In a world where everything appears partisan, giving more students a better education isn’t.
The Cap Times looked at the percentage of “yes” votes on school district referendum questions across the state during the 2022 election and compared that to the share of votes for Gov. Evers, a Democrat who ran on expanding school funding. In 61 of the 81 school referendums, more people voted for schools than supported Evers.
tl;dr A Democratic policy is popular even in counties where the Democratic governor isn’t.
Twelve of the 20 counties where Evers did receive more votes than the referendums were Dane and Milwaukee– which both voted overwhelmingly voted for Evers (with more than 70% of the countywide vote). That’s a challenging bar for any school referendum to meet, and all 12 of them still passed.
Overall, 64 of the 81 referenda on Nov. 8th ballots around Wisconsin passed, following a trend in recent years of more support for school referendums at the same time more districts are asking for them.
During both his first term as governor and his decade as state superintendent of public instruction that preceded it, Evers made his prioritization of public schools clear: repeatedly earmarking more money for districts in all 72 counties. But Republicans who control the legislature either reduced or entirely eliminated those increases.
What does this mean for 2023 (& beyond)? The historic belief that referendums don’t pass in rural areas is no longer true. Most voters separate schools from politicians, even though education-focused governors like Evers make a big impact on future funding.