Home > Politics, Trends > Waging a $1 Billion War on Wisconsin and Public Education

Waging a $1 Billion War on Wisconsin and Public Education

March 2, 2011

As I have stated, Wisconsin is my home state. My inlaws are union members – thank god they live in Illinois. What is happening in WI is a travesty — but it is based in abject bullying. Governor Walker is a bully. It is his way or the highway. He shows not one shred of emotion when talking about how he will slash jobs, healthcare, and deprive towns of funding. He is arrogant. He refuses to negotiate on the subject at hand – collective bargaining. And he wants to make up his own rules and impose them on the entire state. This is unhealthy narcissism up close. Take a good look folks for that is what we are dealing with, a bullying narcissist.

As I have written, this is about eliminating public education and ramping up private schools. Here’s the proof:

The budget proposal would cleave $834 million in state aid for K-12 education, providing 7.9% below what was given in the current 2009-’11 budget. That would continue to move the state further from its former commitment to cover two-thirds of the costs of public schools.

In addition, the bill could increase the amount of money spent on Milwaukee’s private school voucher system by making more city students eligible for the program and opening up enrollment to private schools in suburban Milwaukee County.

Milwaukee Sentinel reports:

Madison – Gov. Scott Walker vowed Tuesday to close a $3.5 billion budget gap by remolding Wisconsin government at every level: slashing aid to public schools and local governments while setting up increases in private school aid; eliminating 1,200 state jobs; and placing the tightest limits on property taxes that the state has seen.

To balance the budget without raising taxes or fees, the Republican governor is calling for sacrifices and changes affecting residents across the state, from students and participants in the SeniorCare prescription drug plan to poor families receiving health care or welfare from the state.

The two-year, $59.2 billion budget proposal also has a host of effects on Milwaukee, including ending the requirement that Milwaukee Public Schools teachers live in the city; expanding the use of voucher schools; and studying the possibility of converting the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee into a separate authority – a shift already being targeted for UW-Madison in the bill.

“We are returning to frugality and making the long-term decisions to balance our budget now and more importantly into the future. We will do the heavy lifting to protect our children and grandchildren from having to make the hard decisions that were once avoided,” Walker said.

Throughout Walker’s 25-minute speech, drumming and the roar of thousands of protesters could be heard outside through the thick walls of the Assembly chamber. The demonstration underscored a dramatic legal fight that played out Tuesday over the administration’s restrictions on public access to the Capitol building before and during the speech.

The speech also came amid a continued standoff over a separate Walker proposal to eliminate nearly all collective bargaining for public unions that Senate Democrats have blocked by leaving the state. The Democrats’ leader said Tuesday he believed progress is being made in ending the stalemate but declined to elaborate.

The proposed budget, which runs from July 1 to June 30, 2013, would force local governments and schools to cut their spending, because their state aid would fall by roughly $1 billion over the next two years and they would be prevented from making up that money by raising property taxes. Walker has said that local governments should absorb hundreds of millions of dollars of those cuts by trimming their employees’ health and pension benefits.

Statewide union leaders have said they will agree to those cuts but only if Walker drops his proposal to eliminate nearly all union bargaining rights for public employees.

Democrats described Walker’s proposal in apocalyptic terms, with Rep. Tamara Grigsby (D-Milwaukee) calling it an “absolute annihilation” of public education.

“He does this under the guise of fixing the budget, but what he’s really doing is waging war on Wisconsin,” Grigsby said.

The effects on Milwaukee, she said, would be a “blow that I don’t think we can stand up to.”

EDUCATION REFORM
The budget proposal would cleave $834 million in state aid for K-12 education, providing 7.9% below what was given in the current 2009-’11 budget. That would continue to move the state further from its former commitment to cover two-thirds of the costs of public schools.

In addition, the bill could increase the amount of money spent on Milwaukee’s private school voucher system by making more city students eligible for the program and opening up enrollment to private schools in suburban Milwaukee County.

To keep school property taxes from filling the vacuum left by the loss of state aid, Walker has recommended a 5.5% decrease in the maximum amount per student that public school districts are able to receive in state aid and property taxes. That drop in the revenue caps would amount to a cut of about $555 in the average $10,100 per-pupil limit. The exact dollar amount would be greater for higher-revenue districts and lower for low-revenue districts.

UW-Madison economist Andrew Reschovsky said that could reduce the amount that school districts statewide could raise under the revenue caps by roughly $500 million and would likely lead to cuts affecting students.

“It’s hard for me to believe that it wouldn’t,” Reschovsky said.

The proposal would turn the UW System’s Madison campus into a quasi-public authority and study making the same change to the Milwaukee campus.

UW-Madison would face the deepest cut among state universities in Walker’s proposed budget, but other state public universities would face 11% budget cuts and get none of the cost-saving tools UW-Madison would get by splitting from the UW System.

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