I’m in favor of spending more money on schools. Education is important. Important things need to be given the right support.
Am I in favor of spending more of my money on schools? A trickier question. I mean it when I say I support education spending. But I don’t like getting the bill. There are a lot of competing demands on my money, starting with my own needs.
How do I navigate this? How do I get it right when it comes to balancing what I favor supporting and what I actually am going to pay for? Come May and June, resolving this is going to be one of the most interesting, controversial and important plot developments in the final stretch of the state budget drama going on in Madison as we as a state decide this.
You can see tension between what people want in general and what they want when the discussion gets specific in results from the Marquette Law School Poll released a few days ago. (Disclosure: I am one of the people who work on the poll and I helped draft the education-related questions.)
When a sample of people statewide were asked if they support spending more money on public education, their answers were overwhelmingly yes. Sixteen percent said they wanted the amount given to support schools to increase more than the rate of inflation (about 2% over the last year). Another 41% said they thought the amount should go up in line with the rate of inflation. And 14% said they favored an increase of 1% a year (a figure used because it has been proposed by some Republican state senators).
That comes to 71% in favor. Gov. Scott Walker has proposed keeping the “revenue cap” on schools flat for the next two years, which would have the general effect of keeping spending for operations unchanged. Seventeen percent favored no increase in public school spending. And 8% wanted to reduce the amount given to public schools.
But not so fast in concluding there is big support for more money for schools. The poll also asked what was more important to people, to reduce property taxes or increase school spending. Walker’s budget proposal increases state aid to schools by about 1.5%, but, because the revenue cap would be flat, the money would go, in effect, to property tax relief.