Today voters in 26 Wisconsin rural school districts are being asked to do what the State of Wisconsin won’t do: fully fund public education.
Gov. Walker cut aid to school districts and reduced the raising of taxes while telling the school districts to find more money by giving less salary and benefits to teachers. Well, despite all the districts could do in the way of Republican austerity and punishing of public school teachers, the rural schools, many of which have lost enrollment and the money it brings, still didn’t have enough in the bank to properly educate their students.
As the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports, if the referendum in Tomah fails today, for example, the Tomah district will have to lay off math and science teachers, library staff and make other draconian cuts to programs.
While relying on local referendums to raise education cash may seem quaintly democratic, in reality it places great stress on administrators and teachers who must operate on annual budgets and contracts. And thanks to our current anti-tax and anti-public hysteria, a referendum for public school funding is a risky proposition, which is precisely what our Republican legislators had in mind when they approved this plan. The goal was and is to starve public schools to some weakened state of emaciation while redistributing state funds to private voucher schools.
Hopefully the people of rural Wisconsin will understand the dire need of their school districts under Walker’s leadership and come to their aid.
UPDATE (4/2)– Happy to report that the Tomah School District did indeed pass its spending referendum— by a very narrow margin. Other election results can be found at this Journal Sentinel page.
UPDATE(4/3)– The Wisconsin Budget Project blog gathers more school district results and comments upon them.