Sunday, July 1, 2018

New school aid figures show a lot of districts will still lose funding next year

As a property taxpayer in a great community like Madison, this wasn't great news to hear on Friday.
Madison public schools may receive about $7.2 million less in state money for the 2018-19 school year, according to Wisconsin Department of Instruction estimates released Friday.

The Madison School District received about $48.2 million in state funding last school year, and this year’s estimate is $41 million — a nearly 15 percent drop.

“We were expecting that,” said district spokeswoman Rachel Strauch-Nelson. “Overall, it’s not a surprise and it’s what (the district) accounted for in our budget.”...

The budget tacks an additional $82 onto a property tax bill for a home valued at $267,000, according to the district.

The budget would draw $310.8 million in property tax revenue, up about 4.6 percent from last school year’s budget.
But Madison isn't the only district facing general aid cuts. The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction released its preliminary aid numbers for the next school year, and says 43% of Wisconsin district will see aid cuts. In addition, 50 of those districts will see aid losses of 15% or more compared to last year.

And the largest dollar cuts include many mid-level and large suburban districts, reductions which will likely need to be made up with by imposing higher property taxes.

Largest dollar cuts, Wisconsin districts 2018-19
Madison -$7.203 million
Verona -$3.058 million
Janesville -$2.311 million
Germantown -$1.769 million
Oconomowoc -$1.263 million
La Crosse -$1.098 million
Milwaukee -$0.966 million
Kettle Moraine -$0.890 million
West Bend -$-0.856 milliom

Now, some of this could be construed as a good thing, as the general aid formula is supposed to work as an offset to level the field between districts with high property values, and districts with large levels of poverty and/or low values of property to tax. This is certainly the case in Madison, as assessed property values in the city rose by 6.7% this year (we are part of that, as our assessment went up by nearly $20,000 this year).

Verona is an even better example of this, as it approved of a $181.5 million referendum last year to build a new high school and make other improvements, but Verona homeowners won't take much of hit because the new tax base includes hundreds of millions of dollars of property from Epic Systems that are being taken off of a TIF district and going onto the tax rolls.

However, most school districts in Wisconsin do not have an Epic Systems in their area. Delavan-Darien in Walworth County is one of those more typical districts, but the district where Scott Walker graduated from high school is still getting a general aid cut of more than $477,000 for next year. That district has recently closed an elementary school and laid off 20% of its teachers after a school referendum failed in April. This development led to a recent online ad by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Kelda Roys, featuring one of the teacher laid off from the Delavan-Darien district.

The failures in Delavan-Darien illustrates the cynicism behind the decisions of Walker and WisGOP to make his well-publicized increases in school funding come in the form of per-pupil aids, which have had the effect of benefitting districts that are already in good shape due to increasing enrollments while hurting the many districts in the state with stagnant or declining enrollment (read: well-to-do well-white people who value education).

This leads to public education continuing to have a two tiers of quality, where children and communities in smaller and more improverished communities are in danger of getting a second-class education due to the difference in resources. That doesn't sound like the Wisconsin Way to me, but the "have and have nots" results sure sounds like a lot of other things that have happened during the Age of Fitzwalkerstan, doesn't it?


  1. So they have limited the number of referendums a district can have. If a district does pass a referendum they lose state equalization funding and their budgets can be undercut without any warning when the "Charter Czar" and voucher programs take money out of a limited pot. Why is the pot limited? When FoxConn came asking the pot wasn't limited. If we can fund FoxConn why can't we fund schools?

    1. Silly goose- public schools don't contribute to Walker and give his oligarch puppetmasters more power.

      But Foxconn, Foxconn's contractors, and the DeVoses? Oh yeah, they pay up to Scotty. And the rest of us pay for them.

  2. It's really disgusting how far the union privilege taker mentality continues to infect these school boards. Oconomowoc School District's board recently decided to keep paying insurance claims for RETIREES, for chrissakes. Don't cry poverty with decisions like that.

    1. Tell the truth, you're "one of those" that thinks just because you have a crappy job with no benefits no one else should. Instead have you thought that maybe you "conservatives" should work towards improving every one's life? After all isn't it Saint Reagan that said "A rising tide lifts all boats"?

  3. I thought teacher's unions didn't have power, Bradley Boy. You mean Oconomowoc actually thought they might - gasp - FOLLOW THROUGH ON THE PROMISES THEY MADE TO THEIR TEACHERS. Especially given that some of those retirees probably still live in that community.

    By the way, see G'Town and West Bend on that "biggest cut" list? Combine that with the housing bubble in Wash Co., and enjoy paying those higher property taxes, SUCKER!

    You know this ain't working 7 years after Act 10. You're just paid not to admit it.

  4. I genuinely commend that couple for participating in that video, but in a sadistic way I enjoy watching Republican voters suffering because of their own actions. I’m glad they’ve finally seen the light.

    In their defense, they probably didn’t truly know what they were getting into when they voted in 2010. In the past, Republicans like Tommy Thompson have always tried to pinch the school districts, because that’s what they do. They didn’t completely gut them, though, because they never had absolute, unchecked power.

    Since 2010, through gerrymandering, they have had unchecked power. Add to that a cynical, unprincipled governor who has never cared about anything but his own personal ambition and you have the perfect recipe for a disaster. And that’s exactly what this has become...a disaster. Here’s hoping many more folks like that couple have seen the light and change their ways this November.

  5. I don't have the time. But it would be interesting to do a statistical study to see if left leaning areas took a bigger hit.