In 2010, Wisconsin elected Republican Scott Walker as Governor. Scott Walker quickly proved that rather than helping the people of Wisconsin, he was more interested in doing everything he could to push anti-government and pro-corporate ideologies that included attacking unions and privatizing schools. Almost immediately after being elected, Scott Walker created a manufactured budget crisis that he used as an excuse to pass a law that limited collective bargaining rights for teacher’s unions. Walker then cut hundreds of millions from public school funding, while he appropriated hundreds of millions of dollars of state education funding to go toward vouchers for private schools. With state funding from the Walker administration being siphoned away to be used for vouchers for private schools, public school systems in Wisconsin have increasingly had to turn to issuing bonds to borrow money in order to fund their schools:
With Tuesday’s tally, Wisconsin school districts have won taxpayer approval to add about $2 billion in new funding for facilities and programming in 2018, up from the record $1.7 billion committed in 2016, according to an analysis by the Wisconsin Policy Forum.
The vast majority of the referendums that passed Tuesday were requests to issue debt totaling about $1.2 billion. The remainder sought to exceed revenue caps for operating expenses.
The residents of Wisconsin decided to switch gears in this year’s election for Governor, and elected Democrat Tony Evers, a career educator, to replace right-wing ideologue Scott Walker. Tony Evers has made reform of public school funding a top priority, and the people agree:
“It was a landslide for public education,” said Heather DuBois Bourenane, executive director of the nonprofit Wisconsin Public Education Network, a coalition of public school advocates. “Kids are truly the winners.”
But, she said, Wisconsin “shouldn’t be funding our schools by referenda.”
“We need funding fairness, and it starts with getting serious about revenue limits,” she said of the state-mandated caps that control how much districts can raise in state and local taxes. “We need to get serious about transforming the funding formula … so it’s more fair for all kids.”
With Tony Evers now Governor of Wisconsin, the days of taxpayer money being siphoned off to private schools, and the days of public schools having to borrow millions of dollars to fund their operations, could soon be coming to an end:
Evers, who ousted Walker on Tuesday, maintains that the rise in referendums is “directly related” to the budget cuts Walker made to schools after he first got into office, and he has vowed to increase education funding by about $1.4 billion over the next two years.
Evers said his 2019-’21 budget would, among other things, increase funding for special education and English language learners, target resources for rural and high-poverty schools and bring greater equity in school funding across the state. At the same time, he said, it shifts more of the burden of funding schools onto the state and away from taxpayers who have been called on increasingly to boost their local school budgets by referendum.
“The school funding formula has been broken forever. It’s time to do more than just shuffle the deck chairs,” Evers said in August when he first announced the plan.
This is why you vote for politicians who prioritize public education, not right-wing ideologues who want to use taxpayer money to privatize education. This is why you vote for Democrats.