Wisconsin Rural Schools Alliance (WiRSA)

Newsletter – June 17, 2015

Jerry Fiene

What will be the most significant impact of the 2015-2017 State Budget on Public Education in Wisconsin?

This budget proposal will have dramatic effects on public education both in the short term and in the long term with the potential to undermine generations of efforts to build the state’s great public schools.

The immediate impact comes from the failure to increase funding even to the rate of inflation. The revenue limit is frozen for both years of the budget which, with the exception of the 5.5% decrease in 2011, is the first time this has happened since revenue limits were created in 1993.

The $100 per pupil aid added into the second year of the budget will certainly be less than the rate of inflation. This was also to be the budget that addressed rural school issues. The increased sparsity and high-cost opportunities for students. It is important to know that there are many sparse, rural districts that have enrollment of more than 725 or transportation costs that are above state average transportation costs but fall short of the 150% level that will receive absolutely none of these funds. This budget will seriously challenge districts that are already referendum dependent.

The long-term impact is even more concerning.

The statewide expansion of private school vouchers, special education vouchers and independent charters clearly moves our state in the direction of privatizing education at the expense of neighborhood public schools and will be funded by the local property tax. Since more than 85% of the students applying for a voucher are already enrolled in a private school, these are additional students that will be applied to the equalization aid formulas beginning in the second year of the biennium.

The result is a redistribution of the state aid pot that will negatively affect every school district and property taxpayer in the state. Many other policy provisions contained in the budget will serve to undermine our greaT public schools such as lowering standards for teacher licensure and allowing non-public students to access public school athletic and extra-curricular activities.