Scott Walker says he plans to lower property taxes if elected. This is actually pretty simple to do, by restoring the states percentage of local school funding to historical levels, rather than what has happened over the last decade. Do note that the state under Democratic control was screwing around with the funding of public education well before Scott Walker and crew entered the game.

The framers of WI state constitution wanted the local area to have skin in the game rather than having the state fund 100% of he schools . I think the framers of the constitution were correct in this analysis… but there is a significant difference between the state picking up very close to 50% of the cost which they have historically done vs slowly decreasing the states tab to less than 40%.

There is also the issue of the insanely complex school funding formula. Its an ideal setup for playing accounting games and has lobbyists written all over it. Even the proposal from the dept of public instruction keeps the basic ideology intact. Such is great for politicians seeking cover from public outrage over funding their favorite lobbyist, but is not so good when it comes to the children’s education.

And there in lies a big problem, the state creates laws which require significant local expenditure to make lobbyists happy, and at the same time the state refuses to pay for them. Fix that, and a good chunk of change can be saved. If a law is that important on the state level, than by all means put up your wallet to pay for it… with the caveat that the importance of the law is not determined by lobbyists, but by evidence, both pro and con. Consider that some lobbyists got means testing removed from the SAGE program. Data suggests SAGE provides measurable results in schools with a low socioeconomic demographic in some grade levels, but has little to no effect in high income areas… so what does governement do? Remove means testing!!!

Its a similar deal with vouchers. On the outset, they seem like a good idea, just as open enrollment is. A student should not be hamstrung when it comes to opportunities due to zip code or parents economic status. Granted, when it comes to test scores, the effects of vouchers and open enrollment are a pig in a poke, but test scores are only a snap shot, and as far as I can gather, a pretty poor one at that.

That being said, the voucher thing needs to be done right. If a person can afford to send their kids to a private school, more power to them. If they can’t afford it, I have no problem with the state providing assistance to do so… but when folks are making 300% of the federal poverty level and are still eligible, vouchers are crossing the line from providing opportunity to all, to buying votes, to say nothing of creating unhealthy, and likely unsustainable dependencies for the voucher schools. Perhaps even worse, is voucher eligibility is perpetual, ie qualify once, and you are good to go, even if you are at 1000X FPL. Perpetual vouchers where the means tests are above an area’s median income are “free stuff” from the govt to an extreme, but talk radio never goes there.

Bottom line, there are multitude of opportunities to provide high quality education at significantly less property tax burden, but there has to be a will to put business as usual and ideology aside to do so.