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Madison public schools to ask for $600M more from taxpayers

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(The Center Square) – There are questions about the plan from public schools in Madison to raise taxes by more than half-a-billion dollars this fall after the Madison Metropolitan School Board recently approved two tax increase questions for the fall.

“The operations question asks voters to green light $100 million to be distributed across the coming four academic years, allowing the district to immediately address the matter of staff wages and also continue to advance its equity projects,” the school district said in a news release. “The facilities question asks the community to provide funding of up to $507 million to replace the buildings that house [10 different schools].”

The $600 million requests come after MMSD got a $350 million tax increase in 2020.

Will Flanders, an education expert at the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, said there’s hardly any evidence Madison Metropolitan Schools deserve an extra half-billion dollars.

“There is little evidence that the previous referendum has had an effect on student outcomes. Proficiency in both ELA and math remains relatively stagnant and below the statewide average,” Flanders said. “It also doesn’t make sense from an enrollment perspective. Despite growth in the population of the city of Madison, enrollment in public school has trended down for four of the past five years.”

Flanders added Madison is losing students because of both school choice and families moving out of Madison. He believes growth in Dane County has been driven by families looking for better performing schools in nearby communities.

The tax increase questions come after Milwaukee Public Schools asked taxpayers there for $252 million. Voters approved MPS’ referendum in April.

“The amount of money requested by MMSD here makes the Milwaukee referendum seem like chump change,” Flanders told The Center Square. “On a per student basis, it is far larger. The one point in its favor relative to MPS is that it is time-limited and not putting taxpayers on the hook in perpetuity. But Madison taxpayers will be on the hook for dramatic tax increases in the short term.”

Flanders said MMSD’s $507 million request for new school buildings is the second largest referendum in the history of the state, in terms of the sheer amount of money requested.

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