Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Political Tourette's, part I

Sometimes it seems that politicians speak to make noise.  To be sure, it is strategic bloviation. They string together of buzz words - lots of adjectives and emphatic ipse dixits - designed to evoke a mood, but nothing resembling an argument.  As one of the characters in HBO's VEEP observed, it's all "noise-shaped air."

One of the worst offenders is Rep. Sondy Pope (D-Cross Plains). Recently, she put out an incomprehensible press release accusing School Choice Wisconsin President of "misrepresentation" of the demand for the choice program. SCW had put out a press release noting that the there by had been an increase in applications for the state wide Parental Choice Program. The problem, according to Rep. Pope, is that some of the applicants for 2015-2016 were in the program in 2014-2015 and should therefore be excluded from  the number of applicants in the latter year.

That is, of course, gibberish. These students "demanded" the program in 2014-2015 and continued to "demand" it in 2015-2016 by applying to remain in it. One does not calculate the level of demand for a given good or service by excluding those who demanded it in the past. If I want to know what the level of donations to the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty were in 2014, I don't exclude those who renewed donations that they made in 2013.

But I really wanted to focus on Rep. Pope's response to a memo by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau that calculated how much state aid would fund an expanded statewide voucher program if a given number of students enrolled in the program over the next ten years. The memo is of limited value. No one knows how many students will enroll in the voucher program. No one knows what other factors will be influencing the level of state aid over that period. And, of course, it makes no sense to discuss funding that has been "shifted" from public schools without considering the cost savings associated with students who those schools will no longer be educating. Whether the public schools will be better or worse off by allowing funding to follow the student is an empirical question.

But that's a subject for another day. In response to the LFB memo, Rep. Pope said that the point of choice expansion was to "reward the out-of-state interests that give millions to Republican campaigns …" This is a common meme of school choice opponents. They think that someone is out there profiting from the program.

I have yet to figure out who that is. The overwhelming number of schools accepting voucher students in Milwaukee are religious schools. Are the Archdiocese of Milwaukee or the Lutheran Missouri Synod (well, it does have Missouri in its name) "out-of state interests that give millions to Republican campaigns …." In these schools, the administrators and teachers generally make less money than those in public schools. If they are "profiteering," they seem to be making a hash of it. (While there have certainly been school operators who have misused voucher funds, public school employees have been known to do the same thing.)

In fairness, Rep. Pope - or whoever writes her press releases - is not the only one who seems to have some kind of phrase generation software that produces these word salads. I suppose that there is some perceived need to emote in response to something that you don't like.

Cross posted at Purple Wisconsin.

1 comment:

David Blaska said...

I only wish Apple Computer WOULD start voucher schools in Wisconsin. They would profit because they would provide a product and service customers demand.