K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Madison to receive 15% reduction in redistributed state tax dollars (property tax values and referendum spending are factors)

Jason Stein: Estimates for WI general school aids are out from DPI – not surprisingly given its increases in property values, Madison schools will see max 15% decrease (largest decrease in raw $s in the state). Milwaukee Public Schools expected to get a 2% increase: bit.ly/38lfSWQ Budget Brief, via the Wisconsin Policy Forum: But for … Continue reading K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Madison to receive 15% reduction in redistributed state tax dollars (property tax values and referendum spending are factors)

Commentary on Redistributed State Tax Dollars and Madison’s $450M+ School Budget ($18k/student)

Molly Beck: The law, known as Act 10, required local governments who offer a state health insurance plan to their employees to pay no more than 88 percent of the average premiums. Walker’s 2017-19 state budget will now require the same of all school districts, regardless of which health insurance plans they offer. That spells … Continue reading Commentary on Redistributed State Tax Dollars and Madison’s $450M+ School Budget ($18k/student)

A quick look at Dane County, WI K-12 Budgets and Redistributed State Tax Dollars

: Mahoney, director of business and technology services at the McFarland School District, said in an email to district staff that a budget deficit of between $500,000 and $1 million is likely for the next school year, which includes keeping a 3 percent wage increase and expecting a 7 percent health insurance cost increase. I … Continue reading A quick look at Dane County, WI K-12 Budgets and Redistributed State Tax Dollars

Wisconsin superintendent seeks an Increase in Redistributed State Tax Dollars to $12,800,000,000

Erin Richards & Kelly Meyerhoffer: State Superintendent Tony Evers wants to boost funding for Wisconsin’s K-12 schools by $613 million in the next biennial budget, combined with increases to the amount of money schools can raise in local taxes, and a new way of funding the Milwaukee voucher program. The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction’s … Continue reading Wisconsin superintendent seeks an Increase in Redistributed State Tax Dollars to $12,800,000,000

Madison’s Planned Tax & Spending Growth Documents: Redistributed State Tax Dollars up 20.6% Since 2011!

Madison School District PDF: For MMSD, the most important aspect of multi-year budget planning is the careful use of ‘unused tax levy authority’ which can be carried forward from one year to the next. For 2014-15, the budget has available just over $8.8 million of ‘unused tax levy authority’ which was carried forward from 2013-14.1 … Continue reading Madison’s Planned Tax & Spending Growth Documents: Redistributed State Tax Dollars up 20.6% Since 2011!

Madison Schools’ 2014-2015 Budget Update; Assumes 16% Increase in Redistributed State Tax Dollars, 2.11% Property Tax Growth; About $400,000,000 for 27,186 students

The Madison School District (600K PDF): This is the fourth and final installment of the series of updates designed to keep the board informed during the 2014-15 MMSD budget development process. The first update reviewed the budget process, priorities, and expected revenues. The second update explained our goals for a school-based staffing process that was … Continue reading Madison Schools’ 2014-2015 Budget Update; Assumes 16% Increase in Redistributed State Tax Dollars, 2.11% Property Tax Growth; About $400,000,000 for 27,186 students

Madison School Board Candidates Discuss Redistributed State Tax Dollars & Voucher Schools


Five candidates are competing for three seats on the Madison school board, with the general election on April 2, 2013.
The political context for the races is explosive, given Gov. Scott Walker’s revolutionary proposals for education in Wisconsin: cuts to public school funding, an expansion of the voucher program, and a revamping of teachers’ evaluations and bargaining rights.
In Madison, the issues are particularly complex, with the intense disagreements over the district’s achievement gap between white and minority students.
In the race for Seat 4, incumbent James Howard is running against Greg Packnett, a Democratic legislative aide.
In this competitive series of elections, there are numerous candidate forums and listening sessions under way, and we thought we’d pose our own questions to candidates.
For this fourth and final week of questions, we ask candidates to evaluate Gov. Scott Walker’s proposals for the Wisconsin’s 2013-15 budget, and consider how it would impact schools in the state. Along similar lines, we ask candidates to share their thoughts on the proposal to expand voucher schools in Wisconsin.

Wayne Strong and Dean Loumos (Isthmus) TJ Mertz (Isthmus).

RSS Local Schools Madison schools losing $6.7 million in Redistributed State Tax Dollars

The Madison School District will lose $6.7 million in state aid next year — $2 million more than it anticipated — according to estimates released Friday by the Department of Public Instruction.
The 13.5 percent cut is third-highest in the state among K-12 districts and higher than the 10 percent cut the School Board used to calculate its preliminary budget last week.
The $43.2 million in aid is also nearly one-third less than the $60.8 million the district received from the state four years ago.
Superintendent Dan Nerad said continuous cuts in state aid are hurting the quality of public education.
“School districts like ours cannot continue to be in an environment like this with increased expectations for student performance, and yet we’re not willing to provide the resources,” Nerad said.

Related: 1983-2007 Wisconsin K-12 Spending Growth via WISTAX:

Wisconsin Education Superintendent Seeks 2-4% annual increases in redistributed state tax dollars, introduction of a poverty formula and a shift in Property Tax Credits

Many links as the school finance jockeying begins, prior to Governor Scott Walker’s January, 2011 inauguration. Wisconsin’s $3,000,000,000 deficit (and top 10 debt position) makes it unlikely that the K-12 world will see any funding growth.
Matthew DeFour

Evers plan relies on a 2 percent increase in school aid funding next year and a 4 percent increase the following year, a tough sell given the state’s $3 billion deficit and the takeover of state government by Republicans, who have pledged budget cuts.
One major change calls for the transfer of about $900 million in property tax credits to general aid, which Evers said would make the system more transparent while having a negligible impact on property taxes. That’s because the state imposes a limit on how much a district can raise its total revenue. An increase in state aid revenue would in most cases be offset by a decrease in the other primary revenue — property taxes.
Thus the switch would mean school districts wouldn’t have such large annual property tax increases compared to counties, cities and other municipalities, even though tax bills would remain virtually the same, said Todd Berry, executive director of the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance.
“Distributing the money through the school aid formula, from a pure policy sense, is probably more equitable than distributing it in its current tax credit form,” Berry said. “The money will tend to help districts that tend to be poorer or middle-of-the-road.”

Susan Troller

Inequities in the current system tend to punish public schools in areas like Madison and Wisconsin’s northern lake districts because they have high property values combined with high poverty and special needs in their school populations. The current system doesn’t account for differences in kids’ needs when it doles out state aid.
Education policy makers as well as politicians on both sides of the aisle have talked school funding reform for over a dozen years but it’s been a tough sell because most plans have created a system of winners and losers, pitting legislator against legislator, district against district.
Evers’ plan, which calls for a 2 percent increase in school aid funding next year and a 4 percent increase the following year, as well as a transfer of about $900 million in property tax credits to general aid, addresses that issue of winners and losers. Over 90 percent of districts are receiving more funding under his proposal. But there aren’t any district losers in Evers’ plan, either, thanks to a provision that requests a tenth of a percent of the total state K-12 schools budget — $7 million — to apply to districts facing a revenue decline.


Wisconsin State and Local Debt Rose Faster Than Federal Debt During 1990-2009 Average Annual Increase in State Debt, 7.8%; Local Debt, 7.3%

Scott Bauer

Rewrite of Wisconsin school aid formula has cost

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction:

The following printout provides school district level information related to the impact of State Superintendent Evers’ Fair Funding proposal.
Specifically, the attachment to this document shows what each school district is receiving from the state for the following programs: (1) 2010-11 Certified General Aid; (2) 2009-10 School Levy Tax Credit; and (3) 2010-11 High Poverty Aid.
This information is compared to the potential impact of the State Superintendent’s Fair Funding proposal, which is proposed to be effective in 2012-13, as if it had applied to 2010-11.
Specifically, the Fair Funding Proposal contains the following provisions:

Amy Hetzner

But the plan also asks for $420 million more over the next two years – a 2% increase in funding from the state for the 2011-’12 school year and 4% more for the following year – making it a tough sell in the Legislature.
State Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills), who will co-chair the powerful Joint Finance Committee, said she considered the proposal pretty much dead on arrival in the state Legislature, which will be under Republican control next year, without further changes.
“I think those goals are very admirable,” said Darling, who has been briefed on the plan. “But, you know, it’s a $6 billion budget just for education alone and we don’t have the new money. I think we have to do better with less. That’s just where we are.”
On Friday, Governor-elect Scott Walker said his office had only recently received the proposal from the DPI and he had not had time to delve into its details or to speak with Evers. He said he hoped to use his budget to introduce proposals that would help school districts to control their costs, such as freeing them from state mandates and allowing school boards to switch their employees to the state health plan.

A Proposal To Rewrite Wisconsin’s $5,200,000,00 in Redistributed State Tax Dollars for K-12 Districts

Scott Bauer:

The school levy credit shows up as a reduction on property tax bills mailed in December, and killing it would be difficult politically.
But according to Dale Knapp of the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, the proposal would simply move money around and would have little effect on the problems schools face.
“Some districts will pay less, some will pay slightly more, but the schools will be in the same boat they were before,” he said.
The state uses the school levy tax credit to help reduce property taxes that provide local money for schools. It was created in 1996 and it has grown by more than 400 percent since.
Evers stressed that putting the tax credit money into the aid formula, then redistributing it to schools under a reworked formula, would not result in a net increase statewide in property taxes. It would, however, mean higher or lower taxes for individuals, depending on their school district.

61 percent of Wisconsin’s school districts will get more state redistributed tax dollars next year

Molly Beck: A majority of the state’s public school districts will receive more state general aid in the coming school year than they did the prior year, the latest state estimates show. Of the state’s 424 school districts, 61 percent — or 260 — are projected to receive more aid in the 2016-17 school year, … Continue reading 61 percent of Wisconsin’s school districts will get more state redistributed tax dollars next year

“Unexpected” $12,000,000 2012-2013 Increase in Madison’s Redistributed State of Wisconsin Tax Dollars

Matthew DeFour:

The 25.4 percent increase — from $43.3 million to $54.3 million — is the fifth-largest percent increase among the state’s 424 districts and by far the largest dollar amount increase.
Madison’s increase accounts for more than half of the $21.1 million increase in state aid for districts next school year.
School Board President James Howard said the development was good news, though he wouldn’t speculate whether the board would keep current spending levels or increase the preliminary $376.2 million budget when it takes up final approval of the tax levy in October.
Howard, who was the only board member who voted against the preliminary budget, said he questions why the district was so far off in its state aid estimate, adding “there has always been discussion about why do we need to approve budgets so early.”

Related: Notes and links on Madison’s 2012-2013 $374,700,000 budget.

Commentary on K-12 Taxpayer spending variation. (Excludes redistributed Federal tax and borrowed funds)

Mark Lieberman: In close to two dozen states, high-poverty schools get less money per student or just the same amount as low-poverty schools, a new report shows, despite abundant evidence that high-poverty schools benefit from more robust investment. A new analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data also shows wide disparities in how evenly school funding is distributed. … Continue reading Commentary on K-12 Taxpayer spending variation. (Excludes redistributed Federal tax and borrowed funds)

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: So, Why Didn’t the 2009 Recovery Act Improve the Nation’s Highways and Bridges?

Bill Dupor: Although the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (the Recovery Act) provided nearly $28 billion to state governments for improving U.S. highways, the highway system saw no significant improvement. For example, relative to the years before the act, the number of structurally deficient or functionally obsolete bridges was nearly unchanged, the number … Continue reading K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: So, Why Didn’t the 2009 Recovery Act Improve the Nation’s Highways and Bridges?

Commentary on federal redistributed taxpayer funds for K-12 school districts and charters

Libby Sobic: As Congress doles out billions of dollars for K–12 schools, charter schools already receive a much smaller portion of the education-funding pie. Currently Congress appropriates $440 million for the CSP, which is just 1 percent of U.S. Department of Education spending on K–12. However, the CSP has been critical to the growth and sustainability of charter … Continue reading Commentary on federal redistributed taxpayer funds for K-12 school districts and charters

Wisconsin lawmakers should allow parents to direct redistributed K-12 billion$ from American Rescue Plan

Institute for Reforming Government, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, Wisconsin, Federation for Children School Choice, Wisconsin Action ExcelinEd in Action, Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, The John K. MacIver Institute for Public Policy Badger Institute, FreedomWorks and Building Education for Students Together: Dear Governor Evers, Speaker Vos, Majority Leader LeMahieu, and State Superintendent Stanford Taylor, … Continue reading Wisconsin lawmakers should allow parents to direct redistributed K-12 billion$ from American Rescue Plan

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Redistributed Federal taxpayer funds and Wisconsin Schools

Kyle Koenen & Libby Sobic: The state has already received $2.0 billion in stimulus funding under the federal CARES Act and is expected to receive billions more in the latest round of stimulus. While the Department of Administration has developed a dashboard displaying CARES Act funding allocations, this tool fails to keep the public adequately … Continue reading K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Redistributed Federal taxpayer funds and Wisconsin Schools

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 schools may receive an additional $3.9M in redistributed federal tax dollars amidst fall 2020 referendum plans

Logan Wroge: The Madison School District is eligible for up to $3.9 million. It’s the only district in Dane County that is eligible for money from this specific pot in the CARES Act. Costs continue to grow for local, state and federal taxpayers in the K-12 space, as well: Let’s compare: Middleton and Madison Property … Continue reading Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 schools may receive an additional $3.9M in redistributed federal tax dollars amidst fall 2020 referendum plans

Commentary on the growth of redistributed Wisconsin K-12 tax & spending

David Blaska: Governor Evers vetoed another middle class tax cut this week. The bill that passed with bipartisan support in the Assembly last week would have: • Reduced nearly $250 million in income taxes for middle and lower income levels by increasing the sliding scale standard deduction by 13.2% for each filer. This would have resulted … Continue reading Commentary on the growth of redistributed Wisconsin K-12 tax & spending

Gubernatorial Candidate Tony Evers Proposal: Spend 12.3% (10%?) more taxpayer funds on Wisconsin K-12 school districts; while killing substantive reading improvement efforts.

Jessie Opoien: Evers, a Democrat, is asking for $1.4 billion in additional funds for the state’s K-12 schools in the 2019-21 budget. The $15.4 billion request, submitted by Evers on Monday, comes less than two months before Walker and Evers will meet on the ballot — and Evers’ budget letter includes a swipe at the … Continue reading Gubernatorial Candidate Tony Evers Proposal: Spend 12.3% (10%?) more taxpayer funds on Wisconsin K-12 school districts; while killing substantive reading improvement efforts.

Gubernatorial Candidate Tony Evers Proposal: Spend 12.3% more taxpayer funds on Wisconsin K-12 school districts; while killing substantive reading improvement efforts.

Kelly Meyerhofer: Walker proposed $13.7 billion in total state support for public schools for the 2017-19 biennium. That includes about $2.2 billion in property tax credits that are counted as K-12 funding, but don’t go directly into the classroom. Walker’s campaign spokesman Brian Reisinger touched on the record amount in a Saturday statement: “Scott Walker … Continue reading Gubernatorial Candidate Tony Evers Proposal: Spend 12.3% more taxpayer funds on Wisconsin K-12 school districts; while killing substantive reading improvement efforts.

Redistributed Wisconsin K-12 tax dollars grow in latest legislative plan

Molly Beck: Overall, Walker proposed $11.5 billion for schools, including the $649 million increase. A spokesman for budget committee co-chairwoman Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, said the Joint Finance Committee reduced the increase to $639 million because of reductions to funding proposed by Walker for rural school districts and for schools in the Milwaukee School … Continue reading Redistributed Wisconsin K-12 tax dollars grow in latest legislative plan

Wisconsin Redistributed Tax Dollars will help taxes, not classrooms

Erin Richards: About 60% of school districts will get a boost in state aid in 2016-’17, but the money will flow through to property tax relief instead of funding for classrooms, according to new state figures. Meanwhile, costs to taxpayers for the Milwaukee voucher program and costs to nearly all districts for the expense of … Continue reading Wisconsin Redistributed Tax Dollars will help taxes, not classrooms

New state budget raises taxes while borrowing $325,000,000

Tulsa Beacon: Higher education will be cut by 7.66 percent. The Oklahoma Health Care Authority (the state Medicaid provider) will get a 9.24 percent increase. The Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services will get a 2.18 percent increase. Government (redistributed tax dollars) health care spending growth has long crowded out other expenditures. … Continue reading New state budget raises taxes while borrowing $325,000,000

Commentary On Proposed Changes To Wisconsin’s Redistributed K-12 Tax Dollars

Molly Beck: While I do agree that there was some situations where some districts were gaming the system, and perhaps something needs to be done, it’s clear in talking with the Senate that there isn’t support to bring this bill all the way home,” he said, adding that he expected enough support for the original … Continue reading Commentary On Proposed Changes To Wisconsin’s Redistributed K-12 Tax Dollars

Media Reality Check on Madison’s K-12 Tax & Spending

Molly Beck, writing for the Wisconsin State Journal: Madison schools could see a $2.6 million increase in state aid next school year, but that’s about $5.6 million less than what district officials assumed when the School Board passed its preliminary budget last month, according to state estimates released Tuesday. The Madison School District expected its … Continue reading Media Reality Check on Madison’s K-12 Tax & Spending

An Update On Redistributed Wisconsin Tax Dollars for K-12 Budgets

Molly Beck: Whether the district will need to scale back its planned spending for the 2014-15 school year is a “good question,” Howard said. “I’m not sure what it means.” McCarthy said Madison’s aid has only hit the $60 million mark once, during the 2008-09 school year when total state aid levels peaked at $4.7 … Continue reading An Update On Redistributed Wisconsin Tax Dollars for K-12 Budgets

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: States Grapple With Unpopular Property Taxes; Madison Seeks Continue Annual Increases; Chicago to Fund Pension Deficits

Elaine S. Povich State Sen. David Argall thinks Pennsylvania’s law to fund schools with property taxes, which dates from the 1830s, has outlived its usefulness. He is pushing a bill that would eliminate property taxes levied by school districts and replace the revenue with higher state income and sales taxes. For the first time, his … Continue reading K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: States Grapple With Unpopular Property Taxes; Madison Seeks Continue Annual Increases; Chicago to Fund Pension Deficits

School Board Property Tax Increase Votes and State Politics

Chris Rickert

So I get why Burke was the only board member to vote against a tax-raising, 2013-2014 school district budget.
Still, just once I’d like to see a candidate throw caution to the wind and mount a data-based defense of good, if politically unwise, choices. If voters don’t buy it, well then they deserve what they get.
Burke explained her latest no vote on the budget last week by saying the district needs to consider whether salary increases for district residents are keeping up with school district tax increases.
To back up that concern, Burke provided me with a May 1 news release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showing that in Dane County, residents saw a 3.9 percent drop in average weekly wages between the third quarter of 2011 and the third quarter of 2012.
I did a little more digging and found that wages also dropped by 0.1 percent between the second quarter of 2011 and the second quarter of 2012, and by 0.3 percent between the first quarters of 2012 and 2013.
Nevertheless, a broader view of the most recent available data suggests her concern is largely unfounded.
The BLS reported that wages were up 7.7 percent and 5.9 percent respectively, in the first and fourth quarters of last year – essentially wiping out, and then some, the wage decreases.
Plus, over the most recent 10 years for which data are available, personal income and per-capita income in Dane County rose, on an average annual basis, by 4.29 percent and 2.92 percent, respectively, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.
By contrast, next year’s school district budget raises taxes on the average homeowner by 2.5 percent, and over the past 10 years, the average annual school district tax increase has been 1.75 percent.
If anything, district tax increases aren’t keeping up with district residents’ ability to pay them.
Despite the old tax-and-spend myth frequently pinned on liberal Dane County, the school district isn’t unique, either, at least when it comes to Madison and county government.

Mr. Rickert neglects to mention the changing composition of Wisconsin K-12 tax revenue sources. Redistributed state tax dollars grew substantially during the past few decades. That growth has now largely stopped. Absent a serious look at our agrarian era school organizations and practices, property tax & spending growth are going up annually.

Wisconsin School District Redistributed State Tax Dollar Receipts

Matthew DeFour:

Public schools will receive $4.26 billion in general state aid this school year, up $87.5 million or 2.1 percent from last year, the Department of Public Instruction announced Wednesday.
The aid figures are a revision from those released Oct. 15. Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill Sunday to increase aid by $100 million over two years. The bill did not include an increase in state-imposed limits on school district revenues, so school boards are expected to use the additional aid to lower property taxes.
The aid figures were marginally different than estimates released by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau last week as part of the discussion of the property tax relief bill. The Madison School District, for example, will receive $12,680 less than reported last week, a change of 0.02 percent.
Over all, Madison will get $52.2 million in state aid, a 10.7 percent decrease.

Madison received an increase of $11,800,000 in redistributed state tax dollars last year…

Madison Schools’ 2013-2014 Budget Charts, Documents, Links, Background & Missing Numbers.

45% (!) Increase in Madison Schools’ Fund 80 Property Taxes from the 2011-2012 to 2012-2013 School Year; No Mention of Total Spending

July, 2013 Madison Schools 2013-2014 Budget Presentation (PDF). Notes:

  • No mention of total spending…. How might the Board exercise its oversight obligation without the entire picture?
  • The substantial increase in redistributed state tax dollars (due to 4K) last year is not mentioned. Rather, a bit of rhetoric: “The 2013-14 budget development process has focused on actions which begin to align MMSD resources with the Strategic Framework Priorities and strategies to manage the tax levy in light of a significant loss of state aid.” In fact, according to page 6, the District expects to receive $46,392,012 in redistributed state tax dollars, which is a six (6%) increase over the funds received two years ago.
  • The District’s fund equity (financial cushion, or reserves) has more than doubled in the past eight years, from $22,368,031 in 2005 to $46,943,263 in 2012.
  • Outbound open enrollment continues to grow, up 14% to 1,041 leavers in 2013 (281 inbound from other Districts).
  • There is no mention of the local tax or economic base:

  • The growth in Fund 80 (MSCR) property taxes and spending has been controversial over the years. Fund 80, up until recently was NOT subject to state imposed property tax growth limitations.
  • Matthew DeFour briefly summarizes the partial budget information here. DeFour mentions (no source referenced or linked – in 2013?) that the total 2013-2014 budget will be $391,000,000. I don’t believe it:

    The January, 2012 budget document mentioned “District spending remains largely flat at $369,394,753” (2012-2013), yet the “baseline” for 2013-2014 mentions planned spending of $392,807,993 “a decrease of $70,235 or (0.02%) less than the 2012-13 Revised Budget” (around $15k/student). The District’s budget generally increases throughout the school year, growing 6.3% from January, 2012 to April, 2013. Follow the District’s budget changes for the past year, here.

Finally, the document includes this brief paragraph:

Work will begin on the 2014-15 early this fall. The process will be zero-based, and every line item and FTE will be carefully reviewed to ensure that resources are being used efficiently. The budget development process will also include a review of benefit programs and procurement practices, among other areas.

One hopes that programs will indeed be reviewed and efforts focused on the most urgent issues, particularly the District’s disastrous reading scores.
Ironically, the recent “expert review” found that Analysis: Madison School District has resources to close achievement gap. If this is the case (and I agree with their conclusion – making changes will be extraordinarily difficult), what are students, taxpayers and citizens getting for the annual tax & spending growth?
I took a quick look at property taxes in Middleton and Madison on a $230,000 home. A Middleton home paid $4,648.16 in 2012 while a Madison home paid 16% more, or $5,408.38.

Stagnant School Governance; Tax & Spending Growth and the “NSA’s European Adventure”

The Madison School District’s recent rhetoric around annual property tax increases (after a significant increase in redistributed state tax dollars last year and a “return to normal” this year) is, to the ongoing observer, unsurprising. We appear to be in the Rainwater era “same service” approach to everything, from million$ spent on a partially implemented Infinite Campus to long-term disastrous reading scores.
Steve Coll’s 5 July 2013 New Yorker column nails it:

The most likely explanation is that President Obama never carefully discussed or specifically approved the E.U. bugging, and that no cabinet-level body ever reviewed, on the President’s behalf, the operation’s potential costs in the event of exposure. America’s post-September 11th national-security state has become so well financed, so divided into secret compartments, so technically capable, so self-perpetuating, and so captured by profit-seeking contractors bidding on the next big idea about big-data mining that intelligence leaders seem to have lost their facility to think independently. Who is deciding what spying projects matter most and why?

Much more on annual local property tax increases, here:

The Madison School Board should limit the school property tax hike to the rate of inflation next year, even if that means scaling back a proposed 1.5 percent across-the-board salary increase for school district employees, says member Mary Burke.
“I think in an environment where we’ve seen real wages in Dane County decrease, and a lot of people are on fixed incomes, we have to work as hard as possible to limit any increase to the inflation rate,” Burke said Tuesday in an interview.

But School Board discussions have focused around reducing the proposed salary hike, and cutting back on facility maintenance to pare down the $392 million proposed budget enough to bring the property tax increase to 4 or 5 percent, board President Ed Hughes told me.
The district under state law could increase its levy by as much as $18,385,847 or 9 percent. Keeping the increase to around the rate of inflation would mean an increase of less 2 percent.

Board member TJ Mertz can’t vote on salaries because his wife is a teacher’s aide with the school district, he told me, but he has long been outspoken in his belief in good pay for teachers to ensure the best academic achievement for students.
“As a citizen, I understand our staff needs to be compensated,” he said, adding that teachers have taken losses in take-home pay since they were required to begin making contributions to their pensions in 2011. “If the state won’t invest in our children, it has to come from the property tax,” he said.
Mertz said he would prefer a tax increase steeper than the 4 percent or 5 percent the board as a whole is focusing on. “I firmly believe the most important thing we can do is invest in our students; the question should not be what property tax levy can we afford,” he said.

I appreciate Schneider’s worthwhile questions, including a discussion of “program reviews”:

Several School Board members interviewed for this story stressed that the 2013-2014 budget will be a transitional one, before a broad re-evaluation of spending planned by Cheatham can be conducted.

Yet, it would be useful to ask if in fact programs will be reviewed and those found wanting eliminated. The previous Superintendent, Dan Nerad, discussed program reviews as well.
Madison Schools’ 2013-2014 Budget Charts, Documents, Links, Background & Missing Numbers.
The Madison School Board seat currently occupied by Mr. Hughes (Seat 7, and Seat 6 – presently Marj Passman) will be on the Spring, 2014 ballot (candidate information is available at the Madison City Clerk’s website).

Up, Down & Transparency: Madison Schools Received $11.8M more in State Tax Dollars last year, Local District Forecasts a Possible Reduction of $8.7M this Year

Matthew DeFour:

The Madison School District stands to lose millions of dollars in state aid under Gov. Scott Walker’s budget proposal, district officials said Wednesday.
The district is projecting an $8.7 million, 15 percent reduction in state aid, Superintendent Jane Belmore said in an interview.
She cautioned that the amount is a preliminary estimate based on the governor’s 2013-15 budget proposal, which could undergo changes by the Legislature.
The district is preparing its 2013-14 budget, and it’s unclear when a proposal will be finalized. School districts typically develop spending plans for the following year before knowing exactly how much money they’ll get in state aid.
Walker’s budget calls for a 1 percent increase in state aid, but Belmore said when district staff put the amount through the state’s complicated funding formula it resulted in the reduction. State Department of Public Instruction officials couldn’t verify the district’s estimate.
This year’s $394 million school budget included $249.3 million in property taxes, a 1.75 percent increase over the previous year.

One would hope that any budget article should include changes over time, which DeFour unfortunately neglects. Madison received an increase of $11.8M in redistributed state tax dollars last year.
In addition, DeFour mentions that the current budget is 394,000,000. The most recent number I have seen is $385,886,990. where has the additional $8,113,010 come from? where is it being spent? was there a public discussion? Per student spending is now $14,541.42.
Related: Ed Hughes on School District numbers in 2005: in 2005::

This points up one of the frustrating aspects of trying to follow school issues in Madison: the recurring feeling that a quoted speaker – and it can be someone from the administration, or MTI, or the occasional school board member – believes that the audience for an assertion is composed entirely of idiots.

Madison schools propose using $12M redistributed state tax windfall for tax relief, technology upgrades, achievement gap

Matthew DeFour:

That means the district’s property tax levy would increase 3.47 percent, down from the 4.95 percent increase the board approved in June. The tax rate would be $11.71 per $1,000 of assessed value, down from $11.88. For an average $232,024 home, the difference is about $40.
The board could use the remaining $8.1 million on property tax relief, but Belmore is recommending it be used in other ways, including:
$3.7 million held in reserves, in case the state overestimated additional aid.
$1.6 million to buy iPads for use in the classroom, $650,000 to upgrade wireless bandwidth in all schools and $75,000 for an iPad coach.
$1.2 million to account for a projected increase in the district’s contribution to the Wisconsin Retirement System.
About $800,000 geared toward closing achievement gaps including: three security assistants at Black Hawk, O’Keeffe and Hamilton middle schools; an assistant principal at Stephens Elementary, where the district’s Work and Learn alternative program caused parent concerns last year; two teacher leaders to assist with the district’s literacy program; a high school math interventionist; increasing the number of unassigned positions from 13.45 to 18.45 to align with past years; and a new student agricultural program.
$100,000 to fund the chief of staff position for one year.

104K PDF Memo to the Madison School Board regarding redistribution of state tax dollars.
Madison plans to spend $376,200,000 during the 2012-2013 school year or $15,132 for each of its 24,861 students.

Wisconsin gets $10.5M in federal redistributed tax dollars for English learner assessment

Bill Novak: The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction has been awarded a $10.5 million grant to develop technology-based assessments for students learning English. The four-year grant from the federal Department of Education will be used to develop an online assessment system to measure student progress in attaining the English language skills they need to be … Continue reading Wisconsin gets $10.5M in federal redistributed tax dollars for English learner assessment

A Simple Approach to Ending the State Budget Standoff

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

Here’s an idea for resolving the state’s budget repair bill crisis. Governor Walker’s budget repair bill is designed to eviscerate public employee unions. But with a few changes it could actually lead to an innovative and productive way of addressing the legitimate concerns with the collective bargaining process, while preserving the most important rights of teachers and other public employees.
Background: A Tale of Two Unions
First, some background that highlights the two sides of the issue for me as a member of the Madison School Board. Early on Friday morning, February 25, our board approved a contract extension with our AFSCME bargaining units, which include our custodians and food service workers. The agreement equips the school district with the flexibility to require the AFSCME workers to make the contributions toward their retirement accounts and any additional contributions toward their health care costs that are required by the budget repair bill, and also does not provide for any raises. But the agreement does preserve the other collective bargaining terms that we have arrived at over the years and that have generally worked well for us.
AFSCME has stated that its opposition to the Governor’s bill is not about the money, and our AFSCME bargaining units have walked that talk.
Our recent dealings with MTI, the union representing our teachers and some other bargaining units, have been less satisfying. Because of teacher walk outs, we have to make up the equivalent of four days of school. An obvious way to get started on this task would be to declare Friday, February 25, which has been scheduled as a no-instruction day so that teachers can attend the Southern Wisconsin Educational Inservice Organization (SWEIO) convention, as a regular school day.

Through a variety of circumstances, I’ve had an opportunity to recently visit with several Dane County (and Madison) businesses with significant blue collar manufacturing/distribution employment. In all cases, these firms face global price/cost challenges, things that affect their compensation & benefits. Likely reductions in redistributed State of Wisconsin tax dollars could lead to significantly higher property taxes during challenging economic times, if that’s the route our local school boards take.

Wisconsin State Senator Seeks to Stop 4K Funding Growth, Including Madison’s Planned Program

Matthew DeFour:

A Republican lawmaker wants to kill Madison’s fledgling 4-year-old kindergarten program before it even begins.
Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, said Wednesday the state shouldn’t encourage new 4K programs — now in 85 percent of the state’s school districts and with three times as many students as a decade ago — because taxpayers can’t afford them.
“We have a very difficult budget here,” Grothman said in an interview. “Some of it is going to have to be solved by saying some of these massive expansions of government in the last 10 years cannot stand.”
Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad called Grothman’s proposal “very troubling.”
“I don’t know what the 4-year-olds in Madison did to offend the senator,” Nerad said. “There are plenty of studies that have indicated that it’s a good idea to invest as early as possible.”
Last month the Madison School Board approved a $12.2 million 4K program for next fall with registration beginning Feb. 7. Madison’s program is projected to draw $10 million in extra state aid in 2014 when the state’s funding formula accounts for the additional students. Overall this year, school districts are projected to collect $223 million in state aid and property taxes for 4K programs, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

Much more on Madison’s planned 4K program, here.
It appears that redistributed state tax dollars for K-12 are destined to change due to a significant budget deficit, not to mention the significant growth in spending over the past two decades.

The recent 9% increase in Madison property taxes is due in part to changes in redistributed state tax funds.
I spoke with a person active in State politics recently about 4K funding. Evidently, some lawmakers view this program as a method to push more tax dollars to the Districts.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: A View from China

Andy Xie:

Powerful interest groups have paralyzed China’s macro-economic policy, with ominous long-term consequences. Local governments consider high land prices their lifeline. State-owned enterprises don’t want interest rates to rise. Exporters are vehemently against currency appreciation. China’s macro policies have been reduced to psychotherapy, relying on sound bites and small technical moves to scare speculators. In the meantime, inflation continues to pick up momentum. Unless the central government bites the bullet and makes choices, the economy might experience a disruptive adjustment in the foreseeable future.
The first key point is that local governments have become dependent on the property sector for revenue as profits from manufacturing decline and spending needs to rise. Attracting industry has been the main means of economic development and fiscal revenue for two decades. Coastal provinces grew rich by nurturing export-oriented industries. But the economics has changed in the past five years. Rising costs have sharply curtailed manufacturers’ profits, and most local governments now offer subsidies to attract industries. The real revenue has shifted to property.

The dependency on high land prices for property tax revenue is certainly not unique to China. Madison’s 2010-2011 budget will increase property taxes by about 10%, due to spending growth, declining redistributed state tax dollars and a decline in local property values.

Despite cost-cutting, most Phila.-area districts are planning tax increases for the coming school year.

Dan Hardy:

In nine districts, taxes went up by more than double the state inflation rate, and in three – Upper Dublin, Southeast Delco, and Bristol Borough – they went up by more than 10 percent. The 2010-11 property-tax increase for all 63 suburban districts averaged slightly more than 4 percent, up from 2.9 percent in 2009-10, even though the education inflation rate for this year was higher, at 4.1 percent.
In Bucks County’s Bristol Borough district, one of the smallest in the area with an enrollment of about 1,225, taxes are going up 15 percent. School Board President Ralph DiGuiseppe III, who was elected in November, said almost the entire increase is because of a 2009-10 deficit, when the board did not raise taxes.
To keep from going even higher, DiGuiseppe said, the board has cut some teaching jobs, and will reduce administrative pay by having the superintendent double as high school principal for part of the coming school year. Another administrator will teach part time. Three sports teams also were eliminated.

Locally, the 2010-2011 Madison School District budget will increase property taxes by about 10%. The increase is due to spending growth, a reduction in redistributed state tax dollars and a decline in property values (assessments).

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Wisconsin deficit for next two-year budget swells to $2.5 billion

Jason Stein:

The state’s yawning budget hole has swelled to $2.5 billion, underscoring the massive challenge that awaits the next governor and Legislature, a new report shows.
The projections by the Legislature’s non-partisan budget office show the expected shortfall for the 2011-2013 budget has grown by $462 million from the just over $2 billion that was expected a year ago.

The Madison School District released a memorandum on expected redistributed state tax dollars last week 119K PDF. Superintendent Dan Nerad:

As you can see over the past five years, equalization aid for MMSD has been slightly erratic, increasing for two years and then decreasing drastically over the past 2 years as the State of Wisconsin removed $147 million of funding from the equalization aid formula.
The 2009-10 school year was the first time over the last 10 years that MMSD saw a maximum decrease in funding from the State of Wisconsin, which statutorily is set at 15%, For MMSD this was a decrease in the State’s connnitment to public education in Madison of over $9.2 million when compared with funds received in 2008-09.
When planning for the 20I0-11 school year budget, Administration openly planned for another reduction in equalization aid funding of 15% or approximately $7.8 million. The early aid estimate that was released on July I, 2010 shows MMSD in a better situation than was first projected through the budget process for one reason. The breakdown ofequalization aid for MMSD in 2010-11 as projected by the DPI is as follows:

John Schmid: Study says state is a ‘C’ student

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Wisconsin Democrat Governor Candidate Barrett calls for $1 billion in state government cuts

Mary Spicuzza:

Democratic candidate for governor Tom Barrett wants to get rid of the offices of the secretary of state and the state treasurer as part of a plan he says would cut more than $1 billion from Wisconsin’s budget.
Barrett said some of the savings could be achieved every year, while other cuts — such as eliminating those constitutional offices, an uncertain and arduous process — would represent one-time savings.
At a news conference outside the state Capitol on Monday, Barrett said his plans would include steps like combining workers statewide into pools to purchase lower-cost health insurance, cracking down on Medicaid fraud and other financial crimes, and cutting prisoner health care costs.
He also called for “right-sizing” the state employee work force but did not say if that would involve layoffs or simply not filling vacant jobs.
Barrett called it his plan for “putting Madison on a diet.”


Wisconsin has seen substantial growth in redirected tax dollars devoted to K-12 public districts over the past 20+ years.
Madison School Board Vice President Beth Moss asked whether the State might further reduce redistributed tax dollars for K-12 spending in the next year, at the June 1, 2010 Budget meeting.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: The Future Of Public Debt, Bank for International Settlements Debt Projections

John Mauldin:

“Seeing that the status quo is untenable, countries are embarking on fiscal consolidation plans. In the United States, the aim is to bring the total federal budget deficit down from 11% to 4% of GDP by 2015. In the United Kingdom, the consolidation plan envisages reducing budget deficits by 1.3 percentage points of GDP each year from 2010 to 2013 (see eg OECD (2009a)).
“To examine the long-run implications of a gradual fiscal adjustment similar to the ones being proposed, we project the debt ratio assuming that the primary balance improves by 1 percentage point of GDP in each year for five years starting in 2012. The results are presented as the green line in Graph 4. Although such an adjustment path would slow the rate of debt accumulation compared with our baseline scenario, it would leave several major industrial economies with substantial debt ratios in the next decade.
“This suggests that consolidations along the lines currently being discussed will not be sufficient to ensure that debt levels remain within reasonable bounds over the next several decades.
“An alternative to traditional spending cuts and revenue increases is to change the promises that are as yet unmet. Here, that means embarking on the politically treacherous task of cutting future age-related liabilities. With this possibility in mind, we construct a third scenario that combines gradual fiscal improvement with a freezing of age-related spending-to-GDP at the projected level for 2011. The blue line in Graph 4 shows the consequences of this draconian policy. Given its severity, the result is no surprise: what was a rising debt/GDP ratio reverses course and starts heading down in Austria, Germany and the Netherlands. In several others, the policy yields a significant slowdown in debt accumulation. Interestingly, in France, Ireland, the United Kingdom and the United States, even this policy is not sufficient to bring rising debt under contro
[And yet, many countries, including the US, will have to contemplate something along these lines. We simply cannot fund entitlement growth at expected levels. Note that in the US, even by “draconian” estimates, debt-to-GDP still grows to 200% in 30 years. That shows you just how out of whack our entitlement programs are.
Sidebar: This also means that if we – the US – decide as a matter of national policy that we do indeed want these entitlements, it will most likely mean a substantial VAT tax, as we will need vast sums to cover the costs, but with that will come slower growth.]

TJ Mertz reflects on the Madison School District’s 2010-2011 budget and discusses increased spending via property tax increases:

I was at a meeting of Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools people yesterday. Some of the people there were amazed at the hundreds of Madisonians who came out to tell the Board of Education that they preferred tax increases to further cuts. Some of the people were also perplexed that with this kind of support the Board of Education is cutting and considering cutting at the levels they are. I’m perplexed too. I’m also disappointed.

We’ll likely not see significant increases in redistributed state and federal tax dollars for K-12. This means that additional spending growth will depend on local property tax increases, a challenging topic given current taxes.
Walter Russell Mead on Greece’s financial restructuring:

What worries investors now is whether the Greeks will stand for it. Will Greek society resist the imposition of savage cuts in salaries and public services, and will the government’s efforts to reform the public administration and improve tax collection (while raising taxes) actually work?
The answer at this point is that nobody knows. On the plus side, the current Greek government is led by the left-wing PASOK party. The trade unions and civil service unions not only support PASOK; in a very real way they are the party. Although the party’s leader George Papandreou is something of a Tony Blair style ‘third way’ politician who is more comfortable at Davos than in a union hall, the party itself is one of Europe’s more old fashioned left wing political groups, where chain-smoking dependency theorists debate the shifting fortunes of the international class war. The protesters are protesting decisions made by their own political leadership; this may help keep a lid on things. If a conservative government had proposed these cuts, Greece would be much nearer to some kind of explosion.
On the minus side, the cuts are genuinely harsh, with pay cuts for civil servants of about 15% and the total package of government spending cuts set at 10 percent of GDP. (In the United States, that would amount to federal and state budget cuts totaling more than $1.4 trillion, almost one quarter of the total spending of all state and local governments plus the federal government combined.) The impact on Greek lifestyles will be even more severe; spending cuts that severe will almost certainly deepen Greece’s recession. Many Greeks stand to lose their jobs and, as credit conditions tighten, may face losing their homes and businesses as well.

Much more on the Madison School District’s 2010-2011 budget here.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: New Jersey Governor Discusses Spending Growth Control

John Gramlich:

But there’s another line Christie likes to use to describe the fiscal situation he inherited: “The day of reckoning is here.” It’s difficult to argue his point. While nearly all states are in deep fiscal trouble, New Jersey is in deeper than most. Its deficit amounts to 37 percent of the entire state budget. Christie has responded by proposing to slash billions of dollars in state spending on everything from aid to municipalities to the normally sacrosanct K-12 education system. More than 1,300 state government positions would be eliminated.
The governor’s proposal — and his unapologetic defense of it — have made him a villain to mayors, teachers, superintendents and other public employees. But Christie, perhaps more than any other governor these days, has captured the imagination of conservatives who admire his eagerness to take on powerful public employee unions. Many Republicans believe that Christie’s tough stance on spending is hitting exactly the right political note in a major election year marked by anti-government anger and Tea Party activism.
Indeed, with the governorships of 37 states up for grabs in November — and state finances not expected to improve much anytime soon — Christie’s budget-cutting quest and all the hot rhetoric both for and against it may amount to much more than political theater. It may be a preview of how some new Republican governors will lead in states they win this year. In Pennsylvania, Attorney General Tom Corbett, the front-runner to become the GOP’s candidate for governor, says he’s been paying close attention to what’s going on in the state next door. Chris Christie, he told Stateline in an interview, “has made a very good example.”

It is difficult to see growth in redistributed state and federal tax dollars for K-12 organizations over the next few years.
State of Wisconsin K-12 redistributed tax dollars have grown substantially over the past 25+ years, as this chart illustrates.

Redistributed state tax dollars are generated from personal & corporate income taxes and fees.
The Economist has more on New Jersey:

I watched him campaign last year. His message was simple: he vowed to cut spending and red tape. He also stressed that he was not Jon Corzine, the unpopular Democratic governor. Mr Corzine, for his part, emphasised that Mr Christie was a) a Republican and b) fat. The first argument alone would usually be enough to win an election in New Jersey. But last year was a bad time to be a) an incumbent or b) a former boss of Goldman Sachs, and Gov. Corzine was both.
I wondered at the time if Mr Christie meant what he said about doing painful things to rescue New Jersey from its deep pit of debt. It seems that he did. In no time at all, he plugged a short-term budget gap by slashing spending. He has also set his sights on the outlandish benefits enjoyed by some public-sector workers, citing as an example a 49 year old retiree who paid $124,000 towards his retirement benefits and expects to get back $3.8m.
He proposed to balance the budget for fiscal 2011 by cutting a third from projected outlays. He suggested that teachers’ pay be frozen, rather than raised by 4-5%, and that they contribute a small amount (1.5% of salary) towards their health benefits.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Democrat Controlled Assembly & Senate pass Bill that Reduces Madison’s SAGE Funding by $2M; District must be prepared for More Redistributed State Tax Dollar Changes

Dee Hall:

A bill that Madison School District officials say could take state funding from the district passed the state Senate on Thursday without changes and is headed to the desk of Gov. Jim Doyle.
The measure would increase the maximum class size in schools receiving funding under the Student Achievement Guarantee in Education program. The limit would become 18 students per class, up from the current maximum of 15, which would make SAGE more affordable for some school districts.

4K proponents have argued that the “State” will pay for this service over time. Clearly, counting on redistributed State tax dollars should be done with a measure of caution.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: The Great Debt Bailout


This blog was created in late 2006 in order to “vent” my frustration over the huge debt bubble and what I perceived to be the risks it posed to the global economy. In summary, I claimed that the economy had become hooked on debt to create additional GDP growth – or “growth” in quotation marks – and that the finance “tail” was wagging the real economy “dog”.
Soon thereafter, the bubble burst – first in the U.S. and then everywhere else. What followed was the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. And we are still in the midst of it, albeit in ever-mutating form, so today’s post is meant as a tour d’horizon, a quick summary of how I see things shaping up today.
I believe all that has happened so far is The Great Debt Bailout. Governments and central banks have issued trillions in new government-backed debt, some to replace private debt gone bad (bailouts for billionaires) and some to finance massive budget deficits (pennies for penniless). It is a policy mishmash produced by the combination of (a) Bernankean revulsion to monetary deflation and (b) Keynesian aversion to economic recession.

As School Districts consider property tax increases to address spending growth and flat or reduced redistributed state and federal tax dollars, it may well be useful to keep local goodwill in reserve for future funding challenges.
Related: Peter Gorenstein: Pray For Inflation — It’s Our Only Hope and New Jersey’s K-12 Staffing growth.

Advocating a Wisconsin Sales Tax Increase for K-12 Public Schools

Gayle Worland:

Tom Beebe has an idea for raising $850 million a year for Wisconsin schools, easing property taxes for homeowners and buying some time to devise a long-term solution to the state’s Byzantine school funding system — raise the state’s 5 percent sales tax by 1 percentage point.
It might not be politically viable. But supporters say at least it’s an idea.
“The conversation has to start somewhere,” said Dan Nerad, Madison School District superintendent. “There needs to be a public policy discussion about important questions around the school funding formula.”
The executive director of the Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools, Beebe is the driving force — literally — behind the “A Penny for Kids” campaign. Since summer, he has logged nearly a thousand miles a month, he said, in a low-key, grass-roots campaign focused mainly in rural areas of the state. An online petition has garnered about 1,760 signatures.

Wisconsin k-12 redistributed tax dollars grew substantially over the past two decades as the chart below indicates: . More here.

Federal Tax Receipts Decline 18%, Dane County (WI) Tax Delinquencies Grow

Stephen Ohlemacher:

The recession is starving the government of tax revenue, just as the president and Congress are piling a major expansion of health care and other programs on the nation’s plate and struggling to find money to pay the tab.
The numbers could hardly be more stark: Tax receipts are on pace to drop 18 percent this year, the biggest single-year decline since the Great Depression, while the federal deficit balloons to a record $1.8 trillion.
Other figures in an Associated Press analysis underscore the recession’s impact: Individual income tax receipts are down 22 percent from a year ago. Corporate income taxes are down 57 percent. Social Security tax receipts could drop for only the second time since 1940, and Medicare taxes are on pace to drop for only the third time ever.
The last time the government’s revenues were this bleak, the year was 1932 in the midst of the Depression.
“Our tax system is already inadequate to support the promises our government has made,” said Eugene Steuerle, a former Treasury Department official in the Reagan administration who is now vice president of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation.

Channel3000.com recently spoke with Dane County Treasurer Dave Worzala on the growing property tax delinquencies:

While there aren’t any figures for this year, property tax delinquencies have been on a steep climb the last few years, WISC-TV reported.
Delinquencies increased 11 percent in 2006, 34 percent in 2007 and 45 percent in 2008, where there is now more than $16 million in unpaid taxes in the county.
“It affects us in that we have to be sure that we have enough resources to cover county operations throughout the year even though those funds aren’t here. And we do that, we are able to do that, but 40 percent increases over time become unsustainable,” said Dane County Treasurer David Worzala.
“I can see that there are probably some people that either lost their jobs or were laid off, they’re going to have a harder time paying their taxes,” said Ken Baldinus, who was paying his taxes Thursday. “But I’m retired, so we budget as we go.”
Big portions of those bills must go to school districts and the state. Worzala said the county is concerned about the rise in delinquencies because if the jumps continue the county could run into a cash flow issue in paying bills.

Resolution of the Madison School DistrictMadison Teachers, Inc. contract and the District’s $12M budget deficit will be a challenge in light of the declining tax base. Having said that, local schools have seen annual revenue increases for decades, largely through redistributed state and to a degree federal tax dollars (not as much as some would like) despite flat enrollment. That growth has stopped with the decline in State tax receipts and expenditures. Madison School District revenues are also affected by the growth in outbound open enrollment (ie, every student that leaves costs the organization money, conversely, programs that might attract students would, potentially, generate more revenues).

Wisconsin State Tax Based K-12 Spending Growth Far Exceeds University Funding


WISTAX published a fascinating chart in their most recent issue of FOCUS [Page 1, Page 2]:

However, the state pledge to provide two-thirds of schools revenues in 1996-97 changed the budget landscape. By 2006-07, state-tax support for the UW System had almost doubled during Ihe 25 years prior. However, inflation (CPI, up 115%). school aids/credits (320%). and overall slate GPR expenditures (222%) rose more.


Further proof that there is no free lunch. The ongoing calls for additional state redistributed tax dollars for K-12 public education will likely have an effect on other programs, as this information illustrates. I do think that there should be a conversation on spending priorities.

Ho-Chunk Miss Gambling Payment to the State of Wisconsin

Wisconsin State Journal:

The Ho-Chunk tribe missed an initial deadline Monday to pay an estimated $72 million in gambling money that state officials are counting on to help balance an already stressed state budget.
It’s now been more than two years since the tribe, locked in a legal battle with the state over its gambling compact, has made any payments on its casino operations.
The lingering dispute raises the question of whether the state will receive nearly $100 million in estimated payments expected by June 2009 in time to prevent a gaping hole in a budget that could force lawmakers to raise taxes, cut services or borrow money to make up the difference.

Patrick Marley & Stacy Forster:

The tribe continues to offer expanded games such as poker and roulette that were agreed to in the 2003 compact, but it has stopped making the payments that were also required under that deal.
Doyle said the tribe owes the payments and that state officials will continue to pursue enforcement efforts in federal court — the only recourse available to Wisconsin under federal Indian gaming laws.
“Every other tribe in the state has paid it, and the fact (is) the Ho-Chunk just haven’t, but we believe it’s owed,” Doyle said.
Thomas Springer, a lobbyist for the tribe, said the Ho-Chunk have been trying to resolve the matter ever since the Supreme Court ruled on another tribe’s casino agreement. That decision in effect invalidated the Ho-Chunk’s agreement with the state, he said.

Another item to ponder with respect to potential changes in redistributed state tax dollars for education.

Texas School District Challenges State “Robin Hood” Finance System

Terrance Stutz:

Protests from this small school district nestled in the Texas Hill Country are reverberating across the state’s school finance landscape.
School board members – backed by parents and local business owners – have decided to say “no” when their payment comes due next month under the state’s “Robin Hood” school funding law.
Wimberley is one of more than 160 high-wealth school districts – including several in the Dallas area – that are required to share their property tax revenue with other districts. But residents here insist that their students will suffer if they turn the money over to the state.
“We’re not going to pay it,” said Gary Pigg, vice president of the Wimberley school board and a small-business owner. “Our teachers are some of the lowest-paid in the area. Our buildings need massive repairs. We keep running a deficit – and they still want us to give money away.
“It’s unconstitutional – and I’m ready to go to jail if I have to.”
Mr. Pigg and the rest of the Wimberley school board voted last fall to withhold the payment of an estimated $3.1 million in local property taxes – one-sixth of the district’s total revenue – that was supposed to be sent to the state under the share-the-wealth school finance law passed in 1993. The law was passed in response to a series of court orders calling for equalized funding among school districts.

Wisconsin’s school finance system takes a similar approach: High property assessement values reduce state aids. Unlike Texas, Wisconsin simply redistributes fewer state tax dollars to Districts with “high” property values, such as Madison. Texas requires Districts to send some of their property tax receipts to the state to be redistributed to other districts. School finance has many complicated aspects, one of which is a “Robin Hood” like provision. Another is “Negative Aid“: If Madison increases spending via referendums, it loses state aid. This situation is referenced in the article:

Regarding the possibility of a tax hike, Mr. York noted that an increase would require voter approval – something that is not likely to happen with residents knowing that a big chunk of their money will be taken by the state.

One of the many ironies in our school finance system is that there is an incentive to grow the tax base, or the annual assessment increases. The politicians can then point to the flat or small growth in the mill rate, rather than the growth in the total tax burden.
Finally, those who strongly advocate for changes in Wisconsin’s school finance system must be ready for unintended consequences, such as reduced funding for “rich” districts, like Madison. Madison’s spending has increased at an average rate of 5.25% over the past 20 years, while enrollment has remained essentially flat (though the student population has changed).

Wisconsin State Tax Receipt Growth Slows from 3% to 1%

Steven Walters:

Collections of the three most important Wisconsin taxes increased less than 1% in the second half of 2007 – falling far short of the 3% assumed growth needed to cover state expenditures this year and raising fears that deep spending cuts will be necessary.
Preliminary state Department of Revenue totals show the personal and corporate income tax and the sales tax brought in $5.13 billion from July through December, an increase of only 0.8% over the same period in 2006.
Those three taxes account for $9 out of every $10 in general-fund taxes.
Every unexpected 1% drop in collections from those taxes means state government will have $120 million less a year to spend. If tax collections don’t pick up, the shortfall would quickly wipe out the projected $67 million surplus Capitol leaders had hoped for this fiscal year and force reductions across state government.
Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle said he will warn of the economic downturn in his sixth “state of the state” message Wednesday. Many states are facing economic slowdowns, and California must fix a $14.5 billion shortfall, Doyle noted.
In his speech, Doyle said, “I’m going to talk pretty directly that this is a challenge that we have ahead of us, and we have to face up to it. Unless the national economy just totally goes into the tank, this is something we can manage and get through. But it’s going to be pretty tough.”

A reduction in the rate of State tax receipt increases makes it unlikely that there will be meaningful reform in redistributed state tax dollars flowing back to local school districts.

Wisconsin K-12 Tax & Spending Outlook

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Editorial:

Another year and deeper in debt.
No, that’s not some sad-eyed, old country ballad. It’s the state of Wisconsin’s long-term finances.
To pay for highways, buildings and environmental programs over the past decade, the state has increased long-term debt by 87%, a trend that if left unchecked will surely mean increasingly difficult budget decisions down the road.
The Journal Sentinel’s Steven Walters noted in a recent report that the Legislative Fiscal Bureau says the state had $8.28 billion in such debt in 2006, up from $4.41 billion in 1996 (www.jsonline.com/689757). The period studied covered the leadership of Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat, and Republicans Scott McCallum and Tommy G. Thompson.
In effect, the governors, with legislative acquiescence, have made politically advantageous decisions to have their favorite programs and pay for them later. It’s basically credit card budgeting.
But the bill always comes due.
As Todd Berry, president of the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, told Walters, the growing debt is a risk. Principal and interest payments on general-obligation bonds will exceed $700 million for the first time this year. Payments on transportation bonds will cost $174 million.
While state officials say the debt load is manageable, a major bond agency, Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services, last week changed its rating outlook from “positive” to “stable.”
Other long-term trends make such budget moves all the more troublesome. Per-capita income in Wisconsin is about $4,000 a year less than in Minnesota, for example, a gap that has widened. And the number of elderly is expected to jump 90% from 702,000 in 2000 to near 1.34 million by 2030 while the percentage of working age people is expected to decline from 61% to 57%, meaning fewer taxpayers supporting more people in need of services. Add to that the need to replace aging roads, bridges and sewers.

Clearly, we are unlikely to see significant increases in redistributed state tax dollars to “rich” school districts like Madison [2007-2008 Citizen’s Budget].
Related: K-12 Tax & Spending Climate:

According to the Wisconsin DPI, per student spending in Wisconsin has increased by 5.1% annually, since 1987. The Madison School District increased at a 5.25% rate during that time. Clearly, our public schools are attempting to address more issues than ever, from academics to breakfast, special education and health care.

Madison teachers union ratify contract for 2014-15

Jeff Glaze:

Madison School District teachers and staff will be covered under a collective bargaining agreement through the 2014-15, pending approval by the Madison School Board.
Madison Teachers Inc. members gathered Wednesday evening at Madison Marriott West in Middleton to ratify a one-year contract extension with the district. MTI’s five bargaining units, which include teachers, education assistants, clerical and security staff, and other district employees, all ratified the deal.
The Madison School Board will vote on the agreement Monday.
John Matthews, executive director of the union, said that pending school board approval, MTI would be the only teachers’ union in Wisconsin with a contract through the 2014-15 school year.

Related: Proposed City of Madison budget raises property taxes by 1.5%, while the Madison School District’s 2013-2014 budget increases taxes by 4.5%, after a 9% increase two years ago (and a substantial jump in redistributed state tax dollars last year).

Oconomowoc & Madison

I read with interest Madison School Board President Ed Hughes’ blog post on local spending, redistributed state tax dollars & property tax increases. Mr. Hughes mentioned Oconomowoc:

Superintendent Cheatham and new Assistant Superintendent for Business Services Mike Barry (recently arrived from the Oconomowoc school district to replace Erik Kass) promise a zero-based approach to budgeting for the 2014-15 school year, so the budgeting process promises to be more lively next year.

Mr. Hughes, writing on May 3, 2012: Budget Cuts: We Won’t Be as Bold and Innovative as Oconomowoc, and That’s Okay..
Alan Borsuk recently followed up on the changes (fewer, but better paid teachers) in Oconomowoc.
Rocketship and Avenues are also worth looking into.

Madison Schools’ 2013-2014 Budget Charts, Documents, Links, Background & Missing Numbers


The charts reveal several larger stories:
First, the State of Wisconsin “committed” to 2/3 K-12 funding in the mid-1990’s. The increase in redistributed state tax dollars is apparent. [Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau: State Aid to School Districts (PDF)]
Second, Madison’s substantial real estate growth during the 2000’s supported growing K-12 spending while reducing the property tax rate (the overall pie grew so the “rate” could fall somewhat). The real estate music stopped in the late 2000’s (“Great Recession) and the tax rate began to grow again as the District consistently raised property taxes. *Note that there has been justifiable controversy over Madison’s large number of tax exempt properties. Fewer exemptions expands the tax base and (potentially) reduces individual homeowner’s taxes.
Third, Madison has long spent more per student than most public schools.
Fourth, the District’s June 10, 2013 budget document fails to address two core aspects of its mission: total spending and program effectiveness. The most recent 2012-2013 District budget number (via a Matthew DeFour email) is $392,789,303. This is up 4.4% from the July, 2012 District budget number: $376,200,000. The District’s budget has always – in my nine years of observation – increased throughout the school year. The late, lamented “citizen’s budget” was a short lived effort to create a standard method to track changes over time.
Fifth, the June 10, 2013 document does not include the District’s “Fund balance” or equity. The balance declined during the 2000’s, somewhat controversially, but it has since grown. A current number would be useful, particularly in light of Madison’s high property taxes.
Sixth, I took a quick look at property taxes in Middleton and Madison on a $230,000 home. A Middleton home paid $4,648.16 in 2012 while a Madison home paid 16% more, or $5,408.38. Local efforts to significantly increase property taxes may grow the gap with Middleton.
Finally, years of spending and tax growth have not addressed the District’s long term-disastrous reading results. Are we doing the same thing over and over?

PLEASE JOIN US MONDAY! Madison Board of Education to Vote on Madison Prep; costs clarified

March 25, 2011
Dear Friends & Colleagues,
On Monday evening, March 28, 2011 at 6pm, the Madison Metropolitan School District’s (MMSD) Board of Education will meet to vote on whether or not to support the Urban League’s submission of a $225,000 charter school planning grant to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. This grant is essential to the development of Madison Preparatory Academy for Young Men, an all-male 6th – 12th grade public charter school.
Given the promise of our proposal, the magnitude of longstanding achievement gaps in MMSD, and the need for adequate time to prepare our final proposal for Madison Prep, we have requested full support from the school board.
Monday’s Board meeting will take place at the Doyle Administration Building (545 West Dayton Street) next to the Kohl Center. We hope you will come out to support Madison Prep as this will be a critical vote to keep the Madison Prep proposal moving forward. Please let us know if you’ll be attending by clicking here. If you wish to speak, please arrive at 5:45pm to register.
Prior to you attending, we want to clarify misconceptions about the costs of Madison Prep.
The REAL Costs versus the Perceived Costs of Madison Prep
Recent headlines in the Wisconsin State Journal (WSJ) reported that Madison Prep is “less likely” to be approved because of the size of the school’s projected budget. The article implied that Madison Prep will somehow cost the district more than it currently spends to educate children. This, in fact, is not accurate. We are requesting $14,476 per student for Madison Prep’s first year of operation, 2012-2013, which is less than the $14,802 per pupil that MMSD informed us it spends now. During its fifth year of operation, Madison Prep’s requested payment from MMSD drops to $13,395, which is $1,500 less per student than what the district says it spends now. Madison Prep will likely be even more of a savings to the school district by the fifth year of operation given that the district’s spending increases every year.
A March 14, 2011 memo prepared by MMSD Superintendent Daniel Nerad and submitted to the Board reflects the Urban League’s funding requests noted above. This memo also shows that the administration would transfer just $5,541 per student – $664,925 in total for all 120 students – to Madison Prep in 2012-2013, despite the fact that the district is currently spending $14,802 per pupil. Even though it will not be educating the 120 young men Madison Prep will serve, MMSD is proposing that it needs to keep $8,935 per Madison Prep student.

Therefore, the Urban League stands by its request for equitable and fair funding of $14,476 per student, which is less than the $14,802 MMSD’s administration have told us they spend on each student now. As Madison Prep achieves economies of scale, reaches its full enrollment of 420 sixth through twelfth graders, and graduates its first class of seniors in 2017-18, it will cost MMSD much less than what it spends now. A cost comparison between Madison Prep, which will enroll both middle and high school students at full enrollment, and MMSD’s Toki Middle School illustrates this point.

We have also attached four one-page documents that we prepared for the Board of Education. These documents summarize key points on several issues about which they have expressed questions.
We look forward to seeing you!
Kaleem Caire
President & CEO
Urban League of Greater Madison
Main: 608-729-1200
Assistant: 608-729-1249
Fax: 608-729-1205
Website: www.ulgm.org

Kaleem Caire, via email.
Madison Preparatory Academy Brochure (PDF): English & Spanish.
DPI Planning Grant Application: Key Points and Modifications.
Update: Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes: What To Do About Madison Prep:

In order to maintain Madison Prep, the school district would have to find these amounts somewhere in our budget or else raise property taxes to cover the expenditures. I am not willing to take money away from our other schools in order to fund Madison Prep. I have been willing to consider raising property taxes to come up with the requested amounts, if that seemed to be the will of the community. However, the draconian spending limits the governor seeks to impose on school districts through the budget bill may render that approach impossible. Even if we wanted to, we likely would be barred from increasing property taxes in order to raise an amount equal to the net cost to the school district of the Madison Prep proposal.
This certainly wouldn’t be the first time that budgetary considerations prevent us from investing in promising approaches to increasing student achievement. For example, one component of the Madison Prep proposal is a longer school year. I’m in favor. One way the school district has pursued this concept has been by looking at our summer school model and considering improvements. A good, promising plan has been developed. Sadly, we likely will not be in a position to implement its recommendations because they cost money we don’t have and can’t raise under the Governor’s budget proposal.
Similarly, Madison Prep proposes matching students with mentors from the community who will help the students dream bigger dreams. Effective use of mentors is also a key component of the AVID program, which is now in all our high schools. We would very much like to expand the program to our middle schools, but again we do not have the funds to do so.

Mr. Hughes largely references redistributed state tax dollars for charter/virtual schools – a portion of total District per student spending – the total (including property taxes) that Madison Prep’s request mentions. I find Madison Prep’s fully loaded school based cost comparisons useful. Ideally, all public schools would publish their individual budgets along with total District spending.

Craft your own Wisconsin budget

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

This is your chance, Wisconsin taxpayer, to cut the 2012 state budget to fix the deficit.
To answer, you need to know what are the most expensive programs. Once you know that, you can set your own priorities. Is aid to public schools more important than health care spending, for example, or aid to local governments?
On Tuesday, you can see how your cuts compare to those that Republican Gov. Scott Walker will recommend.
So, let’s start – and your budget cuts should total $1.3 billion. According to the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, the most state tax funds (not including federal and other funds) are spent on these programs.
No. 1: Aid to public schools: $5.3 billion in direct aid and $6.2 billion if you count tax credits paid property owners to hold down property taxes. Hint: Tuesday, Walker is expected to recommend a $450 million cut in aid to public schools next year. The governor signaled the size of this cut when he said that weakening collective bargaining laws for public employees would allow school districts to save even more – about $488 million – than the cut.
No. 2: Medicaid health care programs that now care for one in five Wisconsin residents: $1.55 billion from state taxes, although federal funds push the annual cost of this program to more than $6 billion. Hint: If you cut state tax funds for Medicaid, you will also be losing federal funds because about 60% of Medicaid funding comes from Washington. And if you cut state aid for Medicaid, you must also cut some care or pay less to medical professionals who provide that care, which could prompt them to no longer take Medicaid patients.

Related: Wisconsin’s redistributed state tax dollars for K-12 public schools has grown significantly over the past few decades.

Madison School District’s 2009-2010 Citizen’s Budget Released ($421,333,692 Gross Expenditures, $370,287,471 Net); an Increase of $2,917,912 from the preliminary $418,415,780 2009-2010 Budget

Superintendent Dan Nerad 75K PDF:

Attached to this memorandum you will find the final version of the 2009-10 Citizen’s Budget. The Citizen’s Budget is intended to present financial information to the community in a format that is more easily understood. The first report groups expenditures into categories outlined as follows:

  • In-School Operations
  • Curriculum & Teacher Development & Support
  • Facilities, Other Than Debt Service
  • Transportation
  • Food Service
  • Business Services
  • Human Resources
  • General Administration
  • Debt Service
  • District-Wide
  • MSCR

The second report associates revenue sources with the specific expenditure area they are meant to support. In those areas where revenues are dedicated for a specific purpose(ie. Food Services) the actual amount is represented. In many areas of the budget, revenues had to be prorated to expenditures based on the percentage that each specific expenditure bears of the total expenditure budget. It is also important to explain that property tax funds made up the difference between expenditures and all other sources of revenues. The revenues were broken out into categories as follows:

  • Local Non-Tax Revenue
  • Equalized & Categorical State Aid
  • Direct Federal Aid
  • Direct State Aid
  • Property Taxes

Both reports combined represent the 2009-10 Citizen’s Budget.


I’m glad to see this useful document finally available for the 2009-2010 school year. Thanks to the Madison School Board members who pushed for its release.

California education leaders told to brace for big budget cuts

Evan Halper:

Educators say Arnold Schwarzenegger told them to prepare for immediate cuts of $2 billion to $4 billion. They say the governor also plans to keep pushing for a sales tax hike.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger told education leaders this morning that he will push for a tax hike and deep cuts to schools to help close the state’s yawning budget gap, according to several participants in the meeting.
The news, delivered in a conference room outside the governor’s office, came as a shock to the educators, who were told to prepare for immediate cuts in the range of $2 billion to $4 billion.
“There is just no way we would be able to cut that much,” said Scott Plotkin, executive director of the California School Boards Assn., who was at the meeting. “For virtually every district I know of, this would be catastrophic.”
Administration officials confirmed that the meeting took place but refused to discuss details.


Facing a $3,000,000,000 deficit, it is hard to see how significant increases in redistributed state tax dollars will find their way to K-12 school districts over the next few years.

Media Education Coverage: An Oxymoron?

Lucy Mathiak’s recent comments regarding the lack of substantive local media education coverage inspired a Mitch Henck discussion (actually rant) [15MB mp3 audio file]. Henck notes that the fault lies with us, the (mostly non) voting public. Apathy certainly reigns. A useful example is Monday’s School Board’s 56 minute $367,806,712 2008/2009 budget discussion. The brief chat included these topics:

  • Retiring Superintendent Art Rainwater’s view on the District’s structural deficit and the decline in it’s equity (Assets – Liabilities = Equity; Britannica on the The Balance Sheet) from $48,000,000 in the year 2000 to $24,000,000 in 2006 (it is now about 8% of the budget or $20M). (See Lawrie Kobza’s discussion of this issue in November, 2006. Lawrie spent a great deal of time digging into and disclosing the structural deficits.) Art also mentioned the resulting downgrade in the District’s bond rating (results in somewhat higher interest rates).
  • Marj asked an interesting question about the K-1 combination and staff scheduling vis a vis the present Teacher Union Contract.
  • Lucy asked about specials scheduling (about 17 minutes).
  • Maya asked about the combined K-1 Art classes (“Class and a half” art and music) and whether we are losing instructional minutes. She advocated for being “open and honest with the public” about this change. Art responded (23 minutes) vociferously about the reduction in services, the necessity for the community to vote yes on operating referendums, ACT scores and National Merit Scholars.
  • Beth mentioned (about 30 minutes) that “the district has done amazing things with less resources”. She also discussed teacher tools, curriculum and information sharing.
  • Ed Hughes (about 37 minutes) asked about the Madison Family Literacy initiative at Leopold and Northport. Lucy inquired about Fund 80 support for this project.
  • Maya later inquired (45 minutes) about a possible increase in Wisconsin DPI’s common school fund for libraries and left over Title 1 funds supporting future staff costs rather than professional development.
  • Beth (about 48 minutes) advocated accelerated computer deployments to the schools. Lucy followed up and asked about the District’s installation schedule. Johnny followed up on this matter with a question regarding the most recent maintenance referendum which included $500,000 annually for technology.
  • Lucy discussed (52 minutes) contingency funds for energy costs as well as providing some discretion for incoming superintendent Dan Nerad.

Rick Berg notes that some homes are selling below assessed value, which will affect the local tax base (property taxes for schools) and potential referendums:

But the marketplace will ultimately expose any gaps between assessment and true market value. And that could force local governments to choose between reducing spending (not likely) and hiking the mill rate (more likely) to make up for the decreasing value of real estate.
Pity the poor homeowners who see the value of their home fall 10%, 20% or even 30% with no corresponding savings in their property tax bill, or, worse yet, their tax bill goes up! Therein lie the seeds of a genuine taxpayer revolt. Brace yourselves. It’s gonna be a rough ride.

The Wisconsin Department of Revenue noted recently that Wisconsin state tax collections are up 2.3% year to date [136K PDF]. Redistributed state tax dollars represented 17.2% of the District’s revenues in 2005 (via the Citizen’s Budget).
Daniel de Vise dives into Montgomery County, Maryland’s school budget:

The budget for Montgomery County’s public schools has doubled in 10 years, a massive investment in smaller classes, better-paid teachers and specialized programs to serve growing ranks of low-income and immigrant children.
That era might be coming to an end. The County Council will adopt an education budget this month that provides the smallest year-to-year increase in a decade for public schools. County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) has recommended trimming $51 million from the $2.11 billion spending plan submitted by the Board of Education.
County leaders say the budget can no longer keep up with the spending pace of Superintendent Jerry D. Weast, who has overseen a billion-dollar expansion since his arrival in 1999. Weast has reduced elementary class sizes, expanded preschool and kindergarten programs and invested heavily in the high-poverty area of the county known around his office as the Red Zone.
“Laudable goals, objectives, nobody’s going to argue with that,” Leggett said in a recent interview at his Rockville office. “But is it affordable?”
It’s a question being asked of every department in a county whose overall budget has swelled from $2.1 billion in fiscal 1998 to $4.3 billion this year, a growth rate Leggett terms “unacceptable.”

Montgomery County enrolls 137,745 students and spent $2,100,000,000 this year ($15,245/student). Madison’s spending has grown about 50% from 1998 ($245,131,022) to 2008 ($367,806,712) while enrollment has declined slightly from 25,132 to 24,268 ($13,997/student).
I’ve not seen any local media coverage of the District’s budget this week.
Thanks to a reader for sending this in.

Commentary on Wisconsin Voucher Spending (no mention of total spending….)

Susan Endres: “It’s important for districts and taxpayers to understand the effect of open enrollment and the movement of money that occurs there, too,” he said. “Because there are a higher number of kids who open-enroll from public school to public school than receive vouchers through the state.” Ruddy made the same connection. “I think … Continue reading Commentary on Wisconsin Voucher Spending (no mention of total spending….)

Recovery School Request for Proposal (Draft)

Office of Educational Opportunity (PDF): Identifying Information Name of Organization: Year Founded: Revised 5/31/2017, 11:30 a.m. Recovery School Request for Proposal First and Last Name of Primary Applicant: Mailing Address: Preferred E-Mail Address Preferred Phone Number: Attach the names, professional affiliation, and role in the proposed school for all school leaders and board members. Summarize … Continue reading Recovery School Request for Proposal (Draft)

Madison School District’s 2015-2016 Budget Goals & Priorities (Publish Total Spending?)

Madison School District (PDF): A. Alignment to Strategic Framework- In our vision to make every school a thriving school that prepares every student to be ready for college, career and community, these budget resources support the district’s goals and priorities as defined in our Strategic Framework. B. More equitable use of resources- As opposed to … Continue reading Madison School District’s 2015-2016 Budget Goals & Priorities (Publish Total Spending?)

Madison School District Superintendent “Reverts to the Mean”….

Via a kind reader’s email. Despite spending double the national average per student and delivering disastrous reading results – for years – Madison’s Superintendent pushes back on school accountability: The Wheeler Report (PDF): Dear Legislators: Thank you for your efforts to work on school accountability. We all agree that real accountability, focused on getting the … Continue reading Madison School District Superintendent “Reverts to the Mean”….

School districts are wasting COVID relief funds

Ryan Lanier: In one of the most stunning examples of relief fund abuse, the Whitewater, Wis., school board voted to allocate 80 percent of its $2 million Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) grant toward the construction of synthetic turf fields for football, baseball, and softball. When asked why the funds should be used for athletic fields … Continue reading School districts are wasting COVID relief funds

Madison K-12 Achievement Data @ LaFollette 2020 Referendum Presentation

The presentation included assertions on redistributed state taxpayer dollars sent to Madison (2010 – 2019 data available here). The presentation did not mention total Madison K-12 spending , nor the implications of spending increase referendums on local property taxes and redistributed state taxpayer funds. In essence, the more a local school district exceeds state revenue … Continue reading Madison K-12 Achievement Data @ LaFollette 2020 Referendum Presentation

Commentary On The Madison School District’s Benefit Spending (achievement Benefits?)

Chris Rickert, using facts: For context, Wisconsin employees who get health insurance through their work pay about 22 percent of the annual premium, on average, or about $1,345 a year for single coverage, according to 2015 data from the Kaiser Family Foundation. The average salary for a private- sector worker in Wisconsin was $45,230 in … Continue reading Commentary On The Madison School District’s Benefit Spending (achievement Benefits?)

A rather remarkable chart from the Madison School District Admini$tration

Tap for a larger version (view the complete pdf slide presentation). I am astonished that the Madison School District’s administration published this chart. Why not publish the change in redistributed state (and federal) tax dollars over time as a percentage of total spending, along with academic outcomes? This chart displays Madison’s redistributed state tax dollar … Continue reading A rather remarkable chart from the Madison School District Admini$tration

Commentary on Wisconsin’s Recent K-12 Spending; No mention of Substantial Growth During Recent Decades

Pat Schneider: Wisconsin has had the second deepest slash in per-student spending in the nation since 2008 — second only to Alabama — according to a study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Spending per pupil in Wisconsin was down $1,038 from 2008 for the school year just ended. Alabama cut per-pupil spending … Continue reading Commentary on Wisconsin’s Recent K-12 Spending; No mention of Substantial Growth During Recent Decades

Proposed changes to storied IB program roil Denver high school

Alan Gottlieb & Kate Schimel: When the Saturday morning meeting about proposed changes to George Washington High School’s International Baccalaureate program got off to a raucous, even unruly start in the school library, a mixed group of IB and non-IB students decided to take matters into their own hands. As angry parents who had expected … Continue reading Proposed changes to storied IB program roil Denver high school

Madison Schools’ Budget Updates: Board Questions, Spending Through 3.31.2013, Staffing Plan Changes

Steve Hartley, Madison Schools Chief of Staff:

Attached is a spreadsheet listing questions received from BOE members to date and some of our responses. Over the course of the next two months, we will continue to collect your questions and respond at both Operational Support and Regular Board meetings.

Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham (PDF):

The draft budget included several new positions for the Board’s consideration. After refining and prioritizing with staff and vetting with principals, we are only asking for approval of two essential positions at this point. The position changes represent a savings of just over $2 million from the draft budget.
As we prepare for next year, we must keep our efforts and resources focused on providing supports to schools to improve instruction. We must also be responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars by reducing the impact of our budget.
To get to these recommendations, we conducted a rigorous examination of positions funded in the draft budget to decide what we believe is absolutely necessary right now. Much of the work we need to do next year is about improving the systems and structures for how we serve students, not adding additional resources. It will be critical going forward that we narrow our focus to the strategies that we know work, implement them well and sustain the focus over time.
So far, we have only considered the position decisions that we need the Board to approve. Over the next two months, we will continue to work through the draft budget in order to reduce the tax impact and align with our efforts for next year. Also, we have only reviewed positions based on the draft budget. Next year, we plan to engage in a more thorough, zero-based budgeting process.
Position Additions from Draft Budget that are No Longer Recommended
There are several positions included in the draft budget that we are no longer recommending at this point. In looking at specific positions, we considered our ability to carry out necessary work through more efficient systems and in some cases, the need to pause and re-consider our approach.
With that in mind, we are no longer recommending going forward with the following position additions that were included in the draft budget. Because these were new positions in the draft budget, they do not have staff in them currently and do not require any layoffs.
Mental Health Coordinator: Through redistribution of work in student services, we will be able to provide support to implementation of the Mental Health Task Force’s work.
Safety Coordinator: We will continue to coordinate efforts across the organization to ensure safety.

Perhaps a positive sign “we must keep our efforts and resources focused on providing supports to schools to improve instruction”. Reading is surely job one, as the District’s long term disastrous reading scores illustrate.

March, 2013 Madison Schools’ financial reports (PDF).
Related: Status Quo Costs More: Madison Schools’ Administration Floats a 7.38% Property Tax Increase; Dane County Incomes down 4.1%…. District Received $11.8M Redistributed State Tax Dollar Increase last year. Spending up 6.3% over the past 16 months.
Commentary on Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes’ Teacher Salary Increase Words.

Devastating Budget Cuts Still Look Like Increases So Far

Mike Antonucci:

Devastating Budget Cuts Still Look Like Increases So Far. The National Center for Education Statistics issued its “First Look” at comprehensive school district revenues and expenditures for the 2009-10 school year. It’s a welcome report, though not exactly a “first look” since it uses U.S. Census Bureau figures available since last fall.
According to the authoritative National Bureau of Economic Research, America’s “Great Recession” began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009. Because of the vast number of agencies involved, it takes years to gather and report definitive public education revenue and spending data. So while we may eventually see figures that corroborate the tales of woe we hear from those quarters, that time has not yet arrived. Quite the contrary, in fact.
Here are a few of the center’s findings:
School districts reported $599.9 billion in total revenues.
That was an increase of 0.8 percent from the previous year, in inflation-adjusted dollars.
Current expenditures per-pupil, however, rose 1.0 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars.

Status Quo Costs More: Madison Schools’ Administration Floats a 7.38% Property Tax Increase; Dane County Incomes down 4.1%…. District Received $11.8M Redistributed State Tax Dollar Increase last year. Spending up 6.3% over the past 16 months.

Commentary on Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes’ Teacher Salary Increase Words

Chris Rickert:

“Our teachers haven’t had a raise for the last three years.” — Ed Hughes, clerk and candidate for president of the Madison School Board
There are a lot of employees who haven’t seen their pay go up in three years, but the vast majority of Madison public school teachers aren’t among them.
And yet, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re taking home more money.
Confused? Welcome to the world of public school teacher compensation, post-Act 10.
Hughes isn’t the first public school representative whose definition of “raise” doesn’t jibe with the way the rest of the world defines “raise” — i.e., an increase in salary for a job well done.
During teachers union contract negotiations, public school and union officials routinely refer to a “raise” as something that is distinct from and in addition to the automatic bumps in salary teachers are already getting for remaining on the job and accruing more college credit. Essentially, such raises are across-the-board increases in a district’s salary range, known as a salary schedule.
But if a district refuses to increase that range, teachers continue to get longevity and degree-attainment pay raises under the old salary schedule.
It’s such parsing that allows Hughes to say teachers haven’t gotten raises — and to be right, at least in one context.

Related: MTI & The Madison School Board, written by Ed Hughes in 2005:

The WSJ article also states that “This year’s salary and benefits increase, including raises for seniority or advanced degrees, was projected at 4.9 percent, or $8.48 million.” So the school board, with all the budgetary problems it confronts, is apparently willing to pay for salaries and benefits an increase that is about twice as much as state law will permit the overall budget to rise next year, and $1.9 million more than the amount necessary to avoid arbitration. (Using the same numbers, a 3.8% increase would be $6.57 million.)
What could be the justification for this? I understand that, as a practical matter, the increase has to be more than 3.8% in order for the district to obtain any sort of concessions. (Across the state for 2004-2005, the average total package increase per teacher was 4.28%.) Does anyone know if there are concessions on the table that might explain what seems to be an excessive increase in these difficult times? Or what other justification for this level of increase there might be?

Related: Up, Down & Transparency: Madison Schools Received $11.8M more in State Tax Dollars last year, Local District Forecasts a Possible Reduction of $8.7M this Year.
Status Quo Costs More: Madison Schools’ Administration Floats a 7.38% Property Tax Increase; Dane County Incomes down 4.1%…. District Received $11.8M Redistributed State Tax Dollar Increase last year. Spending up 6.3% over the past 16 months.

New Madison middle school (Badger Rock) will provide innovative outdoor education

Kirsten Joiner:

Just before the holiday break, the Madison School District approved the Badger Rock Middle School. This is big and exciting news for Madison, and I hope it sounds a new tone for education in the city.
It is not new news that Madison’s school district has been struggling to maintain its national reputation for innovation and excellence. During the past two budget cycles, the district has suffered deep funding cuts and the loss of millions of dollars. And over the past five years, families have been migrating to surrounding school districts — and to private schools.
But visionary leadership and innovative charter schools such as Badger Rock may just be the answer.
The philosophy for Badger Rock is cutting edge and simultaneously a throwback to classical education. Students learn from their environment. It is a setting and style that would make Aldo Leopold proud, and that ties local curriculum to Wisconsin’s deep-seated environmental roots.

As far as I can tell, local school budgets have grown annually for decades. Ms. Joiner is referring to reductions in the increase. Spending growth slowed this year and will likely do so in the future. The Madison School District’s “Budget Amendments and Tax Levy Adoption for 2010-11” mentions 2010-2011 revenues (property taxes, redistributed state and federal taxes and grants) of $423,005,653, up from $412,219,577 in 2008-2009. The document’s 2009-2010 revenues are $489,487,261, which seems unusual. Enrollment has remained flat during the past few years (details here).

Madison’s Proposed 4K Program Update: Is Now the Time?

Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad PDF:

The Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) recently made a request for proposals (RFP) for early childhood care and education (ECE) centers interested in partnering with MMSD to provide four year old kindergarten (4K) programming starting in Fall 2011. In order to be considered for this partnership with the district, ECE centers must be accredited by the City of Madison or the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) to ensure high quality programming for MMSD students. The ECE centers can partner with MMSD to be either a 4K Model II program (in an ECE center with an MMSD teacher) or a Model III program (in an ECE center with the ECE center’s teacher). The budget for 4K will support only 2 Model II programs, which aligns with the proposals submitted. There are 2 ECE centers who applied for Model II participation and 2 that applied to be either Model II or Model III. The ECE center proposals that have been accepted in this first step of the review process for consideration for partnering with the district to provide 4K programming are explained further in the following section.
II. ECE Center Sites
The following ECE center sites met the RFP criteria:
Animal Crackers
Bernie’s Place
Big Oak Child Care
Creative Learning Preschool
Dane County Parent Council
Eagle’s Wing
Goodman Community Center
Kennedy Heights Neighborhood
KinderCare-Old Sauk
LaPetite-North Gammon
Meeting House Nursery
Middleton Preschool
Monona Grove Nursery
New Morning Nursery
Orchard Ridge Nursery
Preschool of the Arts
The Learning Gardens
University Avenue Discovery Center
University Houses Preschool
University Preschool-Linden
University Preschool-Mineral Point
Waisman EC Program
Of the 35 ECE center sites, 28 met the RFP criteria at this time for partnerships with MMSD for 4 K programming. Seven of the ECE center sites did not meet RFP criteria. However may qualify in the future for partnerships with MMSD. There are 26 qualified sites that would partner with MMSD to provide a Model 111 program, and two sites that will provide a Model 11 program.
At this time, the 4K committee is requesting Board of Education (BOE) approval of the 28 ECE center sites that met RFP criteria. The BOE approval will allow administration to analyze the geographical locations of the each of the ECE center sites in conjunction with the District’s currently available space. The BOE approval will also allow administration to enter into agreements with the ECE center sites at the appropriate time.
The following language is suggested in order to approve the 28 ECE center sites:
It is recommended to approve the 28 Early Childhood Care and Education centers identified above as they have met the criteria of RFP 3168 (Provision of a Four-Year- Old Kindergarten Program) and further allow the District to enter into Agreements with said Early Childhood Care and Education centers.

Much more on Madison’s proposed 4K program here.
I continue to wonder if this is the time to push forward with 4K, given the outstanding K-12 issues, such as reading and the languishing math, fine arts and equity task force reports? Spending money is easier than dealing with these issues…. I also wonder how this will affect the preschool community over the next decade?
Finally, State and Federal spending and debt problems should add a note of caution to funding commitments for such programs. Changes in redistributed state and federal tax dollars may increase annual property tax payments, set to grow over 9% this December.

Madison School District 2010-2011 Budget: Comments in a Vacuum?

TJ Mertz comments on Monday evening’s Madison School Board 2010-2011 budget discussion (video – the budget discussion begins about 170 minutes into the meeting). The discussion largely covered potential property tax increases. However and unfortunately, I’ve not seen a document that includes total revenue projections for 2010-2011.
The District’s Administration’s last public total 2009-2010 revenue disclosure ($418,415,780) was in October 2009.
Property tax revenue is one part of the MMSD’s budget picture. State and Federal redistributed tax dollars are another big part. The now dead “citizens budget” was a useful effort to provide more transparency to the public. I hope that the Board pushes for a complete picture before any further substantive budget discussions. Finally, the Administration promised program reviews as part of the “Strategic Planning Process” and the recent referendum (“breathing room”). The documents released to date do not include any substantive program review budget items.
Ed Hughes (about 190 minutes): “it is worth noting that evening if we taxed to the max and I don’t think we’ll do that, the total expenditures for the school District will be less than we were projecting during the referendum“. The documents published, as far as I can tell, on the school board’s website do not reflect 2010-2011 total spending.
Links to Madison School District spending since 2007 (the referendum Ed mentioned was in 2008)

It would be great to see a year over year spending comparison from the District, including future projections.
Further, the recent “State of the District” document [566K PDF] includes only the “instructional” portion of the District’s budget. There are no references to the $418,415,780 total budget number provided in the October 26, 2009 “Budget Amendment and Tax Levy Adoption document [1.1MB PDF]. Given the organization’s mission and the fact that it is a taxpayer supported and governed entity, the document should include a simple “citizen’s budget” financial summary. The budget numbers remind me of current Madison School Board member Ed Hughes’ very useful 2005 quote:

This points up one of the frustrating aspects of trying to follow school issues in Madison: the recurring feeling that a quoted speaker – and it can be someone from the administration, or MTI, or the occasional school board member – believes that the audience for an assertion is composed entirely of idiots.

In my view, while some things within our local public schools have become a bit more transparent (open enrollment, fine arts, math, TAG), others, unfortunately, like the budget, have become much less. This is not good.
Ed, Lucy and Arlene thankfully mentioned that the Board needs to have the full picture before proceeding.

4K Inches Forward in Madison, Seeks Funding

Listen to the Madison School Board Discussion via this 32MB mp3 audio file (and via a kind reader’s email).
Financing this initiative remains unsettled.
I recommend getting out of the curriculum creation business via the elimination of Teaching & Learning and using those proceeds to begin 4K – assuming the community and Board are convinced that it will be effective and can be managed successfully by the Administration.
I would also like to see the Administration’s much discussed “program/curricular review” implemented prior to adding 4K.
Finally, I think it is likely that redistributed state tax programs to K-12 will decrease, given the State’s spending growth and deficit problems. The financial crunch is an opportunity to rethink spending and determine where the dollars are best used for our children. I recommend a reduction in money spent for “adults to talk with other adults”.
Board member Beth Moss proposed that 4K begin in 2010. This motion was supported by Marj Passman and Ed Hughes (Ed’s spouse, Ann Brickson is on the Board of the Goodman Center, a possible 4K partner). Maya Cole, Lucy Mathiak and Arlene Silveira voted no on a 2010 start. The Board then voted 5-1 (with Ed Hughes voting no) for a 2011 launch pending further discussions on paying for it. Retiring Board member Johnny Winston, Jr. was absent.
I appreciate the thoughtful discussion on this topic, particularly the concern over how it will be financed. Our Federal Government, and perhaps, the State, would simply plow ahead and let our grandchildren continue to pay the growing bill.

  • Gayle Worland:

    “I’m going to say it’s the hardest decision I’ve made on the board,” said board member Marj Passman, who along with board members Beth Moss and Ed Hughes voted to implement four-year-old kindergarten in 2010. “To me this is extremely difficult. We have to have 4K. I want it. The question is when.”
    But board president Arlene Silveira argued the district’s finances were too unclear to implement four-year-old kindergarten — estimated to serve 1,573 students with a free, half-day educational program — this fall.
    “I’m very supportive of four-year-old kindergarten,” she said. “It’s the financing that gives me the most unrest.”
    Silveira voted against implementation in the fall, as did Lucy Mathiak and Maya Cole. Board member Johnny Winston, Jr. was absent.
    On a second vote the board voted 5-1 to approve 4K for 2011-12. Hughes voted against starting the program in 2011-12, saying it should begin as soon as possible.

  • Channel3000:

    The plan will begin in September 2011. Initially, the board considered a measure to start in 2010, but a vote on that plan was deadlocked 3-3. A second motion to postpone the beginning until the 2011-2012 school year passed by a 5-1 vote.
    The board didn’t outline any of the financing as yet. District spokesman Ken Syke said that they’re working on 2010 budget first before planning for the 2011 one.
    The board’s decision could have a large impact on the district and taxpayers as the new program would bring in federal funds.

  • WKOW-TV:

    This is the first real commitment from MMSD to establish comprehensive early childhood education.
    What they don’t have yet is a plan to pay for it.
    It would’ve cost about $12.2 million to start 4k this fall, according to Eric Kass, assistant superintendent for business services.
    About $4.5 million would come from existing educational service funds, $4.2 million from a loan, and about $3.5 million would be generated thru a property tax increase.
    Some board members said they were uncomfortable approving a funding plan for 4k, because there are still a lot of unanswered questions about the district’s budget as a whole.

  • NBC15:

    Members first deadlocked in a three-to-three tie on whether to start 4-K this fall, then voted five-to-one to implement it the following year.
    The cost this year would have been more than $12 million. The decision to delay implementation is due to serious budget problems facing the Madison District.
    Nearly 1600 4-year-old students are expected to participate in the half-day kindergarten program.

  • Don Severson:

    The Board of Education is urged to vote NO on the proposal to implement 4-year old Kindergarten in the foreseeable future. In behalf of the public, we cite the following support for taking this action of reject the proposal:
    The Board and Administration Has failed to conduct complete due diligence with respect to recognizing the community delivery of programs and services. There are existing bona fide entities, and potential future entities, with capacities to conduct these programs
    Is not recognizing that the Constitution and Statutes of the State of Wisconsin authorizes the provision of public education for grades K-12, not including pre-K or 4-year old kindergarten
    Has not demonstrated the district capacity, or the responsibility, to manage effectively the funding support that it has been getting for existing K-12 programs and services. The district does not meet existing K-12 needs and it cannot get different results by continuing to do business as usual, with the ‘same service’ budget year-after-year-after-year

The Politics of President Obama’s “Back to School Speech” Beamed to Classrooms

Foon Rhee:

Here’s the latest exhibit on how polarized the country is and how much distrust exists of President Obama.
He plans what seems like a simple speech to students around the country on Tuesday to encourage them to do well in school.
But some Republicans are objecting to the back-to-school message, asserting that Obama wants to indoctrinate students.
Florida GOP Chairman Jim Greer said in a statement that he is “absolutely appalled that taxpayer dollars are being used to spread President Obama’s socialist ideology” and “liberal propaganda.”
Wednesday, after the White House announced the speech, the Department of Education followed up with a letter to school principals and a lesson plan.
Critics pointed to the part of the lesson plan that originally recommended having students “write letters to themselves about what they can do to help the president.”

Eric Kleefeld:

The Department of Education has now changed their supplementary materials on President Obama’s upcoming address to schoolchildren on the importance of education — eliminating a phrase that some conservatives, such as the Florida GOP, happened to have been bashing as evidence of socialist indoctrination in our schools.
In a set of bullet points listed under a heading, “Extension of the Speech,” one of the points used to say: “Write letters to themselves about what they can do to help the president. These would be collected and redistributed at an appropriate later date by the teacher to make students accountable to their goals.”
However, that bullet point now reads as follows: “Write letters to themselves about how they can achieve their short‐term and long‐term education goals. These would be collected and redistributed at an appropriate later date by the teacher to make students accountable to their goals.”

Alyson Klein:

om Horne, Arizona’s superintendent of public instruction, put out his own statement, with an education-oriented critique of the speech and its lesson plans.
Here’s a snippet from his statement:

The White House materials call for a worshipful, rather than critical approach to this speech. For example, the White House communication calls for the students to have ‘notable quotes excerpted (and posted in large print on the board),’ and for the students to discuss ‘how will he inspire us,’ among other things. …In general, in keeping with good education practice, students should be taught to read and think critically about statements coming from politicians and historical figures.


Just as it quickly became impossible to have a rationale discussion about health care as August wore on, we could be heading that way on education. If you haven’t heard (don’t get cable news?), President Obama plans to give a speech to the nation’s schoolchildren next week. To accompany it the Department of Education prepared a – gasp – study guide with some ideas for how teachers can use the speech as a, dare I say it, teachable moment.
Conservatives are screaming that this is unprecedented and amounts to indoctrination and a violation of the federal prohibition on involvement in local curricular decisions. Even the usually level-headed Rick Hess has run to the ramparts. We’re getting lectured on indoctrination by the same people who paid national commentators to covertly promote their agenda.
Please. Enough. The only thing this episode shows is how thoroughly broken our politics are. Let’s take the two “issues” in turn.

Michael Alison Chandler & Michael Shear:

The speech, which will be broadcast live from Wakefield High School in Arlington County, was planned as an inspirational message “entirely about encouraging kids to work hard and stay in school,” said White House spokesman Tommy Vietor. Education Secretary Arne Duncan sent a letter to principals nationwide encouraging them to show it.
But the announcement of the speech prompted a frenzied response from some conservatives, who called it an attempt to indoctrinate students, not motivate them.

I think Max Blumenthal provides the right perspective on this political matter:

Although Eisenhower is commonly remembered for a farewell address that raised concerns about the “military-industrial complex,” his letter offers an equally important — and relevant — warning: to beware the danger posed by those seeking freedom from the “mental stress and burden” of democracy.
The story began in 1958, when Eisenhower received a letter from Robert Biggs, a terminally ill World War II veteran. Biggs told the president that he “felt from your recent speeches the feeling of hedging and a little uncertainty.” He added, “We wait for someone to speak for us and back him completely if the statement is made in truth.”
Eisenhower could have discarded Biggs’s note or sent a canned response. But he didn’t. He composed a thoughtful reply. After enduring Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin, who had smeared his old colleague Gen. George C. Marshall as a Communist sympathizer, and having guarded the Republican Party against the newly emergent radical right John Birch Society, which labeled him and much of his cabinet Soviet agents, the president perhaps welcomed the opportunity to expound on his vision of the open society.
“I doubt that citizens like yourself could ever, under our democratic system, be provided with the universal degree of certainty, the confidence in their understanding of our problems, and the clear guidance from higher authority that you believe needed,” Eisenhower wrote on Feb. 10, 1959. “Such unity is not only logical but indeed indispensable in a successful military organization, but in a democracy debate is the breath of life.”

Critical thinking is good for kids and good for society.
I attended a recent Russ Feingold lunch [mp3 audio]. He spoke on a wide range of issues and commendably, took many open forum questions (unlike many elected officials), including mine “How will history view our exploding federalism?”. A fellow luncheon guest asked about Obama’s use of “Czar’s” (operating outside of Senate review and confirmation). Feingold rightly criticized this strategy, which undermines the Constitution.
I would generally not pay much attention to this, but for a friends recent comment that his daughter’s elementary school (Madison School District) teacher assigned six Obama coloring projects last spring.
Wall Street Journal Editorial:

President Obama’s plan to speak to America’s schoolchildren next Tuesday has some Republicans in an uproar. “As the father of four children, I am absolutely appalled that taxpayer dollars are being used to spread President Obama’s socialist ideology,” thunders Jim Greer, chairman of Florida’s Republican Party, in a press release. “President Obama has turned to American’s children to spread his liberal lies, indoctrinating American’s [sic] youngest children before they have a chance to decide for themselves.” Columnists who spy a conspiracy behind every Democrat are also spreading alarm.
This is overwrought, to say the least. According to the Education Department’s Web site, Mr. Obama “will challenge students to work hard, set educational goals, and take responsibility for their learning”–hardly the stuff of the Communist Manifesto or even the Democratic Party platform. America’s children are not so vulnerable that we need to slap an NC-17 rating on Presidential speeches. Given how many minority children struggle in school, a pep talk from the first African-American President could even do some good.
On the other hand, the Department of Education goes a little too far in its lesson plans for teachers to use in conjunction with the speech–especially the one for grades 7 through 12. Before the speech, teachers are urged to use “notable quotes excerpted (and posted in large print on board) from President Obama’s speeches about education” and to “brainstorm” with students about the question “How will he inspire us?” Suggested topics for postspeech discussion include “What resonated with you from President Obama’s speech?” and “What is President Obama inspiring you to do?”

WIBA’s Mitch Henck Discusses the Madison School District’s Budget with Don Severson

24MB mp3 audio file. Mitch and Don discuss the Madison School District’s $12M budget deficit, caused by a decline in redistributed tax dollars from the State of Wisconsin and generally flat enrollment. Topics include: Fund 80, health care costs, four year old kindergarten, staffing, property taxes (which may increase to make up for the reduced state tax dollar funding).
Madison School District Board President Arlene Silveira sent this message to local Alders Saturday:

Good afternoon,
Below is an update of the MMSD budget situation.
As you know, the biennial budget was signed into law at the end of June. The budget had numerous provisions that will effect the future of public education that include:

  • Repeal of the Qualified Economic Offer (QEO)
  • Decrease in funding for public education by the state of approximately $14720million
  • Decrease in the per pupil increase associated with revenue limits

The repeal of the QEO will potentially impact future settlements for salries and benefits. The decrease in funding for public education by the state creates the need for a tax increase conversation in order to sustain current programs. The decrease in the revenue limit formula will cause MMSD to face more reductions in programs and services for the next 2 years at a minimum.

  • Decrease in state aid: $9.2 million
  • Reduction in revenue: $2.8 million (decrease in the per pupil increase from $275 to $200/pupil)

Total decrease: projected to to be $12 million
Last May, the Madison Board of Education passed a preliminary 2009-10 budget that maintained programs and services with a modest property tax increase. The groundwork for our budget was laid last fall when the Board pledged our commitment to community partnership and the community responded by supporting a referendum that allowed us to exceed revenue caps to stabilize funding for our schools. Two months later, with programs and staff in place for next year, we find ourselves faced with State funding cuts far exceeding our worst fears.
We are in this position in part because Wisconsin’s school funding formulas are so complicated that the legislature and supporting agencies did not accurately predict the budget’s impact on school districts. State aid to Madison and many other districts was cut by 15%. In practical terms, coupled with additional State cuts of $2.8 million, MMSD is saddled with State budget reductions of $12 million this year.
This grim situation is a result of a poor economy, outdated information used by the legislature, and a Department of Public Instruction policy that penalizes the district for receiving one-time income (TIF closing in Madison). Federal stimulus funds will, at best, delay cuts for one year. We are left with a gaping budget deficit when many fiscal decisions for the upcoming school year cannot be reversed.
We are working on strategies and options and are looking carefully at the numbers to ensure our solutions do not create new problems. We will evaluate options for dealing with the budget in early August.
To repair our budget, we are working with legislators and the DPI to appeal decisions that have placed us in this position. We continue to look for changes in resource management to find additional cost reductions. We are seeking ways to offset the impact of school property tax increases if we need to increase our levy.
At the same time, we pledge that we will not pass the full cost of the cuts along as increased property taxes. We will not resort to massive layoffs of teachers and support staff, t he deadline having passed to legally reduce our staff under union contracts.
I will be back in touch after our August meeting when we have made decisions on our path forward.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Arlene Silveira
Madison Board of Education

Related: Sparks fly over Wisconsin Budget’s Labor Related Provisions.

Referendum Climate: A Look at the US Government Budget


NY Times Graphics.

Further proof that there is no free lunch. The ongoing calls for additional state redistributed tax dollars for K-12 public education will likely have an effect on other programs, as this information illustrates. I do think that there should be a conversation on spending priorities.

The current financial system “crisis” presents parents with an excellent opportunity to chat with our children about money, banks, politics and taxes (When you deposit the baby sitting money, where does it go? What happens if the funds are no longer in the bank?). It is a rather potent mix. Much more, here.

School Board to Focus on Money

Andy Hall:

In the first major test for newly hired Superintendent Daniel Nerad, Madison school officials this week will begin public discussions of whether to ask voters for additional money to head off a potentially “catastrophic” $8.2 million budget gap for the 2009-10 school year.
The Madison School Board’s meetings in August will be dominated by talk of the possible referendum, which could appear on the Nov. 4 ballot.
The public will be invited to speak out at forums on Aug. 12 and 14.


Props to the District for finding a reduced spending increase of $1,000,000 and looking for more (The same service budget growth, given teacher contract and other increases vs budget growth limits results in the “gap” referred to in Hall’s article above). Happily, Monday evening’s referendum discussion included a brief mention of revisiting the now many years old “same service” budget approach (28mb mp3, about 30 minutes). A question was also raised about attracting students (MMSD enrollment has been flat for years). Student growth means additional tax and spending authority for the school district.
The Madison school board has been far more actively involved in financial issues recently. Matters such as the MMSD’s declining equity (and related structural deficit) have been publicly discussed. A very useful “citizen’s budget” document was created for the 2006-2007 ($333M) and 2007-2008 ($339M) (though the final 2007-2008 number was apparently $365M) budgets. Keeping track of changes year to year is not a small challenge.

A GAAP Toothed (Wisconsin) Budget

Mike McCabe:

There are at least two negative consequences for taxpayers. First, failing to pay today’s bills until tomorrow makes paying tomorrow’s bills even harder. The state’s problem keeps getting bigger. A report issued in January had the GAAP deficit at over $2.4 billion. The previous year, it was $2.15 billion, which was more than the year before. And that year’s GAAP gap was bigger than the year before that. You get the picture.
The second consequence of the GAAP deficit is it hurts the state’s bond rating. That means the state has to pay higher interest rates when it borrows money. And, of course, it’s the taxpayers who pay the penalty for our lawmakers’ fiscal irresponsibility.
This problem has been 20 years in the making. GAAP deficits have been happening under Democratic governors and Republican governors, and they’ve been happening when Republicans control the Legislature as well as when Democrats are in charge. But while the problem isn’t new and both parties are to blame, it’s important to remember that it hasn’t always been this way.

Something to consider with respect to the potential for growth in redistributed state education tax dollars.
Related: Michigan recently raised taxes significantly, only to see a smaller increase than expected.

Local Politics: Madison Mayor Dave Meets with MTI’s John Matthews & Former WEAC Director Mo Andrews

Jason Joyce’s useful look at Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz’s weekly schedule often reveals a few nuggets of local political trivia. Today, the Mayor met with Madison Teachers, Inc. Executive Director John Matthews and former WEAC Executive Director Morris (Mo) Andrews.
Related links:

Might parents and taxpayers have a meeting?

School Funding’s Tragic Flaw

Kevin Carey:

Public education costs a lot of money — over $500 billion per year. Over the last century, there have been huge changes in where that money comes from and how it’s spent. In 1930, only 17 percent of school funding came from state sources, and virtually none came from the federal government. Today, the state / local / federal split is roughly 50/40/10 (individual states vary). People still say all the time that “most” school funding comes from local property taxes, but that hasn’t actually been true since the mid-1970s.
On the whole, this change has been of tremendous benefit to disadvantaged students. As states have assumed the primary role in funding education, they’ve tended to distribute money in ways that are, on the whole, more equitable. The same is true for federal funding, most of which is spent on behalf of poor students and students with disabilities. (This works because taxpayers have a weird psychological relationship with their tax dollars. Rationally, people should view every dollar they pay in taxes and receive in services as equal, regardless of the basis of taxation or the source of the services. But they don’t. People feel very strongly that locally-generated property taxes should be spent locally, while they feel less ownership over state taxes and even less over federal dollars. As a result, they’ll tear their hair out if you propose transferring 10 percent of their local property tax dollars to a low-income district across the state, but they’re far more sanguine if you propose a state school funding formula with precisely the same net result in terms of the taxes they pay and the dollars their local school district receives. It doesn’t make sense, but that’s okay, because this irrational jurisdiction-dependent selflessness is what allows for the redistributionist school funding policies that poor students depend on to get a decent education.)

Madison’s revenue sources are a bit different than Carey’s example: 65.1% from local property taxes, 17.2% redistributed state taxes and the rest from grants, contributions and other sources.
Related links:

Finally, Patrick McIlheran notes that Wisconsin’s tax burden continues to rise:

Wisconsin’s entwined state and local governments taxed a sum equal to 12.3% of Wisconsinites’ income last year. That was up from 12.2% the year before and 12.1% the year before that. This biennium, the state is spending 10.5% more than last. Ever, the numbers rise.
They rise because the state’s costs do. But taxpayers, too, pay more for gasoline, food, power and practically everything else. Times are tough. You’d think the least government could do would be to avoid piling on.

Madison School District Administration’s Proposed 2008-2009 Budget Published

The observation of school district budgeting can be fascinating. Numbers are big (9 or more digits) and the politics often significant. Many factors affect such expenditures including, local property taxes, state and federal redistributed tax dollars, enrollment, grants, referendums, new programs, politics and periodically, local priorities. The Madison School District Administration released it’s proposed 2008-2009 $367,806,712 budget Friday, April 4, 2008.
There will be a number of versions between now and sometime next year. The numbers will change.
Allocations were sent to the schools on March 5, 2008 prior to the budget’s public release. MMSD 2008-2009 Budget timeline.
I’ve summarized budget and enrollment information from1995 through 2008-2009 below:

Wisconsin’s Budget Deficit Grows to $652,000,000

Jason Stein:

The state’s projected two-year budget shortfall has doubled to a hefty $652.3 million, the Legislature’s budget office reported today.
The potential deficit, up from last month’s estimates of $300 million to $400 million, represents a much greater challenge for lawmakers and Gov. Jim Doyle as they attempt to balance the state’s books in the face of a looming national recession and falling state tax revenues.
The red splashed across the state’s books also increases the chance that officials might have to cut programs, raise taxes or raid other state funds to cover the shortfall.
The state’s January 2008 report on tax collections — which includes key sales from the holiday retail season — and the forecasts for this month point to “further weakness” in tax revenues, the report from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau found.
That means a $586.5 million projected decrease in state collections and a $34.9 million decrease in interest income and other revenue to state agencies, the report found.

2008_02_13_Revenue estimates.pdf 84K

These deficits, along with a number of other issues, make it unlikely that we’ll see meaningful new state redistributed tax dollars for the Madison School District. Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau’s website.
Greg Bump has more.

Wisconsin Attorney General Says Race Can’t Stop Student Transfers from Madison

Andy Hall:

The future of the state’s voluntary school integration program in Madison was thrown into doubt Thursday by a formal opinion from Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen declaring it unconstitutional to use race to block students’ attempts to transfer to other school districts.
The 11-page opinion, issued in response to a Sept. 17 request by Deputy State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers, isn’t legally binding. However, courts consider interpretations offered by attorneys general, and the opinions can carry weight among lawmakers, too.
Madison is the only one of the state’s 426 public school districts that invokes race to deny some students’ requests to transfer to other districts under the state’s open enrollment program, the Wisconsin State Journal reported on Sept. 9.
In response to Van Hollen’s opinion, Madison schools Superintendent Art Rainwater said he and the district’s legal staff will review the document and confer with DPI officials before commenting.
“As we always have, we have every intention of obeying the law,” Rainwater said.
Figures compiled by the State Journal showed the Madison School District cited concerns over increasing its “racial imbalance” in rejecting 140 transfer requests involving 126 students for this school year. There are more applications than students because some filed more than one request.
All of the students involved in those rejected transfer requests were white.
The number of race-based rejections represents a 71 percent increase over the previous year, according to data supplied by the district. The number of rejections has nearly tripled since the 2004-05 school year.

This is an interesting paradox, a District that takes great pride in some area rankings while at the same time being resistant to such movements. Transfers can go both ways, of course. Redistributed state tax dollar transfers and local property tax & spending authority dollars are tied to enrollment.
Todd Richmond has more along with Alan Borsuk:

According to DPI spokesman Patrick Gasper, Madison is the only district in the state that could be directly affected. The Madison district has refused to allow students, almost all of them white, to enroll in other districts because of racial balance issues. This year, about 125 students were kept from transferring, Madison Superintendent Art Rainwater said.
Milwaukee Public Schools followed a similar practice in the late 1990s but changed policies about eight years ago, allowing students to attend suburban schools under the state’s open enrollment law regardless of the impact on school integration in Milwaukee.