Saturday, July 16, 2016

People In Glass Houses Shouldn't Throw Stones

Van Wanggaard (if that is your real name?!), Wisconsin state senator from Racine, recently opined in the Journal Sentinel that, basically, before citizens in other cities and municipalities, within the state, have their tax dollars redistributed for anything concerning Milwaukee, Milwaukee needs to get their act together.

Wanggaard throws out a lot of big numbers, but gives little context to those numbers. He rambles on about the money going to Milwaukee Public Schools, but carelessly doesn't break that down into a cost per student or even compare that to what other communities are getting or spending. He writes about failing schools and proficiency tests, but fails to show how this compares to others in the state. Without this context, just throwing out big numbers is meaningless.

And, as conservatives continually do, in the face of data that shows otherwise, Wanggaard praises the school choice program. Yet, as I've written before,
If we actually look at the data, we find that there is little difference between voucher school students and Milwaukee Public School students. Researchers at the University of Arkansas found, "City property taxes go up for each student who uses a voucher, compared to what would be the case if that student went to MPS, while state income taxes go down, as do property taxes in most of the rest of the state.
But why let the data get in the way of kicking Milwaukee. That's just what Wisconsin conservatives do. If you're going to keep pounding that drum as some sort of alternative public education option, at least give us information showing improved test scores, cost-savings or some metric we can hang our hat on. To just knock MPS and hold up school choice as a ticket out of that "quagmire" is sloppy at best, but totally inappropriate and misleading for a state senator.

He also seems to not understand that Racine, too, receives money from taxpayers outside of Racine. He makes it sound as if all money collected at the state level goes to Milwaukee. And, beyond this misrepresentation, state aid has been declining. Since 1995, Milwaukee has seen a 36% decline (in real dollars) in state aid.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Revenue's 2015 Notice of State Aid and Credit Payments, Milwaukee (with a population of 599,164) received roughly $219,000,000 in state aid; approximately $365 per person. Racine (population 78,199) received roughly $25,000,000 in state aid; $321 per person.

This type of finger-pointing equates to blaming the victim. Milwaukee has been the destination for much of the state's poor and mentally ill. There are obviously large costs involved, social and financial. Wanggaard even writes about Milwaukee's high poverty rate. He seems to assume, though, that Milwaukee likes it that way, that Milwaukee is choosing to have a high proportion of the state's poor. More like monied interests have left the City and its problems behind. Ever heard of white flight, Mr. Wanggaard?

According to the Census Bureau, Milwaukee's poverty rate is 29%, Racine's is over 22% and for Wisconsin 13.2%. The percent of persons, age 25 or higher, with a high school diploma or higher - in Milwaukee 81.8%, in Racine 81.2% and Wisconsin 90.8%. The percent of persons, age 25 or higher, with a bachelor's degree or higher - in Milwaukee 22.8%, in Racine 17.2% and Wisconsin 27.4%. People under 65 without health insurance - Milwaukee 15.9%, Racine 16.7% and Wisconsin 8.6%.

Maybe Mr. Wanggaard shouldn't be throwing stones from his glass house.

I think some of our public servants have no idea what their mission is supposed to be. Yes, you're supposed to serve your constituents, but, as a STATE senator, you also need to reach across the isle, find compromise and solve issues that have implications beyond village and city boundaries.

If Wanggaard really wants to solve things and since he believes in choice so passionately, why not improve public transportation between the City, suburbs and the surrounding communities and allow students to attend any school they want? Let's not stop there - since we would now have efficient transportation connecting the region, Milwaukee's poor citizens could now have access to jobs in the surrounding communities.

Something tells me that's not what he or any other Wisconsin conservatives want - keep those "problems" in Milwaukee.

In the end, Wanggaard's article really just seems to be another kick at Milwaukee. In his article, he admits "the Milwaukee area still is the economic driving force of our state. Almost one-third of the state's economy takes place in metro Milwaukee...with world class attractions, restaurants and festivals. It attracts visitors, investments and spending. Cranes and construction are everywhere. Wisconsin needs a healthy Milwaukee so that the state can continue to thrive."

Yes, despite Scott Walker and the Republicans best efforts to handicap Milwaukee, the city is thriving. Billions of dollars are being invested in this "quagmire" of a city. Maybe Republican scorn is the key to economic growth? Republicans continually disparage and blame Milwaukee for almost everything, yet the city has been booming.

With a little over 10% of the state's population, Milwaukee is responsible for a third of the state's economic activity. But in Mr. Wanggaard's world, this indicates Milwaukee isn't pulling its weight? I guess night is day and up is down for Mr. Wanggaard. Hey Milwaukee, you're only producing three times what would be expected, pick it up!

Maybe Mr. Wanggaard should worry more about the houses in Racine that are soon to be part of Lake Michigan. Milwaukee will continue its efforts to improve conditions for all its residents whilst continuing to fuel the economy for the entire state.

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