Friday, October 20, 2006

By Henri Kinson: Whitewater schools have never had so much

The Whitewater School District is asking us to raise our taxes again, this time with the slogan, "What's a good education worth?"

We've been here before.

If you'll recall, we were told we needed the largest property tax increase in history with the last referendum because enrollment was going to climb; now we're being told we need to raise them even higher because it's dropping. At about the same time, the district cut funding for roofs so it could get a pool it knew the public wouldn't support, and instead counted on a referendum for roofs 10 years and $750,000 in pool expenditures down the road (i.e. today). After all, who could be against roofs for the children? Worse yet, believing taxpayers will continuously fall for this scam, they have no plans to adequately fund them in the future.

The district says, "We've cut to the bone." This at the same time it's repeatedly giving double-digit health retirement benefit increases to employees in addition to raises. It now has well over a million dollars in unfunded medical retirement liabilities and continues to increase them to about $100,000 per person for most employees. Interestingly, however, even though these come at the expense of academic programs, they’re never referred to as "cuts." They also missed the district's "cut list" floating around.

The truth is, much of this referendum will be used to finance retirement benefits. In fact, if you add just retirement benefits, the $338,000 in aid reductions that would result from passing this referendum (you purposely haven’t been told that the state takes back 16 cents in aid annually for every extra dollar the district spends), and the pool/roof extortion racket, you’ve accounted for most of the referendum.

It's no wonder Whitewater residents have become, ahem, 'skeptical' of the district echo chamber with its incessant whining about "cuts." Actually, on a per-pupil basis, Whitewater's school expenditures have never been higher—up 6.25 percent just last year to more than $10,000 annually. Yes, teaching positions are being cut, but not as fast as students are leaving. Consequently, Whitewater's pupil-to-teacher ratio has never been lower.

Unfortunately, neither have test scores—for the first time in history, Whitewater is a below-average school district. For the latest school year, in 14 of 23 categories of the WKCE tests in subjects like reading, math and science from third through 10th grades, Whitewater students are at or below state averages academically (dpi.state.wi.us).

The reality is that the school district has never had so much: so many teachers per pupil, so much money per pupil, so much square footage per pupil, so many sports and facilities per pupil, etc. Now, by enabling Whitewater students to hope to be average, never has it accomplished so little.

So the next time you hear someone from the school district trying to distract you from their shoddy management with the slogan, "What's a good education worth?" be sure to insist that they not change the subject.

The author is from Whitewater.


Anonymous Ron Binning said...

Mr Kinson does not understand how the State of Wisconsin funds schools. When the enrollment goes down like Whitewater's has the last 5 years, the School District receives less money. Does that mean the District can cut teachers and curiculum? Obviously not! The School Board the last 5 years has cut $1.5 million already and cutting anymore will hurt the education growth of the 1,975 kids in the School District. Voting yes on the 2 referendum questions is the only local decision to make. I have no kids in the School District but does that mean I have no responsibility to see they receive the best education possible? I WILL VOTE YES ON NOVEMBER 7 FOR BOTH WHITEWATER SCHOOL BOARD REFEREDUM QUESTIONS.
Ron Binning

1:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Kinson seems to understand school district finance quite well, as he is quoting facts that the district either didn't know or chose not to tell me - enough on its own for me to vote no. It seems the "cuts" made by the school board didn't come because the district has less money, but because they chose to spend it on other things like a pool and retirement benefits. If the citizens of Whitewater really wanted to make a difference for their kids, they'd dump the people making these irresponsible decisions. The only way to prevent continued irresponsibility is TO SAY NO TO BOTH QUESTIONS ON NOVEMBER 7.

6:41 PM  

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