Education issue looms large in Wisconsin governor’s race

Amy Hertzner

Education may not be the first thing that comes to voters’ minds this year when they think of the Wisconsin governor’s race, but maybe it should be.
After all, soon after the next governor raises his hand to take the oath of office, he is likely to immediately be confronted with the state’s 2011-’13 biennial budget and a shortfall of about $3 billion.
Education now consumes more than half of the spending by the State of Wisconsin – school aid for kindergarten through 12th grades alone cost about $5 billion this year – even though the state’s portion of education funding has fallen in the last two years and has needed help from federal stimulus dollars.
So, whoever voters select for the state’s top spot could have a big effect on their neighborhood schools as well as on state taxing and spending.
“It’s huge,” Todd Berry, president of the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, said about the school funding issue. “By mathematical definition, if the state has big financial problems, it has real implications for education.”