Governor Doyle’s Proposed Budget Does Not Save the Madison School District:
Proposed Budget provides 65% of public school costs via redistributed sales, income, corporate taxes and fees, rather than 67%.

I’ve received some emails on this story. It seems there are two approaches to “fixing” the Madison School District’s $333M+ budget for our 24,342 students. Blame the state/federal government, or work locally to build support for our public schools in terms of volunteer hours, partnerships and money.
I believe that latter approach is far more likely to succeed because we have more control all around and we have a vested interest in our community’s future. That’s also why I support Maya Cole (vs. Marj Passman) and Rick Thomas (vs. Beth Moss) for school board. Ruth Robarts, Lucy Mathiak and Lawrie Kobza have proven that the board and individual members can be effective. An insider friend mentioned that Doyle’s budget is “thinly balanced”, which likely explains the reality. The Madison School Board’s majority decision (4-3) with respect to concessions before negotiations magnifies the governance issue. Watch the candidates discuss this issue, among others recently.
Those interested in this issue should check out Monday’s (3/12 from 12 to 1:00p.m.) brown bag lunch on Financing Quality Education. [map]
Steve Walters and Stacy Forster:

Despite Gov. Jim Doyle’s public – and repeated – promises that his budget proposal would pay for two-thirds of public education costs, an analysis released today showed that it falls short of that goal.
In a 624-page summary of the budget that Doyle gave legislators last month, the Legislative Fiscal Bureau said the state would pay 65.3% of public school costs in the year that begins July 1, and 65.5% of those costs in the following year.
Because public schools cost about $9 billion every year, each 1% equals about $90 million – money that is tight as legislators begin the process of reviewing Doyle’s budget and drafting changes to it. Legislators will act on their version of the budget over the next three or four months.

Legislative Fiscal Bureau Summary. Via WisPolitics. More on Wisconsin’s school finance climate here. The Associated Press has also posted an article here:

The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau said Tuesday in a summary of the budget the governor gave to legislators in January that the state would pay 65.3 percent of public school costs in the year that begins July 1 and 65.5 percent during the next year.

The AP article references some special and school choice funding changes that may help some districts:

David Schmiedicke, the governor’s budget director, said the budget proposal is just short of the 66 percent goal next year because it includes more money for specific programs such as aid to students with disabilities, subsidies for small class sizes and free breakfasts, and $21 million more to pay for Milwaukee’s school choice program.

4 thoughts on “Governor Doyle’s Proposed Budget Does Not Save the Madison School District:
Proposed Budget provides 65% of public school costs via redistributed sales, income, corporate taxes and fees, rather than 67%.”

  1. While I think that working to change school financing is a worthy cause, it doesn’t address the more immediate issues (and might never). Can someone tell me why both approaches can’t be pursued by the board? Why does fixing school financing preclude examining alternative funding sources, pursuing partnerships, recruiting volunteers….etc? What am I missing?
    I will be supporting the same candidates for the same reasons.

  2. It seems to me that I can recall Board and administration discussions regarding shortfalls in State funding for at least the past five years. The issues of underfunded mandates and the gap between what is allowed under the revenue caps and the QEO are not new problems. I would assume that the District has been lobbying the State about the financial hardships this lack of funding has imposed on our schools all along (or at least since 2001). Why do we think that the State government is finally going to change the way that they have handled school funding and save our District from yet another round of painful reductions in services?

  3. Jeff:
    I think you raise a very good point. Wishing something were so, and having it actually happen, are two very different things when it comes to school financing in Wisconsin.
    Let’s face it — school funding is 40 percent of the state budget. With that much at stake, it’s highly unlikely fundemental change will come on the financing front without a wide and deep consensus throughout the state. I personally think we may be headed there (Waukesha, the political base of one of the two major parties in our state, is going through some very difficult budget-cutting this year at their schools). But remember the circumstances of the last major overhaul of school financing; it occured during the brief period back in the early 1990s when one party controlled everything — both houses of the Legislature, and the governor’s office. That’s not the case right now.
    I do think one can lay some responsibility at the doorstep of the governor — as much as I personally think he’s done a good job in his tenure in protecting public schools from deep cuts, I do sometimes wish he’d be a little more bold on the financing front, and on a few other educational fronts (assessment, for starters…) In Wisconsin, governors can often get things done by proposing something, using the bully pulpit of the office to lobby for public support, and using the extraordinary veto powers to craft legislation to suit their ends. Perhaps he is in a holding pattern until the Odden report comes out this summer. But the reality is that school financing will be largely set in stone for the next two years by the end of this coming June.

  4. I have to agree with Phil M.
    I’ve been through this in several states for twenty some years. What Wisconsin is going through is not new. Nearly all states are going or have gone through this same discussion.
    Revenue caps are likely here to stay. They are in place in many states in response to property tax increases in the 1980s and 1990s that led to “revolts.” The caps may be modified, but you’re never going to see much change in this system, even if education is taken totally off the property tax.
    Here’s the message: there won’t be much help coming from the state capitol anytime soon. There may be some tinkering with the funding mechanism that may alleviate severe crunches for some district in some years, but there will never be an appreciable amount of new money coming from the state to support general education programs.
    State funding for education is already a huge part of every state budget, and it competes with several other huge budget items: health care and public safety. Absent unprecedently growth in the economy, Governors and Legislatures can’t appreciably increase funding of education without increasing taxes, or chopping a huge chunk from somewhere else. It is not politically possible to substantially increase taxes for general support of education.
    Here’s the exception: you might be able to increase taxes a bit to support a new program. That program had better be incredibly popular, have bipartisan support and be something that business leaders will see as an investment, rather than a tax. And it had better be something you can deliver in four years. In other words, the stars have to line up for it.
    That’s why school boards need to really start focusing hard on budgeting and on innovative programs that might bring in grant money and new students.

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