Saturday, July 29, 2017

No WIs budget = more chances for vouchers to steal from public schools

One of the things that have gotten shoved into the background with Foxconn Fever is the fact that Wisconsin doesn't have a damn budget yet.

One of the issues that we have yet to resolve is K-12 spending, which had significant modifications in the Senate Republicans’ budget proposal that was sent out last week. As I noted at the time, the Senate GOP budget included a noticeable increase in funding for school vouchers, adding $36 million on top of the increases to vouchers that were already in Gov Walker's 2017-19 budget, while taking away a similar amount from K-12 public schools.

Legislative Democrats sent out this information from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau showing what the state’s K-12 spending would look like if the Senate GOP plan were to become law. The analysis went back to 2009-10, and it shows how spending on vouchers has grown exponentially, especially once Scott Walker and the Wisconsin GOP came to power in 2011.

Voucher school spending 2011-2019 (Sen GOP plan)
2010-11 $130.8 million
2012-13 $157.8 million
2014-15 $213.0 million
2016-17 $252.1 million
2017-18 $269.3 million
2018-19 $311.3 million

At the same time, K-12 public school aids have stagnated. Under the Senate GOP plan, General K-12 Aids (which give more funding to poorer schools than richer ones) would be less in 2018-19 than they were before the GOP came to power. And combined public school general and categorical aids will be up less than 10%, while the rate of voucher spending has grown 14 times faster.

General K-12 Public School Aids (Sen GOP plan)
2010-11 $4.564 Billion
2018-19 $4.477 Billion (-1.9%)

General + Categorical K-12 Public School Aids (Sen GOP plan)
2010-11 $5.218 Billion
2018-19 $5.699 Billion (+9.2%)

That 9% increase is before we deal with inflation over those 8 years, by the way. Also noteworthy is that those combined General and Categorical aids are projected to be $6,664 a student in 2018-19, which is nearly $1,100 less than what would follow a voucher student from grades K-8, and $1,739 less than a high school student attending a voucher school.

Even worse, over the last few years, the voucher program has been changed to directly funnel money away from K-12 public schools and into the private ones, as a way to hold down taxpayer costs. Under the Senate GOP plan, $120.0 million would be taken away from public schools in 2018-19, and nearly 2/3 of that would be outside of Milwaukee. These reductions in state aid often lead to property tax increases to make up the difference, as losing a handful of students isn’t going to change the amount of teachers or schools that are required for a district to run, nor will it change the costs to leave the lights on.

And the property tax increases and funding disparities were the crux of the Dems’ complaint with the Senate GOP plan to increase vouchers (well, along with the fact that vouchers don’t do much to improve student performance).
“Local property taxpayers should see more of their state tax dollars come home to schools that have been at the heart of rural and northern communities for generations,” said Sen. Janet Bewley (D-Delta).

“At the very least they should have a say before their hard-earned tax dollars are shifted to unaccountable voucher schools at a higher rate and with no taxpayer oversight.”

Legislative Democrats introduced legislation this spring to give local taxpayers a say before voucher costs are shifted onto property taxpayers by requiring a local referendum. That plan was also included in the education package put forward by Democratic members of the Joint Finance Committee ahead of the state’s budget deadline.

“If my Republican colleagues want to mandate this program in district after district, they should either pay for it or give property taxpayers a say before sticking them with the bill,” said Rep. Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh)….

“The Republican plan to force property taxpayers to foot the bill for voucher schools and their lobbyists is just wrong.Taxpayers deserve to know that the Republican Legislature is spending their school money with no local accountability. What Happened to local control and accountability for local school spending?” asked Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton)
So think about this- Walker and WisGOP want to give away up to $200-$250 million a year to Foxconn, and they're choosing that option over covering with the property tax increases that are caused by their voucher scam. The average Wisconsinite gets screwed over two ways!

This is what has to be emphasized continually as we debate both the budget and the Fox-con, because it illustrates just how far out of whack the GOP’s priorities are, as they desperately try to deflect from their failed economic record, and kick back taxpayer dollars to their donors.


  1. Our budget was due June 30th, have had zero meetings to discuss a solution before ant vote, and now use the "special session (any Legislative rules are optional)" to saddle Wisconsin taxpayers with this...?!

    Let's delay any session so that we all can know how all this will effect future State and Local budgets. This is not how elected officials should act or how Government should work.

  2. The special session is for Foxconn only, so the budget will be dealt with later, but otherwise your point is spot on.

    I fear the budget and all of these voucher shenanigans will also be snuck through at the last minute with very little discussion on what will happen to local taxpayers.

    It is absolutely not the proper way to do things. But that is how the GOP rolls, both in Madison and in DC.