I’m just going to say it. This voucher school that Grant Meier and Bry Coleman are opening in Racine, Wisconsin is a racket. I’m dumbfounded that this got approved by DPI.
Can all Wisconsin voucher schools operate like this?
I read Root River Siren’s post “Cautionary Whale: 2 Guys In Racine Who Have Never Met Get Half-Million To Start Voucher School”
and then the Journal Sentinel’s articles
DPI documents lead to questions about proposed voucher school
May 09, 2013 6:48 am
Voucher school co-founder’s bankruptcy comes as surprise to partner
March 09, 2013 9:22 pm
Grant Meier can invest $20K in the Evergreen Elementary School and come out with a $120K salary, no education experience required.
For newly minted self-proclaimed principal Grant Meier, the earnings will be $1,666 per pupil. Consider that two other area principals earn $250/pupil and $194/pupil. [see the numbers for that at the end of the post]
His $20,000 investment will be only 4.1% of the total budget for the operation with about 1.4% coming from fund-raising and 94.5% coming from the State of Wisconsin. Meier thought he would have some money from his business partner Coleman but then Coleman went bankrupt – something Meier learned about after the Journal Times got involved in the situation:
“He found out about Coleman’s personal finances Tuesday [March 5th]; Coleman told Meier’s son about his pending bankruptcy Monday evening, a few hours after The Journal Times questioned Coleman about it.”
Here’s more on the financial picture:
“Total school revenue is estimated at $491,024 for the first year, made up of $20,000 in operator contributions, $7,200 from fundraising and $463,824 in voucher money. For that same year, expenses are expected to be $457,653
including rent, taxes, financial services, phone and Internet service, classroom supplies and salaries — each of five teachers will make $45,000 annually with no benefits offered, documents show.” – source
Meier is, according to the J.T. articles, a sales trainer set to retire from Peterson. So he knows how to sell information to attorneys. Nice. But does this prepare him to become administrator to a school serving students age 4 to 10?
According to The Journal Times review of DPI records filed for the school, co-founder Bry Coleman is also slated to get a 120K salary.
He’ll be an operations manager of the 4-room schoolhouse serving 72 children. To be fair, my phrase “4-room schoolhouse” might be a smidge off
This is how the 1926 building is described in the paper: ““There’s four very large classrooms that are accommodating to students with the chalkboards and everything else,”” [More research needed. Anybody have photos?]
Bry Coleman is the business administration professor from Southeast Wisconsin who is going bankrupt, wiping away $443,894 in debt [according to Journal Times].
Coleman promised to “withdraw from active participation” in the school’s development because of his bankruptcy but DPI paperwork shows that what he’ll really be withdrawing is a high salary paid primarily by the State of Wisconsin.
More on the principal salaries….
I thought that the $120K principal salary for a projected 72 students scenario sounded outrageous but I had no basis to go by. So I looked at a few DPI numbers.
I reviewed 2 elementary principal salaries – one in Racine and one in Franksville (a little town 17 minutes to the West of Racine).
Petra Walker, according to DPI’s data, earned $50,000 as principal of the North Cape Elementary School in Franksville, WI in 2012. That is the value of all she received including benefits. North Cape has been enrolling about 200 students since 2001.
So Principal Walker serves more than double the number of students to be served at this voucher school. Principal Walker gets paid roughly 42% of what newly minted voucher school principal Grant Meier would get in his first year at an elementary-grade school.
Sharon Campbell serves as a principal at Jones Elementary in Racine Unified School District and earned, according to DPI’s data, roughly $92K in both salary and benefits in 2012.
That’s a healthier salary but Principal Campbell has a larger school, too. Attendance at Jones Elementary has fluctuated between a low of 454 and a high of 490 students since 2000 – an average of 472 students.
So this guy expects to be principal of about 15% of the pupils that Sharon Campbell must care for. But Campbell makes about 77% of what he will make in his first year – with him having no additional expertise or experience.
I got the principal earnings per pupil sums of:
Petra Walker – $250/pupil at North Cape Elementary in Franksville, WI
Sharon Campbell – $194/pupil at Jones Elementary in Racine, WI
Grant Meier – $1,666/pupil at his brand new voucher school that he made up in Racine, WI
Reminder: That per-pupil salary is not just the free market doing its thing. Taxpayers will be paying most of Grant Meier’s nice salary.
What a racket.
Voucher Schools – MORE
At the moment voucher schools can funnel state money to private schools in Milwaukee and Racine Counties. Tucked in Walker’s budget is a provision to expand this to other districts where there is a student population of more than 4,000 students: Beloit, Fond du Lac, Green Bay, Kenosha, Madison, Sheboygan, Superior, Waukesha, and West Allis-West Milwaukee. La Crosse would also be covered included shortly given its growing population.
There’s a LOT more that is wrong with voucher schools than what I this post focuses on – such as the fact that funding two public school tracks raises local taxes,
the lack of accountability,
the lack of certified staff,
the lack of fair and appropriate education offerings for students who have disabilities,
and the fact that our public tax money could be routed to private schools through vouchers – schools that teach religion and creationism.
Then there’s the fact that these schools invariably do not hire union teachers and that they starve local public schools of pupils and funds.
Heck. They don’t even perform better than public schools in those damn standardized tests.
Learn more here:
Walker’s Plan for Wisconsin Public Schools: Make Them Private
Resources used for the salary/pupil evaluation:
DPI attendance data — which I located over at the site “Wisconsin District and School Performance Reports”