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Paying for failure: Student scores fall, as ed spending rises

Empower Wisconsin | Sept. 11, 2019

By M.D. Kittle

MADISON — Six out of 10 kids in Wisconsin can’t read and write or solve math problems at grade level, and Madison educrats say public education needs more money. That, despite record amounts of K-12 spending over the past two budget cycles.

That’s an “F” all around.

The state Department of Public Instruction on Thursday released results of the Wisconsin Student Assessment System (WSAS) exams given during the 2018-19 school year.

DPI notes overall performance results showed “slight decreases” in English language arts and mathematics. There were some gains — at some grade levels and overall for Hispanic students. But there’s a whole lot of failure contained in the latest report.

When only 39.3 percent of all K-12 students in the state test at a proficient or advanced level, down 1.3 percentage points from the previous year, that’s failing.

When just 40.1 percent are at or above grade level in math, a full percentage point drop from the previous year, that’s failing.

But that’s not the half of it.

With just 8.5 percent of black eighth-graders at or above grade level in math, and 12. 1 percent in English and language arts, that’s a crisis of failure.

What’s the fix? More money, say the educrats.

“Of course, we believe our students deserve nothing less than our full support. Public education is meant to give everyone a chance, but we have to keep funding it to make it work so we’re not losing students along the way,” Elizabeth Tomey, DPI’s director of education information services, told reporters Wednesday in a briefing on the WSAS report.

The Republican-controlled Legislature and Democratic Gov. Tony Evers have dumped in record amounts of money into Wisconsin’s K-12 education system over the past two budget cycles. New spending topped $639 million in the 2017-19 budget. The current budget calls for north of $650 million in state funding alone, with total state spending on K-12 schools topping $14 billion.

That’s just a “down payment,” Tomey said.

And what’s the return on investment for Wisconsin taxpayers? Six out of 10 kids who can’t read at grade level, and about the same who aren’t proficient in math.

The money dump crowd claims the hefty education investments will eventually pay off. We’ve now gotten a first glimpse at what record spending (from the 2017-19 budget) will get you, and unfortunately it’s more failure.

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