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State education spending up, according to latest fiscal bureau figures

By   /   August 29, 2016  /   News  /   No Comments

Wisconsin Democrats attempted to use the state’s Legislative Fiscal Bureau to score political points in the school funding debate, claiming the state was short-changing education spending. Now Republican state Sen. Leah Vukmir has her own memo from the LFB that shows all state spending on schools is actually up since 2011.

“It was pretty obvious that (the Democrats) asked a very narrow question to get the answer that they wanted,” Vukmir said in a phone interview.

“You have to figure in property taxes, federal aid and other local revenues,” Vukmir said. “The combined picture gives you a different story. And if you do combine the three — in particular, state, property taxes and local revenue — it shows that we are up actually $65 per student. That’s $30 million since 2010-11.”

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VUKMIR’S MEMO: Sen. Leah Vukmir says her memo from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau paints a more complete picture of state spending on education than the one Democrats hyped earlier this month.

A memo requested by Democrats focused exclusively on a reduction in state equalization aid since 2010.

After the LFB released that data Aug. 12, state Sen. Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling said “Republicans have used their power to repeatedly cut school funding in order to shift more state dollars to their special interest allies.”

Will Flanders, education research director for the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, pointed out at the time that the memo touted by the Democrats gave an incomplete picture of school finances.

Now the Republicans have their own memo, with more complete information, to tout.

Unlike the memo requested by the Democrats, the memo requested by Vukmir shows all four school district revenue sources.

“(The Democrats) want to paint the picture that we’re only concerned about the wealthy and tax breaks at the expense of schools, and it’s garbage,” Vukmir said. “And they’re lying. It’s not misleading, they’re lying. And I’m just tired of it. Republicans have consistently funded all educational experiences and opportunities for children in Wisconsin.”

Only when the reductions in federal aid are included does it show that total spending on education in Wisconsin is down from 2010-11, from $13,211 per pupil to $13,039. Vukmir said the federal spending drop followed the end of the federal stimulus spending which former Gov. Jim Doyle used for state education spending.

RELATED: Study shows fears about Act 10’s impact on classroom are unfounded

“As we always know, federal funding at that level is unsustainable,” Vukmir said. “And as we warned, that money expired. So what happened? We were left to find solutions.”

Taking the post-stimulus federal spending into account, Vukmir said, federal aid for K-12 is down more than $200 million statewide, or $236 a student.

“So I want to know why Democrats never ask their leadership in D.C., why they don’t ask President Obama, why aren’t they blasting them for the decrease in federal aid that seems to have created part of the problem that we as Republicans solved through Act 10,” she said.

Enacted, in 2011, Act 10 allows school districts to control costs by ending collective bargaining over public employee benefits and work conditions. Since its passage, taxpayers have saved over $5 billion.

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James Wigderson is a Wisconsin-based reporter for Watchdog. He is also an online contributor to MacIver Institute and RightWisconsin, blogs at the Wigderson Library and Pub, and was formerly an award-winning local columnist for the Waukesha Freeman. James is a member of Investigative Reporters and Editors. He lives in Waukesha, WI, with his wife Doreen and their children.