Educate All Students, Support Public Education

October 14, 2016

Wisconsin: General State Aid Certified to School Districts

Filed under: School Finance — millerlf @ 1:33 pm


General State Aid Certified to School Districts

by Chris Kulow

DPIlogoAs required by state law, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) has released the Oct. 15 certified amount each school district will receive from the $4.584 billion available under current law for general state aid. The certified aid shows that 60% of the state’s public school districts (255 of 424*) will receive more general state aid this school year than they did in 2015-16.

General state aid for school districts was up $108.1 million from last year. However, according to DPI’s press release, the actual amount of general aid that the state’s public school districts receive is reduced for a number of factors: Read more of this post

March 2, 2016

A new study shows the time may be right for a change in Wisconsin’s school funding.

Filed under: School Finance — millerlf @ 4:33 pm

On New study shows it’s time for a fresh school-funding lawsuit in Wisconsin

The other side might sputter and stammer that the current state of affairs when it comes to Wisconsin’s school funding is good enough. But more and more research nationwide is showing otherwise, and now is the time to prove it in court.

By Jay Bullock Published March 1, 2016

Last week, State Rep. Kathy Bernier, a western Wisconsin Republican, stormed out of a “breakfast with legislators” meeting with school officials from the Eau Claire area. Her rapid exit was prompted by, as she put it in news reports, “vile” comments during the meeting.

Except she wasn’t being called names or anything. Rather, one Eau Claire school board member told Bernier that “Minnesota is beating us,” and complained that Wisconsin’s school funding formula is “broken.”

Apparently the truth hurts – Minnesota is increasing school funding, and we are not – so Bernier took her ball and went home.

I think this makes it a good time to talk about school finance. Wait; don’t click the red X on your browser just yet! I know school finance is about the most mind-numbingly dull subject you could imagine, but I promise to try to make it interesting. I’ll start with good news.

February saw the release of a working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research about school finance, checking to see whether specific kinds of changes to state school funding formulas had an effect on student achievement. The answer is yes, more funding leads to better student achievement in high-poverty districts.

The NBER paper considers states that have changed their funding formulas after lawsuits over whether funding is “adequate.” Where courts have ruled that funding is inadequate, a total of 27 states, they find that the subsequent increase in funding helps students. In particular, they found states raised state spending for all districts, but progressively so – poorer districts got a bigger boost than wealthier ones. Students in the poor districts benefited significantly, according to achievement test data.

Wisconsin is not one of the states in the study, even though there was a change in the funding formula in the 1990s. That change was not prompted by a lawsuit over adequacy, though; it was, rather, Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson’s anti-tax attitude. But more on that in a minute.

Starting in 1990, the NBER paper explains, courts moved away from rulings over “equality” in funding between wealthy and poor districts toward, instead, considering whether funding was “adequate” in districts with poor achievement: Was the state’s funding formula in part to blame for the low scores in low-income districts?

There was in fact a big Wisconsin school funding case, the alliteratively named Vincent v. Voight, decided in 2000, right in the middle of the paper’s timeline of 1990 to the present. We don’t make the study, though, because in Vincent v. Voight, the Wisconsin State Supreme Court majority opinion, authored by the recently late N. Patrick Crooks, explicitly declined to adopt the adequacy standard. Instead, the court stuck by a standard it had previously used in a pre-1990 equality-era case.

Crooks wrote that what the Wisconsin constitution demands, and what the legislature at the time defined as their school-funding standard, is “an equal opportunity for a sound basic education.” The court majority created a simple test for whether such a “sound basic education” exists. Because even Wisconsin’s poor school districts had funding enough to offer these basics, the court said, no change in the funding formula was needed.

Advanced Placement classes canceled? Foreign languages cut? Vocational education decimated? Too bad, Crooks and company said; you still have the three Rs, so suck it up (I’m paraphrasing, but not by much).

As is her wont, then-Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson wrote a scathing dissent, and the late Justice William Bablitch added his own. Both of them enumerated problems in low-income districts all over the state, from Milwaukee and Beloit to Wausau and beyond. Abrahamson further added that because the Supreme Court had only just in that ruling set out the test for what a “sound basic education” meant, there was no true hearing on whether Wisconsin was really offering it.

And Bablitch wrote, “Despite the historic and commendable efforts by the Governor and the legislature to support public education, after reading this record one is left with the overwhelming realization that, for too many of our children, those efforts have not satisfied even a minimal constitutional guarantee of an equal opportunity for an adequate education.” Ouch!

But Bablitch’s words went unheeded, of course, because Crooks rejected the adequacy standard.

What if he had not? What if, in 2000, the state Supreme Court had instead found Abrahamson and Bablitch in the majority, forcing the legislature to boost funding to low-income districts?

“Our results thus show that money can and does matter in education,” the authors of the NBER paper conclude. “Courts and legislatures can evidently force improvements in school quality for students in low-income districts.”

The improvements in student achievement cited by this study, as measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP, “the nation’s report card”), were big. After the boosts in funding, “relative test scores rose … to a 0.09 standard deviation impact in the tenth year after the reform event that if anything continued to grow thereafter.”

The stats-speak in that sentence is strong, but what it means is that the increase in funding alone for poor districts in the states they studied is enough to move hundreds of thousands of students closer to or beyond proficiency.

The results, they say, are cumulative and sustained after funding formulas change.

Slate’s Jordan Weissmann last week noted this NBER study and a similar one; the other study looked at the same states and found improvements as well in graduation rates and adult poverty rates. NBER’s research says that the investment of extra funding has an estimated rate of return of 140 per cent – Wisconsin’s economy will get back what we spend to help low-income districts and then some. They write that “additional spending yields increased earnings of $4,815 per pupil” once students from these poorer districts hit adulthood and get jobs.

In other words, because the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 2000 rejected the “adequacy” standard for school funding, bucking the trend set by 27 other states, we have surrendered 15 years of possible gains in student achievement in our low-income school districts, including – perhaps, especially – Milwaukee. We’re now into our second generation of students denied improved economic opportunity in addition to better educational outcomes. Since 2000, thousands of Wisconsin children graduated late or not at all who did not have to; millions of dollars in potential annual earnings evaporated. The blame for all that lies squarely with Crooks and Thompson.

What is in place in Wisconsin today is a funding formula that serves wealthy school districts well, sure, but primarily benefits the Wisconsin taxpayer. When Thompson and his legislative allies changed school funding in 1993, they did so not with a promise to bolster the fortunes of Wisconsin’s children but with a sop to the anti-tax crowd.

The reforms then had three pieces: the “Qualified Economic Offer” rule, which gave districts wide latitude to depress raises in teacher pay; a promise for the state to pay 2/3 of the cost of public K-12 education, which left a lot of funding decisions to a legislature that over the years has been spending-averse; and a revenue limit restricting how much districts could raise through local property taxes to make up for whatever the state didn’t provide.

That is the mess that Crooks said was hunky-dory in Vincent v. Voight. You can understand, then, why school officials laid into Kathy Bernier with the “vile” thought that Wisconsin’s school funding is broken.

The QEO and the 2/3 promise are now gone, though. What remains of that is only the revenue cap, and that was cut sharply in 2011. It has not returned to pre-recession levels. Districts are holding referenda left and right to exceed the caps. But realistically, even if low-income districts pass referenda, there is only so much blood to squeeze from the low property-value stones within its own borders. The state has to be the one to change.

So I think the time is right for another swing at a school-funding lawsuit. It is not that I believe the current court – April election pending – is so very different today, or that even if they did rule for more adequate funding, the current legislature has much interest in suddenly sending its love to districts like the Milwaukee Public Schools. It’s not even that I think we should follow Abrahamson’s advice from her Vincent v. Voight dissent and really apply the test for a “sound basic education” that didn’t get a hearing in 2000.

Rather, I think the evidence is much more clear now that school funding must be thought of through the lens of adequacy. The NBER authors put it bluntly that “after school desegregation, school finance reform is perhaps the most important education policy change in the United States in the last half century.” Funding schools as we do now simply hurts children, there is no question. It is as much a moral imperative to change that as it was to desegregate.

In addition, it’s clear there’s no longer a rational economic argument against reform for adequacy given how well the investment returns economic benefits in addition to educational ones.

It wouldn’t be hard at all to find some students, parents and even taxpayers ready to sign on claiming they have been hurt educationally or economically by the current formula, ready to submit evidence that “a basic sound education” isn’t sufficient anymore.

The other side might sputter and stammer – the way poor Kathy Bernier did on her way out the door in Eau Claire – that the current state of affairs is good enough. She’s wrong, and now is the time to prove it in court.

Tags: schools, education, funding, politics, national bureau of economic research, state rep. kathy bernier, school funding, shirley abrahamson, william bablitch

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February 4, 2015

Governor Walker’s New Budget Proposes Draconian Cuts to K-12 Public Education

Filed under: School Finance,Scott Walker — millerlf @ 6:06 pm

$150 cut per public school student is proposed.

Hidden in the Governor’s budget presentation last night is the proposal to eliminate $150 of “categorical aid” that goes to each public school student, according to present law. This is being cut and will devastate most of Wisconsin’s 425 public school districts. For Milwaukee Public Schools, this will be a cut of nearly $12 million dollars that has not been part of the district’s budget construction for next year.
The budget document specifically states:
“The Governor recommends eliminating funding for per pupil aid in FY16…”

There has been a lot of confusing language out there that has left people with the impression that schools will be receiving more money that they can actually use to fund schools. There has also been some language that suggests that because the revenue limit remains flat there is a not a funding reduction. Leaving aside some of the very specific and targeted dollars for technology and transportation, overall the $150 per pupil cut in the first year remains.

Remember, because of the structure of school funding in Wisconsin, any money added to school aid that goes beyond the revenue limit does not go to schools or school districts. It goes to property tax relief. If the revenue limit is not increased then any additional funds goes to property tax relief. Governor Walker proposes keeping the revenue limit the same, therefore any talk of addition funding is code for property tax relief. The “categorical aid” that is being eliminated was a separate fund set aside by the legislature. That $150 per child is being cut.

Attached is the DPI provisions from the budget and under item #4 you will see that there is a $126,975,000 reduction in per pupil aid. This is money for a “categorical aid” program that all students receive. As the paragraph below that makes clear: “The Governor recommends eliminating funding for per pupil aid in FY16.”

115.437 Per pupil aid.

(1) In this section, “number of pupils enrolled” has the meaning given in s. 121.90 (1) (intro.) and includes 40 percent of the summer enrollment.

(2) Annually on the 4th Monday of March, the department shall pay to each school district an amount equal to the average of the number of pupils enrolled in the school district in the current and 2 preceding school years multiplied by $75 in the 2013-14 school year and by $150 in each school year thereafter. The department shall make the payments from the appropriation under s. 20.255 (2) (aq).
Attachments area:
Preview attachment 2015-17 Executive Budget – DPI Provisions.pdf

2015-17 Executive Budget – DPI Provisions

December 17, 2013

Important Funding Proposal for Wisconsin Public Schools

Filed under: School Finance — millerlf @ 8:48 am

From:   Rep. Pope, Rep. Wright, Rep. Clark, Rep. Hesselbein and Sen. Lehman, Sen. Vinehout, Sen. Cullen

Re:  Co-sponsorship of LRB 2673/2 – Public School Funding Reform  December 9, 2013

The past two budget cycles have placed additional strain on the funding formula by which we provide aid to our public schools. In an effort to advance the dialogue regarding the funding problems public school districts currently experience, we are introducing legislation that would overhaul the public school funding formula. LRB 2673/2 is based largely on the recommendations of Superintendent Tony Evers’ ‘Fair Funding for Our Future’ plan, and makes the following changes to the distribution of general school aid:

  • Factors in student poverty: the funding formula currently does not make any adjustments for household poverty despite the fact that poverty has been shown to greatly affect the educational outcome of students
  • Sets a guarantee of $3,000 per pupil in state aid: there are now 20 school districts that receive no equalization aid, placing them outside of the funding formula.  Taxpayers in every district deserve equalization aid for this most vital state function.
  • Shifts the School Levy Credit and First Dollar Credit into equalized aid: both of these credits are currently counted toward school aid, but in reality are used as accounting gimmicks that mask the true costs of public education
  • Puts Wisconsin on the path to restoring 2/3rds funding: the 2/3rdsfunding guarantee is a bedrock of the funding formula, ensuring local property taxpayers aren’t over-burdened with the costs of their local schools, and returning to this guarantee was the foundation of legislation introduced in 2009 by Representative Robin Vos (2009 AB 919)
  • Eliminates Per Pupil Categorical aid and provides a $275 per pupil levy increase in 14-15: by using per pupil funding instead of levy growth with additional aid, the legislature over the past two budgets hasfurther distorted the funding formula’s ability to equalize based on a district’s ability to pay
  • Restores reasonable school levy growth: links levy limit growth to the Consumer Price Index giving local districts the ability to keep up with economic changes

If you are interested in co-sponsoring LRB 2673/2, please respond to this email or contact Representative Pope’s office at266-3520 or Senator Lehman’s office at266-1832. For further information on this proposal, please see the attached LRB analysis.

Analysis by the Legislative Reference Bureau

This bill makes a number of changes in the laws relating to public school financing, including the following:

1. Currently, the amount appropriated each fiscal year for general school aid is a sum set by law. This bill directs the Department of Public Instruction (DPI), the Department of Administration, and the Legislative Fiscal Bureau annually to jointly certify to the Joint Committee on Finance (JCF) an estimate of the amount necessary to appropriate in the following school year to ensure that state school aids equal the following percentage of partial school revenues (in general, the sum of state school aids and school property taxes):

a. For the 2014−15 school year, 63 percent.
b. For the 2015−16 school year, 64.2 percent.
c. For the 2016−17 school year, 65.4 percent.
d. For the 2017−18 school year and each school year thereafter, two−thirds.

Under the bill, JFC determines the amount appropriated as general school aids in each odd−numbered fiscal year (e.g., the 2014−15 fiscal year) and the amount is set by law in each even−numbered fiscal year.

2. For purposes of determining a school district’s general school aid amount, in general this bill requires that each pupil who is eligible for a free or reduced−price lunch under the federal school lunch program be counted as an additional 0.3 pupil.

3. Currently, if a school district would receive less in general state aid in any school year than 85 percent of the amount it received in the previous school year, its state aid for the current school year is increased to 85 percent of the aid received in the previous school year. This bill increases the percentage to 90 percent.

4. This bill provides that a school district’s state aid in any school year may not be less than an amount equal to the school district’s enrollment multiplied by $3,000.

5. Currently, for calculating a school district’s revenue limit, the per pupil adjustment is $75 per pupil in each of the 2013−14 and 2014−15 school years. In the 2015−16 school year and thereafter, there is no per pupil adjustment. This bill sets the per pupil adjustment at $275 per pupil for the 2014−15 school year, and thereafter adjusts the previous school year’s adjustment by the consumer price index increase.

6. Currently, if at least 50 percent of a school district’s enrollment is eligible for a free or reduced−price lunch under the federal school lunch program, the school district is eligible for a prorated share of the amount appropriated as high−poverty aid. This bill eliminates this aid beginning in the 2014−15 school year. The bill provides additional state aid for the 2014−15 school year to hold school districts harmless from the loss of high−poverty aid.

7. Currently, the state annually pays each school district an amount equal to its average enrollment in the current and two preceding school years multiplied by $75 in the 2013−14 school year and $150 in each school year thereafter. This bill eliminates this per pupil aid after the 2013−14 school year.

8. Currently, $75,000,000 in school aid payments is delayed until the following school year. Beginning in the 2015−16 school year, this bill delays $972,400,000 in school aid payments until the following school year.

9. In the school district equalization aid formula, the guaranteed evaluations represent the amount of property tax base support that the state guarantees behind each pupil. There are three guaranteed valuations used; each applies to a different level of expenditures. The first level is for expenditures up to the primary cost ceiling of $1,000 per pupil. The second level is for costs per pupil that exceed $1,000 but are less than the secondary cost ceiling, which is set at 90 percent of the prior school year statewide shared cost per pupil. This bill changes the secondary cost ceiling to 100 percent of the prior school year statewide shared cost per pupil.

10. The bill eliminates the school levy property tax credit and the first dollar property tax credit.

December 4, 2012

Wisconsin residents: 2-to-1 margin favor education funding over tax cuts

Filed under: Public Education,School Finance,Scott Walker — millerlf @ 8:43 pm


Wisconsin Economic Scorecard

The Wisconsin Economic Scorecard is a quarterly poll of Wisconsin residents conducted by the UWM Center for Urban Initiatives and Research (CUIR), in cooperation with Milwaukee public radio station WUWM and This tracking poll measures perceptions of the health of Wisconsin’s economy as well as personal economic circumstances of Wisconsin residents. The October 2012 Wisconsin Economic Scorecard was a random digit dial (RDD) landline/mobile telephone survey of 472 Wisconsin residents, conducted by the CUIR Survey Center at UWM from October 22‐25. The sampling margin of error is ±4.5% at the 95% confidence level.


Major findings:

Wisconsin residents would prefer state revenues to be spent on additional funding for education over receiving tax cuts by a 2-to-1 margin (56.9% to 27.3%).


Feature: Opinions on uses for increased state revenues

In light of improved state revenues, state officials are looking at how to allocate those tax dollars in the next state budget. Proposals being considered include income tax cuts and increased funding for education. Respondents were asked about their preferences regarding the ultimate use of this extra flexibility in the upcoming budget. Figure 13 shows that Wisconsin residents prefer increased funding for education over income tax cuts by a 2‐to‐1 margin (56.9% to 27.3%). About 16% of respondents indicated that they would prefer those tax dollars be allocated in some other way.


A number of variables are related to how respondents say they would prefer these tax revenues to be allocated. While every age group preferred increased funding for education over tax cuts or other programs, that preference weakened as age increased; 73.1% of respondents aged 18‐29 preferred increased revenues be spent on education, but just 47.9% of those aged 60 and up agreed. Women preferred education funding over tax cuts 64%/23%, while men were split 50%/31%. Those with children under 18 living in the household preferred education funding over tax cuts 63%/23%, while those in households without children were split 54%/29%. However, the most influential variable when it came to shaping opinion on how tax revenues should be allocated was party identification. Figure 14 shows that Democrats preferred education spending to tax cuts by 89%/6%, while just 30% of Republicans supported education spending and 51% preferred tax cuts. Political independents favored education spending over tax cuts 50%/28%.

May 9, 2012

UW-Madison Study Shows Impact of Walker’s Destructive Education Policies

Filed under: School Finance,Scott Walker — millerlf @ 1:38 pm

University of Wisconsin-­Madison

ELPA Policy Brief

May 2012

Making Matters Worse: School Funding,
Achievement Gaps and Poverty under Wisconsin Act 32


By James Shaw and Carolyn Kelley

The 2011-­‐13 Wisconsin biennial budget (Act 32) reduced state aid to school districts by $792 million. This budget reduction follows a reduction of $284 million in the 2009-­‐11 biennial budget, reducing overall state aid to public schools by more than a billion dollars.

In addition to the reduction in general aid, Act 32 reduced the revenue limit in Wisconsin school districts by 5.5%, which is equivalent to an overall reduction in taxing authority of $1.6 billion in addition to the $792 million reduction in state aid. The lowered revenue cap requires that 241 of the state’s 424 school districts reduce school property taxes, exacerbating the impact of state budget cuts.i

Wisconsin boasts the highest high school graduation rates, the third highest ACT scores, the highest Advanced Placement success percentage of any Midwestern state, and high rates of highly qualified teachers.ii At the same time, the state has some of the largest achievement gaps for poor and minority students, and struggles to provide adequate funding for all school districts.

By analyzing school district budgeted expenditures in the 30 highest and 30 lowest poverty districts in the state for 2011-­‐12,iii this study examines the impact of Wisconsin Act 32 on education funding, teacher quality, student learning, and property taxpayers. Budget data collected by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction represent the best currently available estimates of the impact of Act 32 on district expenditures.

Financial Impact of Act 32

Wisconsin state school aids are designed to equalize revenues among school districts with high and low tax capacity. In 2010-­‐11, the thirty highest poverty districts in Wisconsin received average state revenue per member of $7,237.55 compared to $3,361.39 for the thirty low poverty districts.

State budget cuts hit high poverty districts the hardest. Analysis of district budget data shows that compared with the 2010-­‐11 budget year, high poverty districts lost $702.97 in average state revenue per member while low poverty districts lost $318.70 in average state revenue per member.

Because high poverty districts are larger, the resulting share of budget decrease from state aid cuts for the 30 highest poverty districts was $88,452,606 ($703 per student times 127,842 students) compared to a loss of only $20,299,915 ($319 per student times 63,696 students) for the 30 lowest poverty districts.

High poverty districts have less state revenue to support the needs of children, and taxpayers in high poverty districts pay taxes at increasingly higher rates. In 2009­‐- 1 0 the total equalized property value per member in high poverty districts was $426,937.90. In low poverty districts the equalized property value per member was $944,333.95. Low poverty districts have more than the twice the equalized property value or tax base per member than high poverty districts.

Prior to the reductions in State revenue contained in the Wisconsin 2011-­‐13 biennial budget, the average mill rate ($10.94) for the 2010-­‐11 school year budget in high poverty districts was 29% higher than in low poverty districts ($8.56).

After the passage of the Wisconsin State Budget and reductions in State revenue for school districts, the average 2011 -­‐12 mill rate ($11.08) in high poverty districts is 32% higher than the average mill rate ($8.39) in low poverty districts.

The average mill rate increased 14 cents per thousand dollars of property value or 1.4% ($10.94 to $11.08) in high poverty school districts; and decreased 16 cents per thousand or 1.8% ($8.56 to $8.39) in low poverty school districts.

Reductions in employee compensation hit high poverty districts the hardest. Act 1 0 limits collective bargaining rights for public employees and reduces total compensation by making employees responsible for paying a larger portion of health care and retirement benefits. Under Act 10 reductions in state aid for public education are offset by reductions in public school employee compensation and/or a reduction in the workforce. For cuts in employee compensation to absorb the total $431 million reduction in state aid to school districts in 2011-­‐12, total compensation for each school employee would have to be reduced by $3941. Because state revenue reductions are more than twice as large in high poverty districts, compensation reductions must be more than twice as large, $6436 per employee, compared to low poverty districts, $2768, to offset reductions in revenues.

These reductions adversely impact high poverty districts. Even without the added burden of absorbing larger cuts to employee compensation, recruiting and retaining highly qualified teachers is more challenging in high poverty districts. iv

Reductions in the size of the workforce hit high poverty districts hardest. The state biennial budget reduces state aid by $431 million in the first year and $361 million in the second. Using average teacher compensation as a proxy for average public school employee compensation and without considering the Act 10 mandated reductions in employee compensation, a reduction of 5.4% of the public school workforce or 5,448 school employees would be needed to offset the $431 million reduction in state aid for the 2011-­‐12 school year.

Because state revenue is reduced more in high poverty districts than in low poverty districts, to offset the budget cuts, the workforce must be reduced 8.2% in high poverty districts and only 3.5% in low poverty districts. These cuts would increase class size, particularly in high poverty districts. Large class sizes have been shown to have a particularly negative impact on student achievement for the low income and minority students served by high poverty districts.v

In fact, recently released data from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction show that the number of full-­‐time equivalent (FTE) public school total staff was reduced by 2357 or by 2.29% for the 2011-­‐12 school year. FTE public school staff was reduced by 877 or 5.71% in high poverty districts, and by 81 FTE staff or 1.13% in low poverty

Act 32 increases funding gaps for poor and minority students. The reality of budget cuts hits low-­‐income students harder, as reductions in state revenue are more than twice as large in high poverty school districts as in low poverty school districts. These reductions in state aid decrease the number of educators, and the compensation and incentives for recruiting and retaining high quality teachers, especially in high need districts. They reduce program support for the students most in need, while increasing class sizes and property taxes in high poverty school districts.

i Reschovsky, A. (2011). The Impact of property taxes of the governor’s 2011-­‐12 school funding proposals. Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs, La Follette School Working Paper No.


ii Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. (2011, February 9). Wisconsin Advanced Placement Results Continue to Climb. News Release DPI-­‐NR 2011-­‐15B. Retrieved April 25, 2012 from Department of Education. (2011).

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. (2011, August 17). ACT Results Up In Wisconsin. News Release DPI-­‐NR 2011-­‐89 C. Retrieved April 25, 2012 from

Balfanz, R., Bridgeland, J.M., Bruce, M. & Fox, J.H. (2012). Building a Grad Nation Report. Alliance for Excellent Education, America’s Promise Alliance, Civic Enterprises, & Everyone Graduates Center at John Hopkins University. Retrieved April 25, 2012 from

iii Poverty is measured by the percent of students in the district qualifying for the Federal Free and Reduced Price Lunch Program.

iv Committee for Economic Development. (2009). Teacher Compensation and Teacher Quality: A statement of the policy and impact committee of the Committee for Economic Development. Washington D.C.: Committee for Economic Development.

6 Nye, B. A. (2000). Do the disadvantaged benefit more from small classes? Evidence from the Tennessee class size experiment. American Journal of Education, 109, 1-­25.

7 Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction Annual 1202 School Staff Report, released April 18, 2012.

About the Authors

James J. Shaw and Carolyn Kelley are Wisconsin educators with expertise in school reform and school leadership development.


They are coauthors of the book, Learning First!: A School Leader’s Guide to Closing Achievement Gaps (2009).

Jim Shaw has been a Wisconsin educator for more than forty years. He is a former teacher, psychologist, school administrator, superintendent, and Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at the University of Wisconsin-­‐Madison. He is also a former Wisconsin Superintendent of the Year and has been recognized by numerous organizations including the Public Policy Forum, the University of Wisconsin, the Saturn Corporation, the National Education Association, and the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators for his leadership and contributions to public education at both the state and national level. He served most recently as the Superintendent of the Racine Unified School District.

Carolyn Kelley is a Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at the University of Wisconsin-­‐Madison. She is an internationally recognized scholar in teacher compensation policy and strategic human resource management in schools. Professor Kelley is coauthor of the book Paying Teachers for What They and Do: New and Smarter Strategies to Improve Schools (with Allan Odden, 2001). She is a principal developer of the Comprehensive Assessment of Leadership for Learning (CALL) survey designed to promote school leadership and instructional practices that improve student learning.

For more information about the analysis presented in this ELPA Policy Brief, see the full paper and analysis, available on the ELPA website,

September 25, 2011

Walker School Cuts Keep Coming

Filed under: School Finance,Scott Walker,Wisc Budget Bill — millerlf @ 8:56 pm

Budget means districts drop agriculture programs …. really

Governor Walker keeps telling us that the 2011-13 budget is working for school districts, but the evidence keeps mounting that it’s not OK for kids, their schools, or their communities.

For example, a recent column that ran in several state newspapers admits there will be changes to many of our school districts, including “31 ag programs that laid off teachers, reduced teaching hours, or were simply eliminated”─and that’s just this year. And remember, folks, this is in The Dairy State of all places.

To read the full article go to: (

September 11, 2011

Wisconsin’s School Funding Cuts Among Highest in the Nation

Filed under: School Finance,Scott Walker — millerlf @ 8:12 pm

School Funding in 2011-12 Compared with 2010-11

Some of the deepest reductions to K-12 formula funding since the onset of the recession have occurred in the past year, as federal aid intended to sustain state education spending has expired, rainy day funds have been exhausted, and states have resisted raising additional taxes to offset the need for cuts. After adjusting for inflation between last year (fiscal year 2011) and the current 2012 fiscal year:

  • Almost all states for which data are available — 21 of the 24 states — have cut per student education funding.
  • Seventeen of the 24 states have cut per student funding by more than two percent.
  • Eleven of the 24 states have cut per student funding by more than five percent.
  • Of the states surveyed, the three states that reduced per student funding the most since last year are Illinois, Texas, and Wisconsin. Illinois cut per student spending by 13 percent, while Ohio and Texas imposed cuts of about 10 percent.

These cuts are occurring at a time when schools face demands from parents, employers and civic leaders to bring more and more students to higher levels of academic proficiency, in large part because workers will increasingly need higher levels of educational attainment to thrive in the workforce.

Why This Happened

It is not just K-12 education that is being cut. States are cutting funding for higher education, for health care, for human services, and a range of other areas of spending.[5] States have enacted these cuts primarily because the recession caused state revenue to decline sharply as costs increased. In addition, the federal government has not offered additional emergency fiscal aid and few states raised new revenue this year.

  • Revenues remain depressed. With unemployment still high and housing values still depressed, people have both less income and purchasing power. As a result, income and sales tax revenue — the main sources of revenue states use to fund education and other services — is still low. Of the 44 states that have released the necessary data, 36 project that they will have less state revenue in 2012 (after adjusting for inflation) than they did in fiscal year 2008, when the recession began. These states on average balanced their budgets based on fiscal year 2012 revenue projections that were seven percent lower than before the recession, after adjusting for inflation.[6] While state revenues are starting to improve across the country, the rate of growth is generally slow.
  • Costs are rising. The cost of meeting people’s needs has increased since the recession began, due both to demographic changes and to the recession. In the upcoming 2011-12 school year, the U.S. Department of Education projects that there will be about 260,000 more K-12 students and another 1.5 million more public college and university students than in 2007-08, for example.[7] Some 5.6 million more people are projected to be eligible for subsidized health insurance through Medicaid in 2012 than were enrolled in 2008, as employers have cancelled their coverage and people have lost jobs and wages.[8]
  • Emergency federal aid is mostly depleted.States used emergency fiscal relief from the federal government (including both education aid and other forms of state fiscal relief) to cover about one-third of their budget shortfalls through the 2011 fiscal year, which ended on June 30 in most states. Only about $6.7 billion in fiscal relief remains for the current 2012 fiscal year, a year in which states faced shortfalls totaling at least $103 billion. That is, the remaining fiscal relief covers less than seven percent of state budget shortfalls for the fiscal year that just began.Nearly all the aid remaining is explicitly targeted to education, but it is mostly depleted. For the current 2012 fiscal year only about $2 billion of the $39 billion in education aid under ARRA’s State Fiscal Stabilization Fund remains, and only about $4 billion of the $10 billion from the Education Jobs Fund remains. In total, then, only about $6 billion or roughly 13 percent of the federal aid targeted explicitly to supporting general state education funding remains.[9] Since this education aid is intended to help states sustain both their K-12 systems and their higher education institutions, not all of the remaining education funds will go to K-12 schools.

    Not only is emergency federal aid largely depleted, federal policymakers are making state budget problems worse by deeply cutting the amount of ongoing federal funding to states. The recent debt limit deal likely will lead to well over half a trillion dollars in cuts in “non-security discretionary” funding over the next decade. Fully one-third of this category of federal spending flows through state governments in the form of funding for education, health care, human services, law enforcement, infrastructure, and other services that states and localities administer. Large cuts in federal funding to states would force states to make still-deeper cuts in their budgets. The cuts to state aid could start as soon as federal fiscal year 2012, which begins October 1, 2011.

    Congress could spare aid to states while taking all the required savings from purely federal areas of spending, like the FBI and the National Institutes for Health. But that’s extremely unlikely, since the resulting cuts in those areas would be prohibitively large.
    In addition, if the committee charged with recommending further deficit-reduction measures reaches agreement, the additional cuts likely will further reduce federal funding for states. If the committee fails to reach agreement, the automatic, across-the-board cuts that will occur will mean even deeper cuts to non-security discretionary funding.

  • Few states raised new revenue this year. While more than 30 states raised revenue to help close their budget shortfalls earlier in the recession, this year few states raised new revenue; most depended entirely on spending cuts.

July 22, 2011

Superintendents Across Wisconsin: Walker’s “Education Budget” Hurts School Districts

Filed under: School Finance,Scott Walker — millerlf @ 3:09 pm

New Wisconsin budget creates
fiscal obstacles for schools, kids

July 20th press conference at Greenfield School District
School District officials and parents from around the state met to let the public know that the state budget cuts are curtailing students’ opportunity to learn.

School board members, district administrators and parents from across the state gathered in Greenfield on Wednesday to speak about how the $1.6 billion education state budget cut impacts schools, families and communities. Their message was: “It’s not OK.”

According to Bruce Quinton, superintendent of the Pepin School District, Governor Scott Walker’s recent cuts are especially difficult after 18 years of school districts operating under state revenue limits.

“Given year after year of school funding reductions, educators are already working with larger classes, fewer materials and fewer programs and services for students. The most recent budget cuts make things worse, essentially handing the state’s budget deficit to all school districts and municipalities throughout the state. Our young people and our educators didn’t create this mess, but we will be the ones who pay for it.”

June 24, 2011

Companies Running School Cafeterias Under Eye of USDA

Filed under: Privatization,School Finance — millerlf @ 5:01 pm

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s watchdog arm plans to look closely at whether the food-service-management companies running many school cafeterias are passing along all the discounts and rebates they receive from their suppliers to the districts that hire them.

The audit will begin in August, said Alison Decker, a lawyer in the USDA’s office of inspector general. It was triggered in part by a settlement between the New York state attorney general and Sodexo, one of several large companies in the business of running school cafeterias. Last July, Sodexo, a French company with its U.S. headquarters in Gaithersburg, Md., agreed to pay $20 million to resolve allegations that it had over charged 21 school districts and the State University of New York system for some of the food provided to students.

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