Wisconsin: a top slasher of K-12 education funding in America

Schoolhouse by jonathan_moreau, creative commons use

Wisconsin is one of America’s top slashers of K-12 education funding.

According to a recent report on state school spending for 2012-2013 from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “The reduction in Wisconsin’s spending per student was the fourth largest nationally when measured in dollar terms, and eighth deepest as a percentage of total school aid….”

That sounds bad.  But Wisconsin didn’t do so hot the year previous either.

I won’t feign shock.

Walker’s anti-education agenda was one of the key reasons many of us worked as hard as we did to unseat our Tea Party tyrant.   We knew Walker cut at least $900 million in state aid to K-12 education through the austerity bill, Wisconsin Act 10.


But wait.  There is more.

Of $31.7 million in additional general state aid monies that *is* coming to schools ’12-’13,  charter and voucher school kids will get bigger helpings  and public school kids smaller.

From Wisconsin Association of School Boards:

“What the numbers show is that independent charter schools and voucher schools, which together are projected to serve roughly 31,800 FTE students, will receive nearly one-third ($10.3 million) of the new money, while public school districts, which serve 855,000 FTE students –or about 27 times as many students–will  receive only $21.4 million in additional general aid.”

As the WASB site explains it, “money to fund private voucher schools and independent charters is skimmed off the top as a “first draw” on general aid funding. Independent charter schools will see an additional $7.5 million over last year, while private voucher schools will see an additional $2.2 million in Milwaukee and $.6 million in Racine.”

Read more on Wisconsin’s national rankings at CBPP.

Learn more about the imbalance between public and private schools at WASB.

Notes on other factors in Wisconsin school budgets:

This post refers to amounts budgeted  – not spent.   I am not referencing federal aid, I am not quantifying what salary and benefit slashing occurred in all districts, and I am not delving into property tax revenues that also pay for schools — though it is generally understood that with a slash in state funding to K-12 education, a greater burden must following come from  local property taxes.  However schools may not be able to raise taxes to meet need.

A recent bill Act 32  reduced the revenue limit in Wisconsin school districts by 5.5% from previous levels.  Because of Act 32, 241 of the state’s 424 school districts are expected to reduce school property tax revenues. – source

Also to note: I am not able to quantify, for this post, the total number of rural schools that were closed due to Wisconsin Act 10 though I’ve heard of several cases via friends.

Schools still have the ability to authorize construction projects through bonds of  $1,000,000 or more by the use of referenda.



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