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Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher July 20, 2011

Club for Growth Wisconsin ad says Senate recall candidate Sandy Pasch voted to cut school aid by $300 million

The target in one of the most competitive of Wisconsin’s nine Senate recall races is state Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, an architect of a 2011-2013 state budget that reduces aid to public schools by nearly $800 million.

But one of the state’s major political players, the conservative Club for Growth Wisconsin, is turning the tables. It claims Darling’s challenger, state Rep. Sandy Pasch, D-Whitefish Bay, also backed a sizable school funding cut.

The attack is part of a radio ad that began airing about a week before Pasch won the Democratic primary.

Club for Growth, which advocates for "limited government and minimal taxation," mostly branded Pasch as a tax-and-spender in the ad. But at one point, the female narrator says Pasch voted to "to cut school aid by nearly $300 million."

Club for Growth also makes the school aid claim in similar ads that have targeted two other Assembly Democrats who are challenging incumbent Republicans in recall races, according to the La Crosse Tribune.

They are Rep. Jennifer Shilling of La Crosse, running against Sen. Dan Kapanke of La Crosse; and Rep. Fred Clark of Baraboo, challenging Luther Olsen of Ripon. Those elections, and the Pasch-Darling contest, are on Aug. 9, 2011.

When we asked for evidence to back the claim against Pasch, Club for Growth spokesman R. J. Johnson cited a May 2009 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article.

It referred to the 2009-2011 budget submitted by then-Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat, which proposed cutting state aid for schools by $290 million. That was before the Legislature, then controlled by Democrats, voted on the budget.

But a month later, Pasch joined all but two Assembly Democrats in approving the spending plan. The final budget cut general school aid by $294 million -- to $9.3 billion -- over two years, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

So, Club for Growth Wisconsin is correct in saying Pasch voted to cut school aid nearly $300 million. But is that whole story?

In the same article cited by Club for Growth, Doyle said total spending on public schools would actually rise by about 5 percent because schools would get an additional $877 million in federal stimulus funds. That seemed to indicate that stimulus money would more than offset the state aid reduction. Gillian Morris, Pasch’s campaign spokeswoman, said that was also her understanding of what happened.

But that was not the case.

According to the fiscal bureau and the state Department of Public Instruction, the $294 million aid reduction took into account both the cut in state funds and the federal stimulus money that was added in.

In other words, the stimulus money was not enough to offset the state funding cut. The net result for schools was a reduction in funding of $294 million.

In sum, Club for Growth Wisconsin claimed that Pasch voted to cut nearly $300 million in aid to schools. The record shows the claim was on the mark.

We rate the statement True.

Featured Fact-check

Our Sources

Email interview, Club for Growth Wisconsin spokesman R.J. Johnson, July 15 and 18, 2011

Club for Growth Wisconsin, Sandy Pasch radio ad

Interview and email interview, Sandy Pasch campaign spokeswoman Gillian Morris, July 15 and 18, 2011

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "State budget would cut school aid 2.5%, lay off state workers," May 21, 2009

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Assembly passes budget; measure goes to Doyle," June 26, 2009

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "A few details on proposed budget measures," June 7, 2009

Club for Growth Wisconsin, Sandy Pasch radio ad

Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau, 2009-2011 budget school aid reduction memo, June 10, 2009

Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau, 2009-2011 budget stimulus funds memo, July 7, 2009

Interview, Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau analyst Russ Kava, July 18, 2011, "Dem poll: Darling, Pasch in dead heat in Senate recall," July 15, 2011

La Crosse Tribune, "Dems slam ad that paints Shilling as budget slasher," June 24, 2011

Email interview, Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction spokesman Patrick Gasper, July 18, 2011

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Club for Growth Wisconsin ad says Senate recall candidate Sandy Pasch voted to cut school aid by $300 million

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