Sunday, July 9, 2023

Evers adds K-12 funding. WisGOPs claim it's a property tax increase. But it doesn't have to be

Wanted to give a few more thoughts on this action from last week from Governor Ope-lander.

Republicans are portraying Governor Evers’ creative veto as something that will trigger large and ongoing property tax increases. But all Evers did is guarantee more TOTAL revenue funding, and at a level that doesn’t even keep up with the current increase in costs.
Budget plans forwarded by Wisconsin's Republican legislators would have provided the state's public schools and additional $325 in revenue per pupil in this budget cycle. Using his broad veto powers as a scalpel, Evers sliced out bits of the budget document to extend that increase for four centuries.

The $325 amount is still about $75 per student less than what schools would need to keep up with the inflation rate, which is at 4.05 percent, compared to 4.93 percent last month and 8.58 percent last year, according to the consumer price index.
Dan Rossmiller, the executive director of the Wisconsin Association of School Boards, points out in that WPR article that setting a baseline increase of $325 a year makes it much easier for public school districts to plan out their staffing and classroom needs. And he reminds us that $325 is a drop in the bucket compared to what voucher schools are set to get.
"Right now this seems like this is a substantial amount, but when you look at what was given to private schools in the voucher program, $325 is kind of dwarfed," Rossmiller said.…

Funding for kindergarten through eighth grade private choice schools will increase from about $8,400 per student to $9,500 per student. Funding for private choice high schools will go from $9,045 to $12,000 per student.
That means that even under Evers’ locked-in $325 increases in revenue limits, it would take several years for K-12 public schools to have the same amount of per-student increases in funding that voucher schools will get. And that’s not even accounting for the revenue increases that voucher schools will get from using these higher subsidies to raise their tuition (you know, like how righties have told us student loans allow colleges to jack up tuition).

And if property taxes do go up, a lot of that increase will never be paid for by Wisconsin property owners, because Evers accepted a GOP increase of $335 million a year for the School Levy Tax Credit. That’s about a 35% increase from what it is now, which would translate to another $245 in property tax relief for us next year. Granted, we live in higher-levy, high property-value Madison, and your reduction will likely be less, but a lot of any property tax increase that WisGOPs are yapping about will be blunted due to that increase in the School Levy Credit.

On a side note, when WisGOPs whine about the vetoes of income tax cuts that Governor Evers made, they don't bring up this increase in the School Levy Credit that overwhelmingly benefits richer Wisconsinites, and districts with higher property values.

Of course, if the WisGOPs are really concerned about property taxes being increased due to Governor Evers allowing K-12 districts to use more funds, they can simply vote to add $325 per student in state aid to every school district. That would be around $262.5 million a year (based on the 807,657 public school students in Wisconsin school districts for 2022-23), which isn’t much different than the $225 million increase in General School Aids that is set for 2024-25 under the WisGOP-approved budget that Evers signed into law.

Another option that WisGOP will never bring up to limit school-related property taxes is fixing the funding flaw in the state’s voucher program that takes away state aid from public school districts if a kid living in the district takes a voucher – even if the kid never attended one day of public school. Public school districts are then allowed to levy property taxes to make up for the loss in state aid from each voucher student (because losing one kid or even 10 kids isn’t going to lead to the closing of a school or classroom).

Maybe we shouldn’t do either of these things. Don’t take away that $200 million+ in aid to community schools for the voucher students that live there, and then you don’t need to have those districts levy property taxes to make up the difference. Extra bonus – we have to pay the full state taxpayer cost of having these 2 separate school systems, and maybe we get more honest about how this should work.

What WisGOPs are really angry at is that they now have to justify to voters why public K-12 schools shouldn’t continue to get the assistance that Evers locked in. After a dozen years of neglecting public schools and imposing absurdly low revenue limits that led to ongoing referendums and more cutbacks, good luck on saying “let’s go back to that [failing] system us WisGOPs put in place!”

The teeth-gnashing by Robbin’ Vos and other WisGOPs is delicious to see, because these dweebs have nothing beyond “Tax cuts”, distractions and game-playing. It’s well past time these guys find out what it’s like to be on the other side of some shenanigans, because the Real Wisconsin has been screwed over by WisGOP’s deceptions and rigging of our political system for most of the last dozen years. And Evers’ move to increase resources to school classrooms have the extra advantage of being something that the people actually want.

If WisGOPs don’t like what Governor Ope-Lander did, then they should go ahead and try to get the voters on their side. But given their continued failures in statewide elections over the last 7 years, that doesn't seem likely to work out for them.

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