A Whitewater Schools 2014 Referendum (Quick Politics of It All )

The Whitewater Schools will likely vote to exceed revenue-caps by something over a million dollars a year for four years.  The proposal is in response to projected structural deficits of about a million-and-a-half dollars. 

A formal vote is yet ahead, and beyond that there are details and justifications to consider.  It’s reasonable to review all the information the district presents. 

As a policy matter, there’s time enough to read and then ponder the district’s proposal.  

As a political matter, I’ve a few remarks for today and tomorrow. 

I’m sure there have been lengthy internal conversations about how to advance a referendum politically (beyond discussions with the residents’ advisory group).

1. November 2014.  The key political consideration is that this is a November 2014 gubernatorial-year referendum.  The single-most important factor in the referendum’s success will not come from local proponents, but from statewide candidate Mary Burke’s showing in the city proper. 

(How close she can come in surrounding towns matters, too, but less so, as it’s Gov. Walker’s territory to win.)

I’ve predicted that Gov. Walker will win statewide, but that Mary Burke will carry the city.  (I still think that’s the most likely statewide outcome despite surprisingly close August polls.)

The bluer the electorate in Whitewater proper, the better the chances for a referendum’s success.  A referendum victory would require a thank-you card to Ms. Burke, no matter how she does statewide. 

2. Conservative Credibility.  Conservatives locally are not in control of their own destiny – over years they’ve thrown their credibility away, and now depend on red years elsewhere (or years that aren’t so blue elsewhere) to prevail in the city. 

They dribbled away their credibility by backing local big project after big project, and now they’ve no credible claims against multi-million-dollar spending. 

They’re big-government ‘conservatives,’ and that’s a losing long-term proposition. 

A big-spending conservative is like a clergyman in a cathouse: repulsive and hypocritical, both.

3. Conservative Voices.  Even if, within the city, there are conservative leaders who will oppose a referendum (and I think most of them will stay quiet), those who do so will probably offer inarticulate objections based on anti-labor whining.

That’s not the way to contend against spending in an increasingly-blue environment, but they’ll think a bit of carping (in big red letters) is an adequate substitute for a comprehensive assessment of how much spending the district needs. 

It’s not; their approach will be ineffectual, if not counter-productive.

This discussion needs to be moved to different ground, to a conversation about what the district truly needs to meet its academic, athletic, and artistic objectives.  (That may mean more in some areas, but less in others – distribution matters.)

There are no self-professed, longtime conservative leaders in the City of Whitewater proper who will take that approach.  They’ll either stay quiet or mishandle the issue.

That would be, however, the right conversation: what do you want to accomplish for the children of this community, and what do you need to meet those objectives?  

What’s gained by the additional spending (or what would be lost without it)?

The only conversation worth having about education is an inquisitive, thoughtful, sharp one, in which arguments are carefully evaluated. 

Tomorrow: The Visigoths Who Love Music. 

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