Thanks to the mayor of Racine, the Democrats’ propaganda war against school choice took to another front with the city’s property tax bills in December. However, school choice advocates say new information from the state shows the mayor’s campaign was full of fake news.
City of Racine residents received a flyer with their tax bills in December listing how much of the total property tax bill was being spent on the local technical college, county taxes, city taxes, taxes for the school district, and supposedly the tax bill for funding the Racine Parental Choice Program (RPCP), the private school voucher program.
The flyer was written after Mayor Cory Mason, a former Democratic member of the state Assembly and school choice opponent, was contacted by Angelina Cruz, president of the local teachers union Racine Educators United.
“Certainly Angelina brought the voucher issue forward, which I think is good to demonstrate to the public that a growing percentage of their tax dollars go toward voucher schools,” Mason told the Racine Journal Times. “But it also came from people wanting to understand where their tax dollars went to the city versus anywhere else.”
Because Mason claimed the letter included with the property tax bills did not cost taxpayers, he did not seek approval from the Racine Common Council.
However, School Choice Wisconsin President Jim Bender described the flyer as propaganda filled with bad information.
“The City of Racine and the Racine Unified School District misled the public with a flyer designed to sway public opinion and shame parents of students in the Racine Parental Choice Program (RPCP),” Bender said in a statement Tuesday. “Their use of erroneous and incomplete data shows the true nature of the flyer – advocacy. The Mayor bypassed the City Council while working with the Racine Education Association to create a flyer more commonly seen in political campaigns, not as a document from a local unit of government.”
Bender said the flyer failed to give the complete picture of how the RPCP affects taxpayers.
“Nowhere does the flyer reflect the lower cost per student for those in the RPCP or the impact if the program were eliminated,” Bender said. “As more information becomes available, other school districts around the state should ensure their information and data are correct and complete.”
Bender points out that the flyer shows a property tax impact of $18.65 million for the RPCP, or roughly 20 percent of the RUSD levy. That doesn’t match recent figures from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau.
“According to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, the actual levy impact is $4.8 million or five percent of the RUSD levy,” School Choice Wisconsin said in a release. “The Racine Parental Choice Program accounts for roughly 15 percent of all publicly-funded students in Racine. Overall, the Racine Parental Choice Program has a complex impact on the overall levy, with potential savings not represented in the flyer.”
The disagreement over the amount of property taxes being spent on parental choice programs comes not long after Rep. Sondy Pope (D-Mt. Horeb) also tried to falsely claim school choice is a burden on Wisconsin’s property taxpayers.
That effort drew a rebuke from Will Flanders, the research director for the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, in an op-ed in RightWisconsin.
“Independent charter schools receive $8,619 per student and voucher students receive $7,754 (K8) or $8,400 (9-12) per student,” Flanders wrote. “Public school students are funded at a rate more than $2,000 higher on average throughout Wisconsin. According to recent research from EdChoice, this leads to a savings of $800-1,200 per student in the choice program. Over the lifetime of the programs, Wisconsin has realized a benefit of more than $345 million from school choice.”