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Wisconsin Budget: Not Much Money for Public Schools

There's really not much new money for Wisconsin public schools in Gov. Scott Walker's proposed budget. Credit: Madison Metropolitan School District
There's really not much new money for Wisconsin public schools in Gov. Scott Walker's proposed budget. Credit: Madison Metropolitan School District
July 1, 2015

MADISON, Wis. - According to an analysis by the nonpartisan Wisconsin Budget Project, Governor Scott Walker and the Republican-led legislature have proposed a budget that doesn't provide much in the way of new resources for the state's public schools.

Tamarine Cornelius, a budget analyst with the organization, says what's really happening is the additional funds for public education promised in the budget will be delivered in a way that won't allow district to put that money to work educating public school students.

"So if they have higher property taxes, then they can't get as much from the state, and if they have more money from the state, then they can't raise as much through property taxes," says Cornelius. "So what happened here is the state has given them more general aid; to make sure they don't exceed their revenue cap, they have to have lower property taxes."

Cornelius says the complexities of the school funding system in Wisconsin make it difficult for the average person to understand, but according to her, Governor Walker actually is giving the money as a tax cut.

"When he first came out, he said, 'We're putting more money into schools,' Well, it's going through schools, but it's not really going to schools," she says. "Most of the money is going through to taxpayers."

Cornelius says when you do the complicated math, what it means is the state under the proposed budget will be spending $1,014 less per student now than in 2008.

According to Cornelius, the proposed budget will redirect resources from public schools to private schools. When students go from a public school to a private school, the state money follows them.

"They essentially take with them the money that the state pays the school, the general aid that the state pays the school attaches to the student and goes to that private school instead," says Cornelius. "So the amount of money that the state pays the public school goes down. Instead, that chunk of money is transferred to the private school."

The Wisconsin Budget Project says only four states have made deeper cuts to education than Wisconsin between 2008 and 2015.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI