Gov. Scott Walker said his budget reforms are improving school finances based on district surveys conducted in the last decade and has requested the state’s largest teachers union provide survey data in what they call a political ploy.
To verify survey information, Walker sent a letter Thursday to Mary Bell, president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council, requesting their past survey data to be posted on the WEAC website.
WEAC has conducted surveys for the government measuring the financial state of schools along with the Public Department of Instruction, according to a statement from Walker. The Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators replaced WEAC to conduct the 2011-12 survey.
“School district survey data collected by WEAC does not appear on your website, and you have refused to provide my office with any answers after repeated attempts to learn more about the results collected over the last decade,” Walker said in the letter. “In the interest of fully informing the public about the progress schools have made over the last year, I am asking you to repost the complete survey data on your website.”
Cullen Werwie, Walker’s spokesperson, said WEAC is hesitant to release their survey data because it will show Walker’s budget reforms, such as the repeal of collective bargaining rights for public sector employees, are working.
Werwie said Walker’s office has a good idea of how survey data from WEAC would look based on analysis of WEAC press releases and data reports from the past decade. He said the data would only be incorrect is someone from WEAC had been skewing the information over the past 10 years.
The results of this analysis are posted on Walker’s website and show that in 2011 and 2012, fewer teachers were laid off, fewer class sizes were increased, a lesser percentage of student fees were increased and fewer schools were forced to cut extracurricular programs.
Budget reform was meant to protect students and prevent massive layoffs, said Werwie, but there have been extra benefits. This year, nearly no schools had to cut extracurricular programs.
However, Bell said in a statement that Walker’s letter and statements are “public relations blitz” and a misinterpretation of the state of school finances. She said they are conveniently tied into the start of his recall election campaign.
“Walker has reduced education funding by more than $1 billion – the deepest cuts in our state’s history,” Bell said in a statement released by WEAC Thursday. “He is simply wrong to imply students, classrooms and teachers are better off as a result. His math doesn’t add up. Regardless of what survey data you look at, educational opportunities for our students are being lost as a result of deep cuts to education.”
Bell said the letter from Walker requesting survey data was sent to the WEAC 11 minutes before the governor alerted the media that WEAC was refusing to release their information. She called the letter “stunt” and “a political ploy” that was done by his staff with taxpayer dollars.
WEAC has not yet released the requested survey information on their website.