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Posted: Wednesday, February 6, 2013 4:00 pm

The School District of Beloit is opposed to private-school vouchers, or school choice, in Beloit because the alternative schools wouldn’t have to play by the same rules and would drain public schools of resources in a time of massive budget cuts to education, according to Melissa Badger, spokesperson for the schools.

“We welcome competition, but only if the referees make both teams play fair,” Badger said.

Badger said the district is glad there are alternatives for parents, some of which are provided from within the district. Parents also have the option of going to a different school district free of charge in open enrollment.

“We lose funds from that alternative, so naturally there is competition to improve faster, get more opportunities in place for students, and promote ourselves harder — a good result of state open enrollment,” Badger said.

However, the difference from losing a student to a neighboring district versus a private school is accountability. Unlike public schools, voucher schools are allowed to keep their own admission standards and aren’t required to take all students.

Badger said voucher schools can even strip special education students of their rights, such as Individualized Educational Programs. She said their teachers are not required to be certified, information isn’t required to be made public and meetings don’t have to be open to the public.

“Their admissions should be equitable like ours. We have to accept all students who want in. We have to provide the same services, such as all special education services, English Language Learner services and transportation no matter the cost, and be transparent by having open meetings and open records laws,” Badger said. “Of course it will look like voucher schools spend less per student if they are not required to pay for all the services public schools are required to fund.”

Badger said it’s important for people to know the State of Wisconsin does not pay $10,000 per student in public schools, with the actual amount varying depending on the property value of the community.

Beloit is currently state-funded at $7,974 per student as the city has the lowest property value per student in Wisconsin, and is therefore more funded than a city like Lake Geneva, which receives $2,295 per student.

The average amount of state aid per pupil, statewide, is $4,899. The maximum choice payment is currently set at $6,442, according to numbers provided by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau as of Jan. 28, 2013.

She said public schools already subsidize private schools, as taxpayer dollars already pay for some transportation needs of private school students and special education services to private school students.

“With the lack of high needs students and transportation costs, private schools do not spend as much to educate a student. Public schools are required by law to provide services to all students regardless of special needs and cost of services, sometimes as much as $70,000 per year for a single student,” she said.

Badger said the non-partisan Legislative Audit Bureau evaluated math and reading scores from the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program and Milwaukee Public schools and found no significant difference.

Badger said vouchers are not the only choice open to families. Besides in-district school transfer availability, the School District of Beloit offers: the Beloit Virtual School for families wanting a home-school feel with access to district resources and support; the Beloit Learning Academy for students needing additional skill-building to go alongside academic support; and the Roy Chapman Andrews Academy charter school for driven students to master curriculum standards through project-based learning at their own pace.

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  • PWC posted at 12:14 pm on Mon, Feb 11, 2013.

    PWC Posts: 770

    Tax dollars are used to fund education -- not schools. Beloit could build twenty more schools and they would not receive any more tax dollars. Our tax dollars pay for each child to be educated. And I believe this movement was started because people recognize that some public schools are not educating some children. So, our money, which is supposed to fund education, is being wasted in some cases. Worse yet, some children are not receiving the education they need to survive on their own as adults.

  • billtinder posted at 2:25 pm on Sat, Feb 9, 2013.

    billtinder Posts: 4887

    I agree that private schools should have to play by the same rules as public. So let's force them to comply, right after directing that 70 million dollar referendum towards their infrastructure needs (and more importantly), their wants.
    After all, isn't it about fairness?

  • Mike_Zoril posted at 9:06 pm on Thu, Feb 7, 2013.

    Mike_Zoril Posts: 2848

    chicago hot dog - The way I view it, my tax dollars are used to support my community as well. However, I believe we should be supporting the students directly, not the government monopoly we call public schools. Schools are not America's greatest asset, it's the children.

  • Mentor397 posted at 4:33 pm on Thu, Feb 7, 2013.

    Mentor397 Posts: 1621

    @chicago - who says private schools can only use private money? Still, you said exactly what I said when I said it's a subsidy by taxpayers. It's not the school's money.

  • Delavan Mike posted at 3:05 pm on Thu, Feb 7, 2013.

    Delavan Mike Posts: 1295

    Just to quibble, Mentor, public schools DO subsidize private schools as they pay for the special education services or transportation of students who do not even attend their schools but live in their districts. It is NOT simply that they receive less money from the state as you claim. That sounds like subsidizing to me.

  • chicagostylehotdog posted at 2:31 pm on Thu, Feb 7, 2013.

    chicagostylehotdog Posts: 1

    Just to quibble Mentor397, My tax payer dollars are to support my community and state commons, which includes the PUBLIC schools. Private schools are to use private money, and by taking some of the tax payer money to support private schools, it is a subsidy provided by the tax payers and should at the LEAST have standards and accountability included with the funding. Otherwise, we could be throwing our hard earned money at sub standard education while cutting funding for our public schools aka our commons that have accountability measures.

  • Mentor397 posted at 1:16 am on Thu, Feb 7, 2013.

    Mentor397 Posts: 1621

    Just to quibble here: "She said public schools already subsidize private schools, as taxpayer dollars already pay for some transportation needs of private school students and special education services to private school students."

    No, taxpayers subsidize private schools. Public schools may get less money, but they're not subsidizing because of it.


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