Wisconsin voters approved ballot initiatives in 25 districts yesterday, voluntarily raising property taxes in order to fund services or improved infrastructure in their districts.
Referenda approved at the ballot box include:
- The issuance of $20 million in debt by the Green Bay Area School District to replace heating, ventilation, and cooling systems, and to make other repairs.
- The issuance of $18.9 million debt by the Johnson Creek School District to build a new building for students in grades 5 through 12.
- Allowing the Oshkosh Area School District to exceed revenue limits by a total of $28 million over the next seven years. Approval of the referendum means that the district will be able to avoid taking several steps that would harm students, including closing a middle school; reducing art, music, and physical education time by half for elementary students; and doubling athletic participation fees at some schools.
- Allowing the Fort Atkinson School District to avoid drastic cuts in programs for students by exceeding revenue limits by a total of $5.3 million over the next three years.
Wisconsin lawmakers advocating for more tax cuts should consider the example of Kansas, a state that has pushed through enormous tax cuts and that has been held up by tax-cut proponents as a model worth replicating.
A big jump in state revenue that will be announced soon gives lawmakers an excellent opportunity to invest in Wisconsin’s economic future and to put the state on a sounder fiscal footing by filling budget holes.
Black Wisconsinites fare far worse than white ones in a wide range of areas, including economic wellbeing, educational achievement, and incarceration, according to a new report from the Center on Wisconsin Strategy.
The size of the disparities in Wisconsin are alarming on their own. Those disparities are even more alarming when compared to the much smaller gaps between blacks and whites that occur in other states. In nearly all the indicators included in the report, Wisconsin ranked in the top 5 states with the largest racial disparities. Wisconsin had the largest disparities in the country in three indicators, including two in the area of education: 8th grade math scores and dropout rate. Even at a young age, Wisconsin residents are subject to wide opportunity gaps.
The extreme racial disparities in Wisconsin — which the report authors called “brutal” — are relatively new to Wisconsin, and far from a historic inevitability. Read more
The achievement gap between black students and white students in Wisconsin is the largest in any state, according to a new national report card published this week. This news is especially alarming given that Wisconsin’s cuts to education are among the deepest in the country, leaving Wisconsin schools with limited resources to address the opportunity gap facing students.
Governor Walker proposed a $100 million property tax cut at a hastily-called press conference today. The tax relief would be delivered through the school aid formula – by adding $40 million this year and $60 million next year. Because the school spending caps aren’t being raised, schools will have to reduce property taxes to offset the increased state aid. The Governor is calling a special session for next week to expedite legislative action on the plan.
According to a story on Channel 3000.com, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said the bill will be introduced tomorrow, and he would like the legislature to pass it by the end of next week. The Governor is pushing for fast action on the proposal so the tax cut would be in effect when property tax bills are being calculated later this year.
Walker said that the funding for the property tax cut would come from the state budget surplus. Read more
A Significant Economic Hit to the National Economy and a Gradually Expanding Erosion of Key Programs
Economists expect the federal government shutdown to have significant adverse consequences for the national economy. This LA Times article reports that some project that even just a two-week partial shutdown will cause a reduction of 0.3 to 0.4 of a percentage point from national economic growth in the fourth quarter. That’s particularly a problem when the economic recovery is already so sluggish that job growth has been barely keeping ahead of population growth.
I worry about those economic consequences, but I am also very concerned about the effects of the shutdown on children and families in our state – especially for low-income and vulnerable families. Fortunately, most federally funded programs for those families will continue at least through October, but the consequences could be very serious for vulnerable families if the shutdown lasts well into the fall. Read more
Low-income students have a much greater chance of attending a failing school than do other students, according to new school performance information released this week by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. This news comes on the heels of an announcement that Wisconsin is among the states that have made the deepest cuts in state support for K-12 education since the recession.
Statewide, 1 in 11 students from low-income families attend schools that do not meet the Department of Public Instruction’s expectations. In comparison, just 1 in 102 students who are not from low-income families attend failing schools.
The student bodies of the highest-performing schools and the lowest-performing schools look drastically different, according to the information released by DPI. In the lowest-performing schools, 84% of students are economically disadvantaged, compared to only 16% of the students in the highest-performing schools, as show in the chart below. Students in the lowest-performing schools are far more likely to have disabilities or difficulty speaking English, compared to students in the highest-performing schools. Read more
Wisconsin’s cuts to education since the start of the recession are the 7th largest in the country, according to a new report. These cuts deepened the recession, slowed the recovery, and have the potential to make Wisconsin less prosperous in the future.
Wisconsin has cut state investment in K-12 schools by 15.3% since 2008, a deeper cut than 43 other states, according to a report released by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a non-partisan policy research organization. Percentage cuts in each state, which are calculated after adjusting for inflation, are shown in the chart below.
When cuts in state aid for education are measured in dollar amounts rather than percentage terms, Wisconsin’s cuts to education since the recession rank second in the nation, trailing only Alabama’s cuts. In 2014, Wisconsin will spend $1,038 less per student in state aid for K-12 education than it did in 2008, after adjusting for inflation. Read more
The number of teachers in Wisconsin public schools has fallen dramatically over the last several years, according to a new publication from the Wisconsin Budget Project. Even before the budget cuts and collective bargaining changes of 2011, Wisconsin was losing teachers at a rate faster than most other states
Wisconsin lost 2,900 teacher full-time equivalents (FTEs) between the 2004-05 school year and the 2010-11 school year, as shown in the chart below, or nearly 1 out of every 20 teachers working in public schools. The most recent school year for which the National Center on Education Statistics has information is 2010-11.
This analysis relies on national figures so as to be able to make comparisons among states. State-level figures show that the number of teachers in Wisconsin has dropped slightly since 2011.
Only seven other states lost a bigger share of their teacher workforce over this period, according to the Wisconsin Budget Project’s new report. Read more