Wisconsin lawmakers cut state funding for the UW System by $125 million per year for the budget period that runs between July 2015 and June 2017, reducing Wisconsin’s investment in keeping higher education accessible and jeopardizing the economic benefit that Wisconsin residents receive from the UW System.
UW officials have released descriptions of planned and ongoing cuts to academics, facilities, and services at each campus that have been made to reduce costs in the wake of the budget cut. Many campuses are reducing the number of classes offered, potentially increasing the amount of time students must spend in school before they can receive credit for courses required for graduation. Other campuses are postponing updates to outdated facilities, cleaning buildings less often, and reducing advising and mentoring services for students. This map shows a selection of the cuts made at each campus, along with each location’s share of the $125 million budget cut. Read more
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On Tuesday, voters in dozens of school districts across the state will determine whether to provide additional resources to children in public schools.
School districts are asking voters to approve nearly $700 million in borrowing for new construction and building updates, and more than $150 million in increases in school district budgets. Those requested amounts are the largest put before voters at the annual spring election going back at least a decade. School districts can hold referendums at any time during the year, but many referendums are scheduled to correspond with regularly-held elections like the annual April election.
Wisconsin’s public schools are funded through a combination of state support and local property taxes. State law limits the degree to which districts can raise property taxes, unless residents vote to approve an increase in school district budgets. In the most recent state budget, lawmakers did not increase the revenue limits for school districts. Read more
Wisconsin lawmakers wrapped up their legislative session earlier this month after taking small steps to keep higher education affordable for students. But they did not tackle the larger issue of helping student loan borrowers who are struggling to repay loans they took out to pay for their degrees.
The Wisconsin Council on Children and Families has released a new summary that describes the changes lawmakers made to Wisconsin’s higher education system during the legislative session. The summary also includes descriptions of high-profile proposals that did not pass.
This session lawmakers:
- Created an emergency grant program to help students who face unexpected financial difficulties that could cause them to drop out of school;
- Increased financial aid for students studying at technical colleges;
- Added staff to help match students to internships; and
- Required colleges and universities to provide students with additional information about their financial aid and loans.
These measures are positive steps as far as they go but they are very limited in scope and are dwarfed by recent cuts to Wisconsin’s higher education system. Read more
National attention has turned to Wisconsin because our presidential primary on April 5th is the only one in the next week. It’s also a significant primary because the percentage turnout is likely to be higher than in any other state since the New Hampshire primary.
For reporters and others who are trying to understand some of the demographic, economic and political context for the April 5th election, we’ve pulled together a variety of facts about Wisconsin and how it compares to other states. Here are a few highlights from that data: Read more
New Summary Describes Recent Changes Lawmakers Have – and Haven’t – Made to Wisconsin’s School System
In the legislative session that began in January 2015 and ended last week, Wisconsin lawmakers made several changes that affect local school districts, including requiring many school districts with students in the voucher program to cut their budgets, and overhauling a program aimed at keeping class sizes small. Several controversial proposals that would have reduced local control of schools did not pass the legislature.
The Wisconsin Council on Children and Families has released a new summary that describes the changes lawmakers made to Wisconsin’s education system during this legislative session, and also includes a description of high-profile proposals that were not approved by lawmakers.
The legislature is scheduled to be out of session for the rest of 2016, reconvening in January 2017.
The proposals that passed that affect K-12 education include:
- Requiring many school districts to cut their budgets slightly if they have students participating in the voucher program. The change approved by lawmakers would have reduced revenue limits for school districts by $5.3 million if it had been in effect for the 2015-16 school year, requiring many districts to reduce property taxes to stay under their state-imposed budget cap.
Lawmakers Considering Cutting Budgets of Many School Districts with Students Participating in the Voucher Program
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On Tuesday, Wisconsin voters approved initiatives in nine out of 11 school districts with referenda on the ballot, voluntarily raising property taxes in order to fund academics and other programs or improve infrastructure in their districts.
Measures approved by voters on Tuesday included:
- Approving $42.3 million in borrowing that will allow the Slinger School District to update technical education facilities, replace sections of roofs, improve electrical systems, add kindergarten classrooms, add an auditorium, and make other building improvements.
- Allowing the School District of Rhinelander to increase its budget by $15.0 million over the next three years. School officials said that without a successful referendum, class sizes would increase to at least 35 students per room, 45 staff members would have lost their jobs, and Advanced Placement classes and sports programs would have been cut.
- Allowing the School District of Jefferson to increase its budget by $2.3 million over three years.
A new research study bolsters a conclusion that many people had already drawn from real-world experience: Better funding for K-12 schools improves long-term outcomes for students. But rather than improve outcomes by making additional investments in Wisconsin’s school system, state lawmakers have chosen to reduce resources for schoolchildren in public schools.
“The study, by researchers from Northwestern University and the University of California, Berkeley, examined data on more than 15,000 children born between 1955 and 1985. During these children’s school years, some states raised funding for high-poverty schools due to court orders and other states didn’t, creating a fruitful environment for studying the impact of increased funding.
After controlling for such factors as enrollment growth and economic conditions, the researchers found that poor children whose schools were estimated to receive and maintain a 10 percent increase in per-pupil spending (adjusted for inflation) before they began their 12 years of public school had 10 percent higher earnings — and 17 percent higher family income — in adulthood (see chart).
Lawmakers Considering Proposals that would Hinder Wisconsin’s Ability to Make Investments in State’s Future
State lawmakers are considering a number of bills and constitutional changes that would make it difficult for Wisconsin to make necessary investments in local schools, communities, and health care systems. Several of the proposals are aimed at changing the budget process in ways that would make it more difficult for elected officials to boost the economy, lessen the economic effects of recessions, and protect vulnerable residents.
Wisconsin lawmakers are considering the following proposals:
More corporate tax cuts (Assembly Bill 623/Senate Bill 503) This bill contains a variety of innocuous-seeming changes to corporate tax law, but there is nothing innocuous about the cost of this proposal, which could be as much as a whopping $384 million a year! Keep in mind that this bill comes in the wake of a recent tax cut that gives manufacturers and agricultural producers a virtual pass on paying any corporate income tax at all.
At the hearing held by the state Senate on January 13, the bill author indicated he was open to changes that would pare back the cost. Read more