Chalkboard: DPI, administrators sketch 'bleak picture' for state schools

2011-11-11T11:00:00Z 2012-05-22T17:53:29Z Chalkboard: DPI, administrators sketch 'bleak picture' for state schoolsSUSAN TROLLER | The Capital Times |

Results from an extensive survey by the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators released Thursday provide a look at the impact of Gov. Scott Walker's budget on public schools: 3,400 education jobs lost; bigger elementary class sizes in a third of the state's districts; 20 percent of districts eliminated entire sections of technical or vocational training. 

The image sketched by these figures broadly reflects a story and survey The Capital Times did earlier this year that included responses from a smaller sample of administrators statewide.

At that time, a majority of the administrators we surveyed said they feared next year's budget impact in terms of staff cuts would be at least as bad or worse than the situation they faced this year. Two-thirds of the respondents of WASDA's official survey also came to that gloomy conclusion.

But the spin on the survey, overall, depends very much on who's doing the talking, and the spinning.

In a Wisconsin State Journal story Thursday, Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie says the outlook for schools is good. Werwie is quoted saying the findings of the WASDA survey are evidence that "Gov. Walker's reforms are working," and, "Schools are staying the same or getting better, and (that's happening) while the state will hold the line on property taxes over the next two years." 

That sunny interpretation is at odds with what appears on the Department of Public Instruction's website.

According to state Superintendent Tony Evers, "This year districts had to cut staff, eliminate vital support services, and reduce course offerings, narrowing educational opportunities for Wisconsin's schoolchildren."

In the story I wrote back in August, Miles Turner, executive director of WASDA, said many districts across the state were already stretched very thin when it comes to programs and staffing.

"Because of the years of revenue controls, there wasn't much fat to cut," Turner said in our story, explaining that districts already trimmed to the bone found the governor's cuts especially hard to bear, and many anticipate next year will be even worse.

Turner makes similar observations now, regarding the data from the survey his organization did.

"The 2011-13 biennial budget has already had a profound effect on the services delivered to public school students," Turner says in the DPI release. 

"A majority of Wisconsin students attend a school district with fewer teachers, larger class sizes, fewer support programs, and fewer course offerings. Most districts expect next year's budget will be worse," he adds.

Readers who would like to look at WASDA's survey analysis for themselves may click here

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