Republican voters must be one issue voters because there's no other explanation for the GOP's continued political dominance. Heck, they oppose almost every popular policy supported by most Americans, from gun control to public education, and yet...
It's crazy. While Republicans cut taxes so they can plaster it all over their campaign ads, their constituents are actually raising taxes on themselves. Even worse, Republicans have freed businesses from their tax obligations, you know, like helping fund an educated workforce.
Wisconsinites have been approving school funding referendums everywhere, proving education is their top priority, not tax cuts. Yet voters continue to vote for tax-cutting Republicans. What gives? The Washington Post tried to make sense of this, highlighting our flip-flopping governor:
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who made his name attacking unions and slashing school funding, is promising a “historic investment” in public schools as he campaigns for reelection. A recent Marquette University poll found that 63 percent of the state’s voters would choose to increase spending on public schools over cutting property taxes, up from 46 percent in 2014.
Voters across the state have approved hundreds of local referendums over the past decade that have raised billions of dollars from increased property taxes for schools. Walker, who enacted large cuts to school funding in 2011, has responded to the shifting opinion by proposing a $200-per-pupil increase in funding this year, on top of a similar increase last year. Funding, when adjusted for inflation, is still down during his tenure, however.
Earlier this month, Walker signed a bill to make it easier for school districts to raise more tax money without referendums, even though he had opposed a similar bill last year. Walker’s likely Democratic opponent this fall plans to make education a central issue. “He can pretend all he wants,” said Tony Evers, the state’s schools superintendent. “He has now funneled all this money into schools, but it is not back to where it was. People get it, and they remember.”
Florida Gov. Rick Scott, another proud cost-cutter, is bragging about his more recent increases to school funding as he prepares to launch a bid for the U.S. Senate.
In Arizona, Gov. Doug Ducey, who won office on a “shrink government” platform, now boasts of his own plan for more school money, backed by a $1 million advertising campaign promoting the increases from supportive state businesses.
The new rhetorical approach represents a major turnabout for a generation of conservative leaders who came into office promising to get better results with less taxpayer money for public schools. The schools in all of these states have not yet gotten back to the levels of per-pupil spending they had before the 2008 recession, when adjusted for inflation, and school administrators say teacher quality and student results have suffered as a result.
Teachers have seized on the public’s emotion, pushing legislators for more money even in states where they lack collective bargaining rights.
Between 2008 and 2015, the total state per-student funding for grade schools dropped in 29 states, with the sharpest drops coming in Republican-led places such as Arizona, Florida, Alabama and Idaho.
In Oklahoma, where tax breaks and declining oil prices have sapped state revenue, the number of teachers has dropped by 700 over four years, even as enrollment has increased by 15,000. More than 2,000 classes — in foreign language, art, music and consumer science — have been canceled, according to the Oklahoma Policy Institute.
In Arizona, another of the lowest-paying states for teachers, funding per student dropped 37 percent between 2008 and 2015. Gov. Ducey has been boasting of a 10 percent increase in funding, paid for largely by redirecting money from the state’s land-trust fund.
“When I first came to the legislature, there were Republicans on the floor that referred to public schools as ‘government schools,’ ” said Democratic Arizona state Sen. Steve Farley. “Now I am seeing Republican superintendents, particularly in rural areas, just outraged at the state of public schools. They know we have the money and have just given it away.”
On March 21, more than 60 Kentucky schools agreed to close so that teachers could travel to the capitol to protest the cuts. Republican Gov. Matt Bevin, who is not up for reelection until 2019, has dismissed the teachers as “selfish” and “ignorant.”