Gov. Tony Evers proposed $1.4 billion in additional spending on K-12 education will not improve education outcomes, the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL) says. And its added costs to taxpayers would be “the largest property tax increase in nearly a decade,” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said.
Evers’ two-year budget plan proposes a 10 percent increase over funding levels in the 2017-19 state budget and would reverse eight years of lowered property taxes under the former administration, the MacIver Institute notes.
Property taxes were lowered, the budget was reduced, and the Evers administration received a budget surplus even after Walker increased education spending over the last biennium by $5.8 billion, the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL) notes. Wisconsin spends more on education than what the majority of states spend, WILL adds.
“Will massive increases in spending actually improve student outcomes?” WILL asks. According to an analysis of education spending and outcomes, WILL says, “probably not.”
WILL’s Truth in Spending: An Analysis of K-12 Spending in Wisconsin compares K-12 spending on Wisconsin public schools and student outcomes. Based on the most recent available data, Wisconsin’s K-12 education spending is comparable to the rest of the country, but it already spends more money, on average, than the majority of states, according to the report. Wisconsin spends $600 per pupil more than the median state spends.
Based on WILL’s econometric analysis, no relationship between higher spending and outcomes exists in Wisconsin. On average, high-spending districts perform the same or worse on state-mandated exams and the ACT relative to low-spending districts, the analysis found.
Slinger and Hartford school districts spend significantly less than the state average on education but their students' Forward Exam performances are significantly higher than other districts, the report found. By comparison, White Lake and Bayfield districts have “woeful proficiency rates despite spending far more than the average district,” the report states.
In Evers’ budget address, he said, “more than one million Wisconsinites have raised their own property taxes to support local schools in their communities,” Matt Kittle at the MacIver Institute notes. “But they chose to do so,” Kittle says, “through the mechanism of referendum that offers school districts the ability to set their own priorities and not make taxpayers elsewhere pick up an ever-increasing portion of the tab.”
Evers’ budget plan calls for a return to the state picking up two-thirds of K-12 funding, but would put more money into the state’s long-failing schools, Kittle notes, “while he looks to punish Wisconsin’s school choice program.”
This is counterintuitive to the facts, WILL argues, as private choice schools and charter schools in Wisconsin achieve more with less. According to recent analysis, these schools achieve better academic outcomes despite spending thousands less per student than traditional public schools.
“Evers’ budget plan freezes enrollment in Wisconsin’s popular school voucher program and stalls the expansion of independent charter schools – clearly payback to loyal teachers’ unions that helped get the former Department of Public Instruction superintendent elected governor,” Kittle adds.
Evers plans to raise teacher salaries, arguing that Wisconsin educators are paid less than the national average.
"We have to support our kids in the classroom and we also have to make sure we’re supporting the educators who teach our kids, too," Evers said in late February during his first budget address. "We need to do our part to make sure our educators know that the work they do is valued and to use these funding increases to do everything they can to keep our talented educators here in Wisconsin."
According to a MacIver News Service data report, Wisconsin schools “spend almost half their revenue on overhead with only 54 percent actually going toward classroom instruction.”
According to data from the 2016-17 school year produced by the Department of Public Instruction (DPI), Wisconsin school districts spent $13,182 per student on public education.
“An average of $7,122 goes toward classroom instruction of each student,” the analysis found. “The largest part of instruction costs is the salaries and benefits of classroom teachers, teaching anything from reading and math to physical education.”
“If top-heavy overhead were reduced, the teachers doing the vast majority of meaningful work in schools could perhaps be better compensated,” Ola Lisowski at the MacIver Institute says. “Instead, the many secondary and tertiary roles schools have taken on directly compete with the primary reason for schools’ existence: educating children.”
WILL research director Dr. Will Flanders adds, “Wisconsin is simply not getting a quality return on investment for all of its spending on traditional public schools. We spend too much for not enough in return.
“Evers’ plan is unlikely to lead to improving test scores for students,” Flanders argues. "Policymakers should focus on smarter spending, targeting schools and programs that work, and expand access to high-performing charter and choice schools.”