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 Kitchens. Yes, the Governor proposes conservative big cuts and the Republicans “restore” a pittance to curry voter favor, but what matters is the actual amount of dollars going to kids.
Kitchens supported the statewide private school voucher program increases each of the next 10 years, after which enrollment caps are removed altogether. He said at the League of Women Voters 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. Kitchens is complicit in these thefts from Wisconsin’s Constitutional guarantee of access to public education.
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 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 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 on local funding. Kitchens does not tell us that local public school referenda, in effect, pull more hidden tax dollars from local taxpayers. Nor does he reveal that referenda hurt economically challenged areas the most. Nor has 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.
Kitchens does not tell us that per pupil revenue also declined the last five years. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reports Wisconsin with a 14.2 percent 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; UW Oshkosh revealed a 26 percent decline in education majors.
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.
Kitchens’ policies have undermined support for public schools. The voucher system will further drain resources from public schools. Kitchens has not fulfilled his promise to protect public education. This is the overriding issue confronting our state and does. 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.
Fish Creek, Wis.