Just a little over 3 years under the Walker Authority and spending cuts to education are now crushing rural schools.
Democrats and the state superintendent of public schools have been pushing school funding reform for years, yet that effort has been vilified as nothing more than more liberal overspending on the teachers union.
All it took was ONE Republican who noticed how stripped down one of his district schools looked on a recent visit, now there's a crisis?
My conservative friend in Milwaukee said it best when he told me he didn't believe anything I said because I was a liberal. It's an automatic reaction to tune us out. But the truth is, the Democrats predicted the following story would unfold. Here's what Scott Walker's policies look like in the real world:
WISC: If one employee leaves Cuba City High School for a higher-paying position elsewhere in Wisconsin, it can leave the school short of instructors in two or more subjects. When rural districts need to stretch dollars, staffers often do more than one job. Rural educators struggling with high transportation costs, old buildings and the loss of staff told state lawmakers studying the issue that their employees and budgets have been stretched to the limit. Without more money, they will have to close schools and could see massive deficits and their best teachers leave for better-paying jobs elsewhere.
There's no help coming, a kind of tough love tea party thing. If conservative rural voters don't want to educate other peoples kids, so be it:
But lawmakers on a special task force said an overall funding increase is unlikely, although some money might be found for specific needs. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos created the rural schools task force in September after seeing districts like Rhinelander fail repeatedly to get more money by appealing directly to voters.
The following may be a surprise to one Republican lawmaker, but it isn't a surprise to parents of children in public schools or administrators:
Rob Swearingen, a Rhinelander Republican and task force chairman, said the committee initially aimed to get rid of inefficiencies and find cost saving measures, not dish out more money to schools. He was surprised during visits to rural schools to see them stripped to bare bones. Dozens of rural districts are slated to ask voters April 1 for money just to keep operating and avoid closing schools; many are likely to fail. "Referendums are just tearing these schools apart," Swearingen said.
This is all by design. Top down one-size-fits-all control from Madison that prevents locally elected officials from governing.
Wisconsin law requires referenda for districts to exceed statewide revenue limits. Eighty percent of such votes are held in rural districts … Rural schools nearly across the board spend more on transportation than those in suburban or urban areas. The state funding formula doesn't account for that. The state also provides less aid to districts with high property values, like Rhinelander … Given the state cap on property tax increases, school districts have no choice but to go to a referendum to raise more money.
Rep. Mandy Wright, a Wausau Democrat and former teacher, was less surprised than Swearingen by the dire straits uncovered during the tours. "One of the critical flaws of the funding formula is that it's more focused on balancing property taxes than it is providing an equal education for every child," Wright said.
See, the Democrats were right, and the many proposals to reform school funding weren't taken seriously...until they affected a Republican. State Superintendent Evers drew up a whole plan…ignored by Scott Walker:
Swearingen said the committee has found that to be mostly true but it's unlikely to include a major funding overhaul … There are some Democratic-led proposals that have yet to gain traction in the Legislature.