From Arrowhead to West Salem, voters across the state are considering the future of their school districts when they go to the polls. Citizens in 46 districts will be asked to approve referenda.
Some questions relate to the building of new facilities. However, 46% of this year’s referenda are for the on-going expenses of operating local schools.
I received many calls about school funding, property taxes and the problems underlying the questions voters face on the ballot.
On a beautiful October Saturday afternoon, my college-student son and I went to vote. Afterwards, I breathed a huge sigh of relief.
Just between you and me, I worried about my son voting. Would he come home before Election Day? Would he know the rules about mail-in ballots?
Mail-in early voting is complex.
“When you write about tax money going to private schools, please tell people about special education vouchers,” a rural school board member told me. “Because of a change in state law, our school district is paying for special education students to sit at home in front of a computer.”
October is budget time for school districts. The rural school board member just saw the new budget and learned of the high cost for special needs students who are now attending an online school with $12,000 per student of school funds. The school board member asked that I not mention the district or his name to protect the privacy of local students.
The story of how school districts are paying private or online schools $12,000 per special needs student with little guarantee to parents or taxpayers of the quality of that education reads like a litany of everything wrong with state government.
“I am paying for private schools with my taxes?” the women from Pepin asked following my presentation at a recent Town Hall meeting. “Yes, you are,” I told her.
Residents were surprised at the sharp increase in the state spending on private schools – nearly a doubling in seven years. At the same time, Pepin School District lost nearly half of its state support. With less state money, property taxes made up a larger share of school support.
Wisconsin has funded private schools in Milwaukee by taking money from local public schools for a long time.