayers, fully cognizant that the Qualified Economic Offer (QEO) was the only statutory remedy keeping the worst property taxes in America from being even higher supported keeping the measure. But Democrats in charge of everything in Madison couldn’t wait to send a big wet kiss to the huge special interest that builds their war chest.  The QEO was repealed, opening the door for big local property tax increases, and statewide, they went up an average 4% according to the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance.

Big taxers don’t care, as long as their special interests benefit. Surely the repeal of the QEO that limited salary and benefit increases for Wisconsin teachers would open the door to lucrative deals, right?

Wrong.

Liberal Democrats fell victim to fuzzy math in which their equation designed to help teachers actually hurt them.

Sure, they were chomping at the bit to eliminate the QEO and its 3.8% limit on compensation packages. But, the state also cut aid to schools, meaning the increases weren’t as big as in the past.  The state also restricted the amount that school districts could raise in property taxes to make up for lost state funds.

What does it mean? Teachers statewide are finding it hard to reap any benefits from the QEO elimination. Due to an economy that continues to struggle, to make up for an increase in teacher compensation, school boards must then deal with the prospect of staff cuts. Or they can just lay off teachers.

Last December, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported:

“So far this school year, the approximately 100 school districts that have reached agreements with their teachers have average settlements that increase salaries and benefits by 3.75%, according to Bob Butler, staff counsel for the Wisconsin Association of School Boards. That compares with an average total compensation increase of 4.11% for teachers in the 2008-'09 school year.”

Did you follow that? Following the repeal of the QEO, teacher compensation went down.  From teachers to WEAC and their Pinocchio, Jim Doyle: Thanks, thanks a lot.

The gloomy scenario hasn’t changed months later. MPS is considering massive job cuts. The same holds true in suburban school districts, school districts all across the state and all across America. Shock of shocks, the money’s just not there.

Pink slips are never good. When they’re tossed out in education circles, the bad news stories and editorials essentially write themselves.

But how bad would cuts in school buildings actually be? It can be argued they’re long overdue. The gravy train, you see, after a very long run has finally pulled into the station.

While some will wring their hands and pull out the crying towels, others will say, at the risk of the predictable yet unimaginative charge of teacher bashing, that it’s about time.

Pandering to his base, President Obama threatens that if Washington doesn’t spend millions and millions to prop up public sector education jobs, America’s public school system, that is doing so incredibly well with the avalanche of money it gets from taxpayers every year, will go to hell in a hand basket. It’s the tired, old, dusty liberal argument that teachers can only teach and kids can only learn if we shovel all kinds of obscene dollars their way.

Not so fast says
Andrew J. Coulson, director of Cato's Center for Educational Freedom. Coulson writes:

“Over the past forty years, public school employment has risen 10 times faster than enrollment. There are only 9 percent more students today, but nearly twice as many public school employees. To prove that rolling back this relentless hiring spree by a few years would hurt student achievement, you’d have to show that all those new employees raised achievement in the first place. That would be hard to do… because it never happened.

If you graduated from high school in 1980, your entire k-12 education cost your fellow taxpayers about $75,000, in 2009 dollars. But the graduating class of 2009 had roughly
twice that amount lavished on their public school careers. The extra $75,000 we’re now spending has done wonders for public school employee union membership, dues revenue, and political clout. It’s done a whole lotta nothin’ for student learning.


But, some readers may ask: were all those new employees teachers? About two thirds of public school employment growth has been teachers (41 percent) or teachers’ aides (23 percent). The remaining third was comprised almost entirely of support staff in schools and district offices.

So, yes, a bit of public schooling’s employment bloat can be put down to a swelling bureaucracy. But given that adding a couple of million new instructional jobs did nothing to improve achievement at the end of high school, there’s no reason to expect that shedding a few hundred thousand of them would hurt it.”

That’s a mighty powerful argument that American schools could not only survive personnel cuts, but increasing teachers and staff is no guarantee of success. In fact, it’s done little to advance student achievement.

Read Coulson’s piece
here.

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