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Flanders: More money for fewer students, great for school districts, bad for taxpayers

Flanders: More money for fewer students, great for school districts, bad for taxpayers

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The Journal Times reported that the Racine Unified School District (RUSD) stands to lose $1.4 million in revenue under a proposed change to the funding formula for the school voucher program (SB 615). However, the story glosses over a major point: the $1.4 million was a profit to RUSD from the taxpayers for children that they no longer educate.

As explained further in a report I recently co-authored, current law permits school districts to levy property taxes up to the state-set per student revenue limit, which for most schools, is well beyond the cost of the voucher. Put another way, school districts could skim a "school choice bonus" from children leaving their schools to attend a private school. And, as the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau notes, many did just that, fleecing taxpayers of more than $3.7 million.

Sadly, RUSD was the biggest culprit. This was not about recouping the cost of the voucher — the $1.4 million is a windfall beyond the cost of the voucher, which is approximately $7,200 per student.

The proposed amendment by Speaker Vos, as noted in the story, simply prohibits school districts from profiting off of low-income children in the voucher program. More money for fewer students was a great deal for school districts, but a lousy one for taxpayers.

William D. Flanders, Ph.D.

Education Research Director, Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty

Milwaukee

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