Two-Thirds of Wisconsin Public-School 8th Graders Can’t Read Proficiently—Despite Highest Per Pupil Spending in Midwest

Tuesday, February 22, 2011
By Terence P. Jeffrey
Wisconsin students

Students from Appleton West High School protest a proposal by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker that would make teachers pay a fraction of their own pension and health-insurance costs. (AP Photo/Sharon Cekada)

( – Two-thirds of the eighth graders in Wisconsin public schools cannot read proficiently according to the U.S. Department of Education, despite the fact that Wisconsin spends more per pupil in its public schools than any other state in the Midwest.
In the National Assessment of Educational Progress tests administered by the U.S. Department of Education in 2009—the latest year available—only 32 percent of Wisconsin public-school eighth graders earned a “proficient” rating while another 2 percent earned an “advanced” rating. The other 66 percent of Wisconsin public-school eighth graders earned ratings below “proficient,” including 44 percent who earned a rating of “basic” and 22 percent who earned a rating of “below basic.”
The test also showed that the reading abilities of Wisconsin public-school eighth graders had not improved at all between 1998 and 2009 despite a significant inflation-adjusted increase in the amount of money Wisconsin public schools spent per pupil each year.
In 1998, according to the U.S. Department of Education, Wisconsin public school eighth graders scored an average of 266 out of 500 on the NAEP reading test. In 2009, Wisconsin public school eighth graders once again scored an average of 266 out of 500 on the NAEP reading test. Meanwhile, Wisconsin public schools increased their per pupil expenditures from $4,956 per pupil in 1998 to 10,791 per pupil in 2008. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator the $4,956 Wisconsin spent per pupil in 1998 dollars equaled $6,546 in 2008 dollars. That means that from 1998 to 2008, Wisconsin public schools increased their per pupil spending by $4,245 in real terms yet did not add a single point to the reading scores of their eighth graders and still could lift only one-third of their eighth graders to at least a “proficient” level in reading.
The $10,791 that Wisconsin spent per pupil in its public elementary and secondary schools in fiscal year 2008 was more than any other state in the Midwest.
Neighboring Illinois spent $10,353 per student in 2008, Minnesota spent $10,048 per student; Iowa spent $9,520 per student. Among Midwest states, Nebraska was second to Wisconsin in per pupil spending in its public schools, spending $10,565 per student.
Of these nearby states, only Minnesota did slightly better teaching reading to its public school students. In 2009, 39 percent of eighth graders in Minnesota public schools earned a rating of “proficient” or better in reading, and the average eighth grade reading score in the state was 270 out of 500.
In Illinois, only 32 percent of eighth graders earned a rating of “proficient” or better in reading, and the average eighth grade reading score was 265 out of 500. In Iowa, only 32 percent of eighth graders earned a rating of “proficient” or better in reading, and the average reading score was 265 out of 500. In Nebraska, only 35 percent of eighth graders earned a rating of “proficient” or better in their public schools, and the average reading score was 267 out of 500.
Nationwide, only 30 percent of public school eighth graders earned a rating of “proficient” or better in reading, and the average reading score on the NAEP test was 262 out of 500.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress explains its student rating system as follows: “Basic denotes partial mastery of prerequisite knowledge and skills that are fundamental for proficient work at each grade. Proficient represents solid academic performance. Students reaching this level have demonstrated competency over challenging subject matter. Advanced represents superior performance.”
In other words, despite the $10,791 that taxpayers were paying to educate students in Wisconsin public schools, two-thirds of eighth graders in those schools showed at best only a “partial mastery of prerequisite knowledge and skills that are fundamental for proficient work” at that grade level.
In fiscal 2008, the federal government provided $669.6 million in subsidies to the public schools in Wisconsin.


Rank-and-file teachers speak truth to prog power

By Michelle Malkin • February 22, 2011

Go read the whole thing at

From the Milwaukee Sentinel-Journal, a telling chart on the Wisconsin Education Association Council’s political priorities and clout:

And this:

On top of being one of the state’s most dominant political forces, with an ability to influence legislation and elections, Wisconsin’s teachers unions have a direct effect on teacher quality through the role they play in local contract negotiations and representation of teachers targeted for improvement or dismissal.
By adhering to pay schedules that fail to distinguish between low- and high-performing teachers, protecting ineffective teachers from dismissal and fighting for work rules that provide more benefits for their members than for children, teachers unions stand in the way of improving the profession, critics argue.
…According to figures from the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, WEAC’s political action committee has spent more than $9 million in unlimited independent expenditures on behalf of political candidates between 1998 and 2008, with only $17,136 of that amount spent to help a single Republican candidate – one who was challenging a GOP Assembly incumbent.
In the November elections, the WEAC political action committee spent nearly $1.5 million to help Democrats in just four state Senate races, only to see three of them lose.

Higher-ed employee Jason Hart exposes where Ohio teachers’ dues money goes:

Who but a union would insist merit pay is the wrong way to encourage hard work and reward the best educators? That anyone capable of enduring several years as a teacher should have a job for life, with longevity raises on top? That charter schools and vouchers should never be tried? As with AFSCME Council 8 & Local 11, the OEA stands between Ohioans and the services our tax dollars fund.
Exciting OEA Facts, Fiscal 2009
* $22,771,159 paid to union officers and staff — equal to $176.71 per member
* 143 union employees paid more than $70,000
* 117 union employees paid more than $100,000
* 12 union employees paid more than $150,000
* Executive Director Larry Wicks paid $208,469
* Executive Director Dennis Reardon paid $202,997
* $8,151,341 spent on benefits — less than 36% of the amount disbursed to union officers and staff
* $25,000 given to Policy Matters Ohio, a far-left Cleveland think-tank (09/23/2008)
* $10,000 sent to Colorado education union (10/17/2008)
* $10,000 sent to Oregon education union (10/27/2008)
The OEA also found $1,614,690 in the couch cushions to donate to Democrat campaigns in the 2010 cycle, according to records from the Secretary of State.
It comes to this: should we buy the OEA’s sales pitch about outsized union influence being the route to effective education? Or should we resist demands to further increase taxes, disassemble the union machine, and allow teachers, parents, and school districts to make their own decisions? This is what an attorney might call a leading question.

More from Jason on Ohio’s Senate Bill 5 here.
I’ve linked it before, but it’s well worth revisiting Mike Antonucci’s investigation of where $13 million in NEA dues go:

An Education Intelligence Agency analysis of NEA’s financial disclosure report for the 2009-10 fiscal year reveals the national union contributed more than $13 million to a wide variety of advocacy groups and charities. The total was about half the amount disbursed in the previous year, though more than in 2007-08.
The expenditures fall into broad categories of community outreach grants, charitable contributions, and payments for services rendered. In this list, EIA has deliberately omitted spending such as media buys, or payments to pollsters or consultants that have no obvious ideological component. The grants range from $2.125 million to a California ballot initiative campaign, down to smaller grants to organizations such as People for the American Way, Media Matters and Netroots Nation.
Here is an alphabetic list of the 130 recipients of NEA’s contributions, with relevant web links. All of these were paid for with members’ dues money (the union’s federal PAC is a separate entity funded through voluntary means):
AFL-CIO – $150,000
AFSCME – $90,000
Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity – $33,000
America Votes – $300,000
American Constitution Society – $15,000
American Federation of Teachers – $28,365
Arizona State University Office for Research & Sponsored Projects Administration – $325,000
Asian American Justice Center – $7,500
Asian & Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund – $5,000
Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies – $5,000
Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance – $5,000
Baptist Center for Ethics – $20,000
Campaign for America’s Future – $15,000
Campaign for College Affordability – $25,000
Center for Economic Organizing – $13,200
Center for Independent Media – $5,000
Center for Law and Education – $25,000
Center for Tax and Budget Accountability – $60,000
Center for Teaching Quality – $230,767
Center for U.S. Global Leadership – $10,000
Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association – $50,000
Children’s Defense Fund – $5,000
Citizens United for Maine’s Future – $25,000
Citizens Who Support Maine’s Public Schools – $250,000
Coalition for Our Communities – $625,000
Coloradans for Responsible Reform – $400,000
Colorado Deserves Better -$50,000
Committee for Education Funding – $25,000
Committee on States – $6,500
Communities for Quality Education – $1 million
Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc. – $8,800
Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute – $50,000
Council of Chief State School Officers – $50,000
Council of State Governments – $34,500
Democracy Alliance – $85,000
Economic Policy Institute – $250,000
Education Commission of the States – $50,000
Education Law Center – $5,000
Educational Policy Institute – $5,000
Educator Compensation Institute – $25,000
Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate – $200,000
Emerge America – $5,000
Employee Benefit Research Institute – $7,500
Everybody Wins DC – $8,000
Excelencia in Education – $47,400 – $250,000
FairTest – $25,000
Gay and Lesbian Leadership Institute – $10,000
Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network – $5,000
Global Institute for Language and Literacy Development – $10,000
Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice – $250,000
Harvard Labor and Worklife Program – $5,000
Health Care for America Now! – $450,000
HEROS, Inc. – $202,835
HOPE (Yes on SQ 744) – $1,758,000
Human Rights Campaign – $15,000
Jobs with Justice – $15,000
Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy – $12,230
KnowledgeWorks Foundation – $75,000
Labor-Religion Coalition of New York State – $5,000
Leadership Conference on Civil Rights – $15,000
Learning First Alliance – $91,199
Lincoln Center Institute – $50,000
Mana – $25,000
MediaMatters – $100,000
Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund – $25,000
Midwest Academy – $5,000
Missourians for Early Vote – $41,000
NAACP – $5,000
National Action Network – $10,000
National Association for the Education and Advancement of Cambodian, Laotian, and Vietnamese Americans – $5,000
National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Education Fund – $12,500
National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification – $5,000
National Coalition of ESEA Title I Parents – $5,000
National Coalition on Black Civic Participation – $15,000
National Conference of State Legislatures – $64,043
National Congress of American Indians – $10,000
National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education – $381,576
National Council of La Raza – $26,500
National Forum on Information Literacy – $5,000
National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts – $10,000
National Indian Education Association – $50,000
National Latino Children’s Institute – $15,000
National Popular Vote – $5,000
National Public Pension Coalition – $90,375
National Staff Development Council – $25,000
National Urban League – $33,700
National Women’s Law Center – $10,000
Netroots Nation – $15,000
New Democratic Network – $25,000
New Organizing Institute – $65,000
New Teacher Center – $325,000
No on 1033 – $328,600
Organizations Concerned About Rural Education – $5,000
Organization of Chinese Americans – $5,000
Partnership for 21st Century Skills – $61,350
People for the American Way – $64,538
Plan!t Now – $25,000
Progress Now – $60,000
Progress Ohio – $50,000
Project New West – $185,000
Protect Colorado’s Communities – $25,000
Rainbow PUSH Coalition – $5,000
Rebuild America’s Schools – $10,000
Republican Main Street Partnership – $25,000
Ripon Society – $10,000
Robert Russa Moton Museum – $50,000
Roosevelt Institute – $5,000
San Diego Public Library Foundation – $5,000
Stop the Gag Law – $350,000
Task Force Foundation – $5,000
Trans Afro Group of Companies – $7,600
Tribal Education Departments National Assembly – $5,000
United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce – $30,000
U.S. Action – $70,000
U.S. Global Leadership Coalition – $35,000
U.S. Hispanic Leadership Institute – $26,447
Vote Yes for Oregon – $200,000
Voter Activation Network – $9,500
WAND Education Fund – $15,000
Washington, DC Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation – $166,666
Washington Families Standing Together – $15,000
Wellesley Centers for Women – $6,151
Wellstone Action! – $47,532
Will Steger Foundation – $15,000
Win Minnesota Political Action Fund – $50,000
Women’s Campaign Forum – $10,000
Yes on 100 – $50,000
Yes on 24 – The Tax Fairness Act – $2,125,000

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