Notes on Madison’s planned $607M tax & spending increase, outcomes?

Abbey Machtig:

At $607 million, the Madison School District’s pair of referendums set for November will be the second-largest ask of voters by a school district in Wisconsin history.

It comes in behind Racine’s $1 billion referendum, which passed in 2020 by only five votes. The dollar amount Madison is requesting has been described as “unprecedented” in district history by the Wisconsin Policy Forum — not to mention the tax impacts homeowners would see if both questions were approved.

Madison property owners are being asked to fork over a lot of money.

The Madison School District, however, is not alone in its increasing reliance on referendums to fill operating budget holes and to pay for new construction. Other Wisconsin school districts, including Madison suburbs, also have put a number of big referendums on ballots in recent years.

While the dollar amounts are significantly less than what Madison schools are requesting this fall, Madison’s population — estimated by the U.S. Census Bureau at about 280,000 — is significantly greater as well.

It’s hard to make direct comparisons of the tax implications of various referendums, including those Madison is proposing, over the years. Inflation, property values, population changes, and the fact that operating referendums frequently ramp up over a period of time all have an impact.

But for context, here’s a look at the large school referendums Madison and other Dane County voters have approved in recent years.


Madison, meanwhile excels in unopposed school board elections.


Madison taxpayers have long supported far above average K – 12 spending. Per student spending ranges from $22,633 to $29,827 depending on the spending number used (!)

Enrollment notes.

The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results 

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

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Friday Afternoon Veto: Governor Evers Rejects AB446/SB454; an effort to address our long term, disastrous reading results

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?