Educate All Students: Larry Miller's Blog

January 14, 2018

Behind Walker’s $200 Per Student Increase in Wisconsin State Budget

Filed under: Wisc Budget Bill — millerlf @ 1:41 pm

by Larry Miller

(The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel chose not to run this because it is not suggesting solutions. I beg to differ.)

When is a raise in the budget not a raise? When it restores a tiny fraction of needed funds that have been systematically reduced for years and does nothing to correct the factors that cause under-funding.

The controversial Wisconsin state budget passed last September included an increase of $200 per student in public schools. In reality, that funding level, adjusting for inflation, still falls below what was allocated for K-12 schooling in 2010.

The small bump is not surprising, given the overwhelming majority of Wisconsin voters who support their public schools. Polls by Marquette Law School [] showed significant support, including a willingness to pay more in tax dollars for adequate resources for public schools.

Public school funding in Wisconsin continues to be constrained by a formula that is fundamentally unjust and broken. Children attending Milwaukee Public Schools are worth approximately $10,000 each under the budget. Those attending Glendale/River Hills are valued at $12,752. If Milwaukee Public School (MPS) children were allocated the same funding as Glendale/River Hills, our district would see an increase of more than $200 million annually. Similar comparisons can be made between MPS and Whitefish Bay, Shorewood, Brown Deer and Fox Point.

The majority of Republican legislators have made it clear that their preference is to support the private voucher system. In this budget the per student allocation increase for voucher students was higher than that for public school students. The budget also included a provision raising statewide the income level at which a family becomes eligible to receive a voucher.

The expensive 25-year voucher “experiment” has done nothing to change the status quo of the growing economic inequality in Milwaukee and Wisconsin. Yet we have a President who has promised billions in federal monies toward voucher programs, a Secretary of Education in Betsy DeVos whose political life has been spent dismantling public education, and a state legislature that prefers private to public. The private system exists not parallel to, but at the expense of, the public system.

In addition to unequal funding and diversion of funds to private schools, the broken funding framework fails to support students with special needs, or “special education.” Previous to the 1994 revenue caps, school districts were promised that the state would provide 63% of funding for special education. Right now districts are receiving less than 26% of those expenses, while they are required to fulfill 100% of students’ Individual Education Plans(IEP). This funding has been frozen for a decade. Milwaukee Public Schools has more than 15,000  students with IEP’s. The majority of the money to fulfill these must come from MPS’s general funding, which means less money for libraries, technology, music, the arts, and physical education.

Over the next 15 years, the legislature is giving $3 billion to FoxConn, along with an estimated $18 billion spent for prisons. That money must come from somewhere. This path suggests that public education for our children will suffer even more.

Wisconsin, we are better than this. In Milwaukee Public Schools our time is spent focusing on serving our students, their families and communities. We are doing this with all hands on deck, but with restraints from limited resources.

If we are going to improve the lives of the 85% of MPS students living in poverty, greater resources are crucial. We’ll never achieve regional economic development without high-level statewide public education, equitably and adequately funded.

Milwaukee public schools are faced with large class sizes, ancient buildings, the need for more 21st-century technology, expansion of library resources, and increased student access to music, the arts, and physical education, for starters.

This is an important year for Wisconsin elections. Please put our children’s education at the center of the dialogue and debate. Reform of Wisconsin’s education funding formula, funding for special education services, turning back the expansion of private school vouchers and prioritizing education, not incarceration, should all be part of making Wisconsin great again.








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