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Reality Check: School Board Member Supports Walker In Ad

Published On: Nov 21 2011 10:21:35 AM CST
Updated On: Nov 22 2011 10:22:29 AM CST
MADISON, Wis. -

Gov. Scott Walker is the first to come out swinging in advertising for recall elections in the Madison area.

In the first ad of the recalls, the governor tries to make the case for the bill that arguably started it all, through a school board member who doesn't explain her school's whole budget situation, WISC-TV reported.

"We were worried the state budget was going to mean less money for our school district," says a woman in the ad, identified as "Karin, School Board Member."

The woman is Karin Rajnicek, who was elected to the Waukesha School Board in April, bumping an incumbent member off the board. Her website touted that she was the only fiscal conservative in the race and the only candidate independent of the teachers union.

"But Gov. Walker, he gave us options that reduced our biggest costs," said Rajnicek in the ad.

WISC-TV found this needs clarification.

The "options" Rajnicek is referring to is Wisconsin Act 10, the law that says schools no longer have to bargain with teachers over benefits.

To analyze the ad's claims, it's important to get a fuller picture of Waukesha's budget situation.

The district was facing a $9 million budget hole, primarily from reductions in the revenue cap -- meaning it could spend $550 less per student. The district had about $3.6 million in stimulus money saved from 2010 to help out. Then the district went to the teachers. Having teachers contribute 5.8 percent to their pension and 12 percent to their health care got the district about $5 million is savings.

Then about 130 teachers retired, getting the district an additional $2 million in savings when the retiring teachers were replaced with new teachers.

Did these "options" mitigate all the cuts the district faced? No, clearly the federal stimulus money got the district part of the way there, as did a few other minor cuts to transportation and small programs, according to Superintendent Todd Gray.

But did the choices reduce the district's biggest costs? Yes.

Rajnicek goes on to say in the ad that those costs were reduced "so that we could put more money back into our classrooms."

WISC-TV found this claim also needs clarification.

The superintendent said the increased contributions primarily helped plug the budget hole, but the district was able to add some extra funding to supplies and technology in the classroom by about $400,000.

It should also be noted that Waukesha received a $10.4 million court settlement this year for a bad investment deal. The superintendent said the money will be used to pay back debt from the bad deal, but it won't help the district's finances now; Gray said that money will instead help in future budgets.

While this is currently the only recall-related ad running in Madison, WisPolitics.com reported that the liberal Greater Wisconsin Committee will start airing ads this week. Two conservative groups have spent more than $1 million statewide on other ads in support of the governor.

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