Many people in Madison continue to say that the district and its leadership (including the Board of Education) are helpless in changing the revenue caps and the way public education is funded in Wisconsin. They point out that the revenue caps have been in place for 14 years and at least during in the last three budget cycles (since 2000), districts have been screaming for help. I’m not a political insider, but here’s at least some reasons that this year (and definitely the budget cycle in 2009) is significantly different:
— A Democratic governor just won re-election but a significant margin (some could call this a mandate)
— The powerful Joint Finance Committee (for the first time I can remember) is comprised equally of Dems and Republicans (in the last budget cycle just 4 of the 16 members were Dems)
— For the first time I can remember, 2 of the 16 are from Madison. For years, there was no Madison representation on Joint Finance.
— This is the first budget cycle in which school districts are publicly saying that if referenda don’t pass, they will have to close (Florence last year; Markesan this past fall; and now Wisconsin Heights, which actually did NOT pass its referendum). Luther Olsen, who represents the Markesan area, is on Joint Finance. HE HAS HEARD AN EARFUL on revenue caps from his mostly-very-conservative constituents.
— Each year, state and federal percentages of overall school funding have decreased to the point that even “wealthy” suburban schools are in peril.
Other people who are more in-the-know on state politics care to comment?