WI Technical College System Funding is “Taxation Without Representation”

WILL’s 50-state overview and study shows the funding breakdown of technical colleges, giving policy solutions on behalf of taxpayers

The News: The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) just released a new policy report, From Coast to Coast: A 50 State Review of Technical College Funding. In this report we explore the funding of technical and community colleges in Wisconsin and across the nation. We identify states that hold technical colleges accountable to their local communities, and make recommendations for how Wisconsin can move in that direction.

The Quote: WILL Policy Associate, Miranda Spindt, stated “America was founded on the idea that government only exists by the consent of the governed. Technical college boards in Wisconsin levy property tax dollars in their respective districts, but they don’t answer directly to voters. To achieve true taxation with representation, a system should be created to elect at least some portion of the membership on tech college boards.”

Why It Matters: America was founded on the principle of no taxation without representation, and unfortunately Wisconsin’s technical college system fails to live up to that principle. Wisconsin’s overall property tax burden is high compared to other states, ranking 8th highest in the nation in 2021. In past state budgets, policymakers have increased aid to technical colleges in return for reductions in property taxes. Removing technical colleges from the property tax rolls over time would help lower Wisconsin’s overall tax burden, making Wisconsin more competitive.

Key Findings & Solutions:

  • Technical colleges receive about 30% of their funding from property taxes. Most of the remainder comes from state aid, federal funding, and tuition.
  • Property tax funding for technical colleges represents about $487 million from Wisconsin property owners. This number is likely to grow in the forthcoming budget.
  • The majority of states that fund technical colleges with property taxes have elected members. Of the 17 states we identified in this category, 11 have elected members.
  • Technical Colleges are vital to meeting Wisconsin’s workforce needs. Within six months of graduation, 93% of graduates are employed, and 80% are employed in the field they received training.
  • Policymakers should consider ways to eliminate “taxation without direct representation.” This could include moving to fully replace property tax funding with state aid, or creating a system to elect at least some portion of the membership on tech college boards.

Dig Deeper:

Miranda Spindt

Miranda Spindt

Policy Associate

Will Flanders, PHD

Will Flanders, PHD

Research Director

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