Commentary On Wisconsin’s K-12 Tax and Spending Climate; Madison’s Above Average Spending

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

Is it misguided, inefficient and wasteful to compel school districts to resort to referenda for authority to meet the rising costs of school operations? Not everyone thinks so. For example, Republican Jeremy Thiesfeldt, chair of the Assembly Committee on Education, does not see a problem with government by referendum. “A school district, if they decide that they need additional money to provide a quality education, what is wrong with them having to sell this to the providers of the tax dollars, the voters?” Thiesfeldt says.

We shouldn’t require our school boards to win voter approval for their annual budgets any more than we should hold a statewide referendum every other year so voters can weigh in on the biennial budget. Representative Thiesfeldt voted in favor of requiring a civics test for high school graduation so he should know that our government does not operate by plebiscite. We have a representative democracy and elect office holders to make decisions so that the voters don’t have to.

Voters become understandably irritated if they are called to the polls every year for a referendum on school district spending. There are dedicated volunteers in every school district, but other community members have other priorities and would not welcome the obligation to educate themselves every year on school district finances in order to cast an informed vote on a referendum. That’s the kind of thing they elect school board members to take care of.

Madison spends $16,700 per student, substantially more than the national average. This, despite long standing, disastrous reading results.

Much more on Ed Hughes, here.