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Fact Checking Donald Trump on Gov. Scott Walker’s Education Record

By Alyson Klein — July 27, 2015 2 min read
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Donald Trump, R-classy, billionaire developer, is leading in the polls—and he’s hitting his next closest rivals for the Republican nomination, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, on education issues.

In an interview with CNN over the weekend, Trump slammed Bush on the Common Core State Standards, a line he’s used before.

And he hit Walker on education funding cuts in Wisconsin.

“A guy like Walker, who, frankly, his state is having tremendous difficulty. I love Wisconsin. It’s a great place. ... But, you know, he’s putting debt up to the gills. The school system is a disaster because they don’t have any money,” said Trump.

And, in an earlier campaign stop, Trump also criticized Walker on the standards saying he “was totally in favor of common core!”

So is any of that true? Walker was fairly neutral on the common core, not slamming the standards, but not exactly rushing to embrace them either when he was elected in 2010. When common core became less cool, he said he’d fight it ... then simply gave districts in the Badger State the choice to opt in or out. Which was pretty much the law to begin with.

As for the “don’t have any money” claim: Lawmakers in Wisconsin didn’t go along with Walker’s proposal to cut education spending by $127 million, but there won’t be much more money for education in the 2015-16 school year. The state opted instead to flat-fund education next school year and increase spending by $69 million two years out. But, importantly, schools aren’t being given the authority to increase spending. That means if a district does get more aid, it will have to divert it to lowering property taxes, unless it gets permission from voters, via a special referendum.

Of course, in 2011, Walker signed off on a significant cut to state K-12 aid of nearly $800 million, and the legislature has also instituted lower property tax caps that have impacted districts’ revenues.

So far, though, those cuts haven’t produced a net gain or net loss for Wisconsin schools, if you look purely at results on the National Assessment for Educational Progress or NAEP, the nation’s report card. Scores have pretty much held steady, or even went up a bit, during Walker’s tenure. (Notably, though, NAEP is a lagging indicator, so it may take years to see the full results of Walker’s budget choices, not to mention his push to end collective bargaining for public employees, including teachers.)

So his edu-budgets are not really a “disaster,” at least not yet, although teachers in the state—most of whom are not Walker fans—may disagree.

Wisconsin NAEP results for you edu-nerds below:

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