Claims of Greater Wisconsin Committee rated FALSE

Surprise, surprise claims made by GWC in their ad lamenting school aid cuts were found to be FALSE!

A TV ad by the liberal Greater Wisconsin Committee uses interview clips to hammer Walker for backing business tax breaks while reducing state support for local schools.

The speakers — unidentified by name or position, but described by the group as teachers, parents or grandparents — make claims about school staffing cuts and larger class sizes.
Their claims are presented as more than random anecdotes; one source listed on the screen is a report issued by the state Department of Public Instruction, which oversees public education in Wisconsin.

In case you don’t remember, here were some of the claims:

“My daughter has not enough tables and chairs in her room and she has kids sitting on the floor,” a man says, sitting with a woman and two young girls in a restaurant. A citation flashes on the screen: the state budget bill.

Then a young man standing outside says: “Forty-seven in a room, they don’t get much attention.” An onscreen graphic reads, “Classes are overcrowded,” and cites the aforementioned report issued by the Department of Public Instruction — a widely publicized report summarizing a statewide survey of schools following the budget cuts.

Seems Politifact has previously found claims from the survey GWC used to be false.

When asked for backup, the group’s leader, Michelle McGrorty, cited the statewide survey published in November by the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators in conjunction with the state DPI, which is independent of the governor’s office.

Previously, we rated two claims from that survey.

We found False a statement by Walker that “the overwhelming number” of school districts reported their staff stayed the same or grew after the 2011-’13 state budget. And we also rated False a claim by the state’s largest teachers’ union that state budget cuts for schools  resulted in nearly 4,000 educator layoffs.

GWC says the survey shows overcrowding is a problem, though the claim can’t be backed up.

Asked about the survey, McGrorty said the findings “definitely” mean there will be some overcrowding.

But we contacted DPI and WASDA and another trade association and found no one claiming overcrowding or any specific increase in class size averages.

Another statewide association, the Wisconsin Association of School Boards, said class size increase have not risen to “troublesome” levels.

And of course GWC continues to refuse to provide identification of those in the ad.

That leaves us with fact checking the specific anecdotes, but Greater Wisconsin — which is funded by labor, Democratic Party groups and wealthy individual donors — refuses to name the people or even cite the districts involved.

McGrorty told us the group is concerned about potential harassment or threats of violence against the speakers.

She also said the group was told that a school had to combine two classrooms because a teacher was laid off, and it lacked enough chairs. In the claims of classes increasing to 47, McGrorty contends it was a high school English class.

We were not able to identify the districts.

Without “proof” to backup the claims, they are nothing more than rhetoric that is false.  As Politifact points out:

In our view, the ad’s message is that school crowding is common and dramatic, assertions not backed up by key school officials or the research cited. Class sizes have increased, and Walker’s budget is partly responsible, but that trend began before Walker, and other factors play in.

In any case, that is not the same as “overcrowding” — a description not even school and union officials are using.

We may revisit this item if new evidence emerges, but these claims — as presented — are thin and misleading.

We rate the claim False.

So when will the local TV stations start refusing to play these false ads being put out by Greater Wisconsin Committee?

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