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Madeline Heim
By Madeline Heim July 23, 2021

New budget raises state funding for schools to two-thirds level

As he did in his first budget, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers proposed increasing school funding to return it to a level where the state paid for two-thirds of public school costs.

The two-thirds level was standard in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but hasn't been met since 2004. This year, state Republicans opted to include the provision in their budget — with a twist. 

Much of that state funding comes in the form of a property tax cut, so it is not money that can be spent in the classroom. Evers expressed disappointment with how Republicans handled public instruction in other parts of the budget, namely that it included just a tenth of the funding for schools that he had originally proposed. 

School districts are receiving $2 billion in federal pandemic aid, a fact Republicans noted in reducing Evers' request, but the money is not permanent and is not being distributed evenly, which means some school district officials are concerned they will have to lay off teachers or go to referendum to maintain programs. 

Still, Evers' campaign promise didn't specify that the two-thirds funding make it directly into school districts' coffers. 

We rate this Promise Kept. 

Our Sources

Office of Gov. Tony Evers

Nusaiba Mizan
By Nusaiba Mizan March 30, 2021

Evers makes moves to restore funding for schools to two-thirds levels

On the 2018 campaign trail, Gov. Tony Evers -- a former state schools superintendent -- promised to restore Wisconsin's budget to its former two-thirds state funding level for K-12 schools. 

That level -- two-thirds of the total of state school aids and school property taxes -- was the standard from 1996 to 2004. That changed with the 2003-'05 budget under Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle. Under Republican Gov. Scott Walker, it never returned to two-thirds level.

Evers attempted to restore two-thirds funding in his 2019-'20 budget, but spending levels were a point of contention with the GOP-controlled Legislature.

In a 65-page veto message, Evers said he had considered vetoing the entire budget because he did not think Republicans allocated enough money for schools. Instead, Evers issued 78 vetoes, including increase school spending by $65 million more than Republicans approved.

That was still lower than the $1.4 billion for K-12 education Evers initially sought. In terms of the two-thirds measuring stick, the final budget for 2019-'21 came in at 65.3% in 2019-'20 and at 65.5% for the 2020-'21 school year.

Evers will try again to raise funding to two-thirds level with the 2021-'23 budget proposal.

The next step belongs to Republicans in the Legislature.

We rate this promise as In the Works.


Our Sources

PolitiFact Wisconsin, "Restore funding for schools to two-thirds level in 2019-2021 budget," July 9, 2019.

PolitiFact Wisconsin, "Tighten regulations on school's state voucher program, or end it entirely," Oct. 15, 2019.

PolitiFact Wisconsin, "Increase school funding by $1.4 billion over two years in first budget," July 5, 2019.

State of Wisconsin, "2021 Senate Bill 111."

Division of Executive Budget and Finance, Department of Administration, "State of Wisconsin Budget in Brief."

Christa Pugh (Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau). "Private School Choice and Special Needs Scholarship Programs," January 2021.

Patrick Marley and Molly Beck, "Tony Evers uses his vast veto power to raise school spending another $65 million, wipe out Tesla provision," July 3, 2019.

Annysa Johnson, "Cost of Wisconsin voucher programs nears $350 million as enrollment surges," Oct. 15, 2019.

Eric Litke
By Eric Litke July 9, 2019

Evers fails to hit promised school funding mark

While running for governor, Tony Evers promised to restore the former standard of two-thirds state funding for schools. He introduced a budget that did that, both as state school superintendent and later as governor.

He was calling for a throwback to the 1996-2003 era when the state had a commitment to fund two-thirds of K-12 costs through the state budget. 

The 2003-'05 budget, under Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle, eliminated that commitment and state funding hasn't reached that level since. In 2018-'19, the most recent budget, the state share covered 65.4% of K-12 costs, according to the state's nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

Evers promised to push support across the two-thirds barrier, but Republicans weren't on board.

The final budget — written by the Republican Legislature and tweaked through Evers' vetoes — will actually lower the percentage slightly to 65.3% in 2019-'20, according to the fiscal bureau. The percentage is then expected to rise slightly to 65.5% in 2020-'21.

Evers doesn't get credit for effort since we assess outcomes and not intent. But his promise didn't narrow the timeframe to his first budget, so he'll get another crack at this in his second budget.

For now, we rate this Stalled.

Our Sources

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