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.