Students Achieving the best results should be everyone’s goal
This commentary by Board Member Chuck Perroni appeared In January 31, 2012 Racine Journal Times In Milwaukee, 6,400 students attended independent charter schools, 23,198 attended Milwaukee Parental Choice Program schools, and there was an increase in applications to the open enrollment program. In Racine, added to open enrollment, public and independent charter schools, is the Racine Parental Choice Program, with 250 students this year, and 250 more added next year.
School choice is not without criticism. Last July, before the start of the Racine Parental Choice Program, The Racine Taxpayers Association held an information session on the program’s implementation. This session was dominated by those opposed to school choice. This opposition fell into three main categories:
1) School choice discriminates against students who are minorities, have disabilities, are poor or haven’t performed well.
2) School choice achievement is only equal or inferior to public schools.
3) School choice has a higher cost to the taxpayers and financially supports the private sector.
These assertions are all without merit.
First, let’s look to one of the oldest and most successful school choice programs in the country, Milwaukee’s Messmer Catholic schools. Messmer started with a few dozen school choice students in 1990. Choice students now comprise about 90 percent of it’s student count of just under 1,700 students on three campuses, with waiting lists each of the past seven years, according to Jeffrey Robb, development director for Messmer. Private high school graduating higher % of students
In comparison to the Milwaukee Public School system, where fewer than 70% of the students graduate from high school, Messmer is turning in some high marks. Robb said 85 percent of students graduate and continue on to a four year college, 14 percent go to a two year school or into the military, and about 1 percent dropout. Black males attending Messmer are two and a half times more likely to go to college than their peers, and test scores in all core subjects compare with some of the top schools in the state.
Messmer’s enrollment includes about 150 students classified under special needs criteria. Also, choice schools are bound to take in minority and low income students, and Messmer’s free and reduced lunch population has approached 90 percent, Robb said. While not all choice schools have achieved this level of success, Messmer overwhelming demonstrates that poverty and low income do not have to be insurmountable impediments to a good education.
In terms of cost to the taxpayer, the Racine Parental Choice Program (RPCP), has a local property tax levy of $2,474 per student. The Racine Unified School District (RUSD) has a local property levy of $3,527 per student. This is a savings of $1,053 per student to the local taxpayer.
The state aid to a RPCP student is $3,968. The state aid to a RUSD student is $6,272. This is a savings of $2304 in state taxes per student.
The total savings to taxpayers is $3,357 per student.
Finally, there is the criticism that school choice supports the private sector. As John Matthews, executive director of Madison Teacher’s Inc., the teachers union in the Madison Metropolitan School District, expressed, “If people want to operate private schools they should operate private schools. People are not paying property taxes to go to the private sector.” But this misses the point entirely. Students achieving the best results is the goal, not if it is by attending a private or public school.
All levels of government purchase goods and services from the private sector. Government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid pay for private healthcare. In education, the federal government provides financial aid in the form of grants and loans that are applied to both public and private colleges. Why should K-12 education be any different?
All should agree that student achievement is how education should be judged.
Mt. Pleasant Property Tax
A number of property owners have commented in the Journal Times regarding their excessive property tax increases. The reported Mt. Pleasant tax rate per $100,000 increased by 11.5%, but with property valuations decreased by 9%, one would expect a property tax increase of about 2.5%.
Obviously this average increase did not take place and some property owners were hit with large increases while others saw their taxes reduced. The only published answer has been, "the culprit may be a new mathematical formula created for the village by a new assessor."
Small business owners
A look at a dozen business properties on Washington Avenue east of Green Bay Road shows a very erratic pattern. The change in their total assessed value ranged from -3.3% to +56.5%. The change in the land value by itself ranged from -17.6% to +112.1%.
Just as erratic is the value of the land. In a 3 block area, with all addresses facing Washington Avenue, the assessed land value ranged from $109,000 per acre to $588,000 per acre.
This small sample seems to indicate that businesses and a small number of homeowners, most likely on the main thorough fares, received large tax increases while most of the other property owners were spared.
Those who enjoyed minimal or no increase this year should beware of the new property assessments mailed in mid-year. There may once again be a culprit with a new mathematical formula created by a new village assessor.
Ethanol Subsidy Gone
At the end of 2011 Congress finally let the corn ethanol subsidies expire. That means the government will no longer give producers a .45 per gallon tax credit and will end the .54 per gallon tariff on imported sugar cane ethanol.
Opponents of corn ethanol have long complained that the subsidies significantly increased food prices, since 40% of the corn crop was used for ethanol. There are also creditable studies showing the production process and use of ethanol does not reduce greenhouse gas compared with gasoline.
However, even though the end of subsidies will save about $6 billion annually it may not reduce the usage. U.S. law still requires the blending of corn ethanol into fuel. About 12.5 billion gallons this year and mandated to increase to 15 billion gallons by 2015.
Class Warfare Again & Again & Again
It is impossible to hear a speech from president Obama, his administration or almost any democrat that doesn’t include “just ask millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share”. This is the liberal smoke screen that says “don’t ever expect us to reduce the cost, the size or the scope of the federal government in your life.
This constant chant to motivate community organizers around the country might be palatable if it made any economic sense. No one in the administration or the liberal media will ever report the basic facts; they only deal in emotional hype.
The latest slogan is that everyone making $1 million or more should pay a 30% tax. Currently this group pays an average tax rate of 24.4%. Raise it to 30 % and you collect an additional $40 billion annually. The current 2012 budget spends $3.7 trillion and must borrow $1.1 trillion. The borrowed funds equal $3 billion per day and the millionaires and billionaires tax increase will cover the borrowing for a whopping 13 days.
The average tax rate for all incomes under $1 million is 9.98%. Naturally this is skewed downward because 41.7% of all returns pay -0- tax. Any proposed tax increase for the wealthy is economically insignificant. However, it does open the flood gates and start the conversation to increase taxes at all income levels, which after all is the real goal of a big government ideology.
Interim superintendent Ann Laing has agreed to a contract extension to June, 2013 and has made it clear she will then retire. This delays the current search and allows for another school year without a new superintendent’s ideas, programs and disruption.
This should put added importance on this April’s election for 3 school board members. The current board unanimously agreed to hire another academic with no need for financial or facilities experience. Fortunately community input pressured the board into delaying the search and extending Dr. Laing’s contract.
It is a must to get new thinking and direction on the school boardand the April election must replace the three incumbents.
Racine’s Population Loss
Four censuses ago Racine was the third largest city in the state. Only Madison and Milwaukee were larger. Now we have fallen behind both Kenosha and Green Bay, having lost 16,000 people. We have the best tasting water in the nation, clean beaches and a beautiful lake shore with lots of expensive developments. People don’t up and leave because we are nasty. They leave because they cannot make a living here.
Even the most cursory of studies finds that destitute conditions derive largely from oppressive government taxation and regulation practices. Just watch the Common Council some time and the barriers it and the Mayor institute to prevent the growth of business. The city of Racine has the highest tax rate in the county, $2,547 for a property assessed at $100,000, 60% higher than the lowest taxed community in Burlington, taxed at $1,540 per $100,000 assessed property value.
It really is no mystery why the city of Racine has the highest unemployment in the State of Wisconsin and is the only municipality in the County of Racine that continues to lose population.