Senator Frank Lasee Responds to Pulse Letter to the Editor

By Sen. Frank Lasee

Before I start, it’s clear to me that the letter I’m responding to [“Question for Sen. Lasee,” Colleen Malmen, volume 22, issue 11] isn’t rooted in sincerity or an earnest desire to right a perceived injustice. It’s about scoring cheap political points and typifies what’s created the divisive wedge in our state. Those that feel attacked and underappreciated are the very people that are propping up the sword to fall on. This latest sword regarding Act 10 and school funding is contradictory and I’ll explain why.

The writer starts her letter touting that Appleton school district saved millions of dollars since Act 10 – she’s right. To be specific, they saved $3.1 million in the very first year simply by renegotiating their [health] insurance contract. They continue to realize savings year after year. She uses this little factoid to tie in evil voucher schools as they relate to the Appleton school district. Let’s get to the heart of the voucher issue before I respond directly to her concerns.

The reason some people are opposed to school vouchers isn’t all about money, it’s about competition. Their personal belief is that public schools should be the only way – essentially operating as a monopoly. If you know you can’t lose a customer, the quality of the product isn’t always your top priority. A little competition, however, puts different incentives in place. Vouchers have created this element of competition and makes public schools work harder. It’s not surprising they’re opposed because no one really likes direct competition; however, if caring for kids is our sincere intent, we should embrace voucher schools because it forces all of our schools to create a better product for the benefit of our kids.

The letter writer I’m responding to uses cost as the reason for her opposition. She explains that taxpayers are getting dinged twice. First, the cost to send a student to a voucher school ($7,124 per year). Second, because the school board then chooses to levy taxpayers further to make up for that lost money. I’d like to point out that she’s essentially making a case for the legislature to preempt local school districts from double taxing taxpayers because they can’t be trusted not to take the maximum from their local tax base despite having to educate fewer students. She didn’t get into the numbers; I will because they’re telling.

In Wisconsin, the average spent per student per year on a K-12 public education is about $12,700. The cost to send a student to a voucher school is $7,124 (nearly half the cost). When a student leaves a particular public school, the roughly $7K goes with the student. The public school keeps the remaining $5,000+ despite not having to educate that child. Taking it a step further, schools levy taxpayers to recoup the cost of the voucher (and sometimes more). In short, despite not having to educate the child, the school still needs the full amount…and then some.

Let’s take a look at all that money. According to the Department of Public Administration (DPI) and the Wisconsin Fiscal Bureau (a non-partisan state agency), Wisconsin spends roughly $10.5 billion dollars a year (a third of our state’s spending) and about half your property tax bill to educate our 870,000 kids. I’ve already said that Wisconsin spends $12,700 per student. Do you know that Minnesota spends only $11,500 per kid? Do you know that Iowa spends only $8,688 or that the national average is only $10,700?

The current per pupil spending for Door County schools is as follows: $18,108 Gibraltar, $14,520 Sevastopol, $13,228 Sturgeon Bay, $12,195 Kewaunee, $12,004 Southern Door County, and $11,173 Luxemburg-Casco (source: DPI). If you’re interested in diving a little deeper into school finances, visit DPI’s website:

Before we hire more assistant guidance counselors, associate vice principals, and other non-teaching administrators, I think we should put the resources we have into our frontline educators. They do great work and should be prioritized so our kids get the best education possible.

The point is this: efficiencies exist. Let’s find them together instead of taking the easy way out by crying poor and claiming that competition is bad. Others are doing a great job for less money. Many people don’t like the facts and they don’t like me sharing them. I think the facts tell a good story.

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