Monday, April 4, 2016

The other statewide election issue tomorrow- school referenda

Here’s yet another item that hasn’t gotten a lot of attention with all of the elections for office on Tuesday, but the Wisconsin Budget Project has a good rundown of the massive amount of money that is being requested as part of school referendums throughout the state.
School districts are asking voters to approve nearly $700 million in borrowing for new construction and building updates, and more than $150 million in increases in school district budgets. Those requested amounts are the largest put before voters at the annual spring election going back at least a decade. School districts can hold referendums at any time during the year, but many referendums are scheduled to correspond with regularly-held elections like the annual April election....

With the freeze on revenue limits, referendums have become an important way for districts to make sure they have the resources required to help schoolchildren succeed academically. Dan Rossmiller of the Wisconsin Association of School Boards describes the importance of the referendum option to schools in this Isthmus article this way: “School districts these days more or less live and die by these referendums in terms of their ability to sustain programs and staff.”
These referenda, and the increased property taxes that would result from their passage, are a direct result of the $1.24 billion cut from public schools by Scott Walker and the Wisconsin GOP since the Age of Fitzwalkerstan began in 2011 (I ran down the amount of these reductions, and how Act 10’s “tools” did not make up for them, in this post here). It has been a cynical game played by this ALEC crew, where the amount of state tax dollars going to voucher schools has skyrocketed, while the amount going to public schools has dropped, with the only recourse left for school districts (other than having schools close and buildings fall down) are these divisive and tax-hiking referenda to stay functional.

In particular, notice how many of these referenda are not for building projects, but instead are to “exceed revenue levels," and that's often for multiple years. This is a tell that not only isn’t the current WisGOP plan of “limit property taxes at all costs” working, but that the districts are not counting on any additional funds from the state with Walker (or equally anti-education GOP Rebecca Kleefisch) being in office for the next two years. And that’s probably a good bet, given the budget deficits that are likely to be awaiting the state in the 2017-19 biennium, with a $210 million structural deficit figured last Summer, and lower revenue estimates making that number likely to be closer to $500 million when that structural balance is refigured in the near future. Oh, and that’s also assuming a $127 million cut in per-pupil K-12 aids and $1.4 billion in lapses for those two years. Ugh.

But yet, here’s Ted Cruz running around the state with Walker’s goofy face at his side claiming that the “Wisconsin Way” is something that should be copied around the country. Really there, Teddy? This fiscal malpractice, along with the cuts to the UW System and other forms of higher education, have turned a growing state into a stagnant one with the worst job growth in the Midwest, and a workforce that won’t be as attractive to new industries.

Oh wait, Cruz is from Tex-ass, where low school performance, massive poverty and lack of health insurance, and desperate, low-wage workers are conditions that are acceptable. Oh, and now that I think about it, Scotty (and likely Cruz) are bankrolled by the Kochs and other greedhead privatizers. You know, a group of people who would love nothing more than to wreck public schools and throw this needed service in the arms of profiteers who don’t care about developing well-rounded individuals.

Now I get it.

1 comment:

  1. In general it would be interesting to see aggregate numbers broken down by State Assembly and Senate districts. After all, constituents should be interested in how their own locality fairs. Does Walker and GOP public policy and taxation benefit them, harm them or treat the "district" in a "neutral" manner by per capita or with other denominators?