State Sen. Jennifer Shilling is the Democratic Minority Leader in the Wisconsin State Senate, and earlier this week she took to social media to criticize – and misrepresent – her Republican colleagues’ record on taxes and school funding. Shilling is up for re-election this year and her party is attempting to wrest control of the Senate from Republicans.
“While the GOP cuts funding for local schools and raises property taxes, wealthy special interests are getting millions more,” Shilling tweeted on Tuesday along with a link to a Madison.com article about choice schools in the state getting more state funding this school year. The parental choice program provides parents below a certain income level with a chance to send their children to a non-public school.
The linked memo, prepared by the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, does indeed show a drop in school funding from the 2010-2011 academic year and the 2014-2015 academic year. But Shilling’s tweet is hardly accurate.
For starters, it was Democrats led by Gov. Jim Doyle who drafted the state budget that impacted funding levels for the 2010-2011 school year. That budget contained $2 billion in state tax increases – the largest increase in state history – and allowed local governments to raise property taxes by $1.5 billion. Despite the shocking tax hikes, when Gov. Scott Walker (R) and legislative Republicans took control of state government in January 2011 – six months before the final Doyle budget expired – Wisconsin faced a $3.6 billion budget shortfall.
Starting in the 2011-2012 budget, which ran from mid-2011 to mid-2013, Republicans brought spending under control without raising taxes.
Shilling argues that, according to the LFB, property taxes have gone up under Republicans. But that’s just not true. The amount of money public schools take in from property taxes has risen, but that has not come from property taxes increases. The MacIver Institute pointed out last year that the LFB found the current state budget increased property tax revenue to schools without raising property taxes.
“These changes will raise school district property taxes by $44.5 million over the biennium compared to what the governor originally proposed, but still results in a net decrease in the property tax bill of a median valued home.”
Shilling’s claim that the GOP raised property taxes is false.
As for her claim that the GOP has slashed education funding, the data shows that since getting the $3.6 billion budget deficit under control, since 2011 the state has increased education spending every single year; this despite studies that show there is no correlation between increased per-pupil spending and increased student achievement.
Another point Shilling ignores is that federal aid to public schools in Wisconsin, both in total and per-pupil dollars, has declined since the 2011-2012 school year. That year, federal funding amounted to $1,207 per student. For the 2014-2015 school year, that figure dropped to $971.
If Democrats hope to capture the state Senate, they may want to start hammering facts, not myths, with their talking points.