The revenue caps and QEO are transforming the operations of public schools, pushing school officials and the public into a never-ending cycle of cuts, compromises and referendums.
Most districts reduced the number of academic courses, laid off school support staff and reduced programs for students at the highest risk of failure, according to a survey of 278 superintendents during the 2004-05 school year by groups representing administrators and teachers.
Public schools, the most expensive single program in Wisconsin, account for about 40 cents of every dollar spent out of the state’s general fund.
In the old days, school boards wanting more money for school operations could simply raise taxes, and risk retribution from voters if they went too far.
Revenue caps stripped school boards of that power, requiring them instead to seek the permission of voters in ballot questions.
“We’re literally governing by referendum,” complained Nancy Hendrickson, superintendent of the Pecatonica Area School District in Blanchardville, 35 miles southwest of Madison.