Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Failed school referenda may make for a tough call for WisGOPs

In addition to the blowout in the School Superintendent’s race, there were a number of other items involving K-12 education on yesterday’s ballot. This included numerous school referenda, which has become a regular occurrence as tight revenue limits from Scott Walker and the WisGOP Legislature have prevented many Wisconsin districts from adequately keep things running, especially now that the “tools” of Act 10 have already been used.

As the Department of Public Instruction notes, a majority of yesterday’s 71 referenda questions passed, but 25 of them didn’t, and it wasn’t just questions related to big-money building projects. Here is the list of school districts that turned down referenda that asked taxpayers to increase the revenue caps for that district (i.e. money that goes to everyday costs), and the amount of increased revenue that it was asking to have available for the 2017-18 school year. It’s a mix of small rural districts, medium-size small city districts and suburban ones.

Bonduel $1,000,000
Cameron $675,000
Hayward $2,000,000
Howard-Suamico $4,000,000
Menomonee Falls $1,100,000
Mosinee $159,836
Necedah $800,000
Osceola $950,000
Southern Door $936,000
West Allis-West Milwaukee $2,500,000
Yorkville $490,000

Remember that Scott Walker’s 2017-19 budget does nothing to change the revenue limits for public K-12 schools, which will limit the effectiveness of those higher per-pupil aids that Walker’s flying around the state (at taxpayer expense) to promote. And because those figures are per-pupil aids instead of general aids, if these districts have stagnant or declining enrollment next year and/or the year after that, they will not the same amount of help that other, better-funded districts in the state will.

Also interesting is that only one of these districts (Necedah) currently receive assistance under the state’s sparsity aid program, and only Bonduel would be added to that list under the Governor’s proposed expansion of that program in the 2017-19. Without those new sources of money, these districts may have little recourse but to plan cuts for next year following yesterday’s vote, even if we assume Walker’s pre-election gimmick budget were to pass.

One other item to make a note of- Republicans represent every one of these 11 districts, in whole or in part. Think that might put a little pressure on the legislators from those areas to fund the schools to avoid seeing damaging cuts hit for the 2017-18 school year? Combine that reality with the overwhelming show of support for State Superintendent Tony Evers and his pro-public schools stances in that same election, where Evers won many of these GOP legislators’ counties by margins between 20 and 50%, and it’s going to be difficult for many of these legislators to allow cuts to happen by lowering the amount of proposed aids going to K-12 schools.

And with Assembly Speaker Robbin’ Vos bickering with Senate Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Governor Walker on road funding (while Vos is also arguing with the Road Builders and Milwaukee business oligarchs on where to put any extra road funding), the relatively large number of rejected referenda in yesterday’s elections may have thrown another monkey wrench into things. The already-fractured GOP Caucus that is trying to make sense of a Walker budget that would lead to a $1 billion deficit in 2 years, and now many of their constituents are going to start asking them to do something so Johnny can play football and have less than 35 kids in his classroom next Fall.

Huh, it’s almost like these guys might need more money to take care of everything that they want to do. But that would involve actually levying taxes on potential campaign contributors, and we can’t have that, can we WisGOP?


  1. Jake: Here's my take.

    1. I definitely think districts should play hardball (pun intended) and threaten sports and school/district closings. It seems to be the only way some of these rubes will understand how these cuts lead to real problems.

      Well, that and all the potholes.

  2. Maybe I am just too cynical towards the WISGOP government controlling Wisconsin, but I don't think that anything will happen to increase state funding in these areas. I think that the WISGOP will let these school districts fail and then blame the teachers, their union... anything to accept any responsibility for their failed policies, and call for more public money to go to for profit private schools.

    1. I think they'll do a little, but I bet it's a far cry from the $649 million that Walker put in, because the revenue picture is shaky at best, and a whole lot of places are either underfunded or unfunded tax giveaways.

      A whole lot of these rural places voted for Trump because they wanted their lives to get better (along with sticking it to us "smarty-pantses"). They are NOT going to accept seeing their schools get hurt again 6 years after Act 10.