Will Wisconsin return to its ‘three-legged stool’ to pay for schools? Here are reasons to doubt it

Alan Borsuk:

Let’s focus particularly on Evers’ call for using some of the money to return state support of general operating costs of public schools to two-thirds of the total bill (with the other third coming generally from property taxes).  

A bit of history: In the early 1990s, there was strong opinion, particularly for then-Gov. Tommy Thompson and Republican legislators, that property taxes in Wisconsin were too high and school spending was increasing too fast. The result was creation of what was called “the three-legged stool” that would provide something for school spending increases to rest on.  

The three legs were: A cap on how much money school districts could collect in state aid and property taxes; a rule known as the QEO which effectively put a lid on how much pay and benefits for teachers could increase; and a commitment by the state to pay two-thirds of school costs in exchange for reduced property taxes (which actually worked, at least for a while).  

Teachers unions’ hated the QEO and it died during the time Democrat Jim Doyle was the governor. Revenue caps (which also constrained teacher pay and benefits) are alive to this day.  

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

In addition, Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools.