As the Budget Project notes, even with increases in state funding over the last two school years, “Wisconsin still hasn’t fully restored state aid for public schools.”
In 2019, the state will invest less in public school districts than it did in 2011, something that has been true of every year in between as well. In 2019, Wisconsin school districts will receive $153 million less in state aid than in 2011 in inflation-adjusted dollars, or 2.6% less. The significant increase in resources that lawmakers provided for public schools in the 2017-19 budget closed the 2019 gap to the smallest one since the major cuts were made, but still did not lift public schools back to the 2011 funding level.So why does Scott Walker run around the state claiming there’s a “record amount of money in K-12 education?” Because Scotty’s counting the hundreds of millions of dollars funneled into private voucher schools (up nearly $175 million in 2019 vs 2011), and the increases in the school levy credit. The school levy credit is taken off of the property taxes paid toward public schools, with those funds never seeing the inside of a public school classroom.
Over time, the budget cuts to public schools have accumulated. Between 2012 and 2019, the state provided $3.5 billion less in state aid to public schools than it would have if state aid had been kept at 2011 levels.
As the Budget Project notes
Since 2011, lawmakers havbe twice increased this property tax credit, with the expansions making up $193 million of the $940 million credit value in 2019. All owners of property receive this credit, regardless of whether they live in the state. Among homeowners, the largest credits go to the owners of expensive homes.I also want to mention one other item that the Budget Project doesn’t, and point out that almost all of the increased funding for schools in the 2017-19 budget comes in the form of per-pupil aid, with almost none coming from the General Equalization Aid formula. This means that schools with stagnant or declining enrollments and a lack of tax base aren’t being helped as much as richer, growing schools are, which is expanding the divide in resources and quality between school districts throughout the state.
The Budget Project also connects another Walker/WisGOP policy choice to these K-12 cuts - numerous tax cuts that lessen the amount of money available to be invested.
The combined cost of the new tax cuts has climbed each year, starting from a low of $57 million in 2012, and reaching $2.0 billion in 2019 in inflation-adjustment dollars. The combined total cost of the tax cuts adds up to $8.7 billion over eight years.And what did we get from these allegedly lower taxes? Our job growth hasn’t been helped one iota, and in fact, 2016 and 2017 were the two worst years for Wisconsin job growth since Scott Walker and WisGOP came to power after 2010. 2018 might not be much better, after Wisconsin losses of nearly 10,000 jobs in April and May 2018 were by far the most of any state in America.
The tax cuts have drained money from public schools. If lawmakers had declined to pass new tax cuts and instead appropriated that money in the same proportion as other state tax money is spent, the result would have been an additional $649 million available for public school districts in 2019. Even just eliminating a single tax cut—the Manufacturing and Agriculture Credit—and dedicating all the revenue to public schools would increase state support well past 2011 levels.
It's not like those funds cut from K-12 education have fixed our crumbling roads, and Wisconsin fell from 7th to 15th last year when it came to having its residents be covered by health insurance. So how has Wisconsin become better off in any way, shape or form from these decisions by Wisconsin Republicans over the last 8 years?
Oh, our lower unemployment rate? That's a result of people leaving a state that won't invest in K-12 education and quality of life, and pays the lowest manufacturing wages in the Midwest.
The trends mentioned above have to be reversed, and the only way that can happen is to remove Scott Walker and the Republicans from power. We've seen what path those guys will choose if kept in office, and it's one that'll continue to drive Wisconsin into the dirt.