An overwhelming majority of Wisconsin residents think schools are doing a good job and favor increasing state support to K-12 schools in the next budget, a new poll by Marquette University shows.
Eighty percent of poll respondents said they want the state to dedicate additional resources to schools in the next budget, with just 17% opposing such a measure. That represents a strikingly large majority of Wisconsin residents who want to see legislators make K-12 schools a priority as the budget moves forward.
Missed Opportunity: Proposed Performance Measures for UW System Won’t do Much to Open Doors for Underserved Students
Governor Walker has proposed a modest increase in state support to the UW System in the 2017-19 budget period, with the additional resources to be distributed among campuses based on how well they score on a certain set of criteria. Those measures could penalize institutions that have been most effective in enrolling underrepresented students and provide a disincentive for campuses to admit low-income students, first-generation students, or other students who may take longer to graduate.
Wisconsin is one of several states moving to outcomes-based funding as a way of distributing some higher education funding among institutions. In his budget proposal, Governor Walker proposed adding $43 million over two years in new funding for the UW System, to be distributed among the institutions using the following set of criteria:
- Affordability and attainability of degrees (used to distribute 30% of the performance-based funding);
- Student success in the workforce (30%);
- Student work readiness (15%);
- Operational efficiency (10%);
- Outreach (5%); and
- Two additional criteria to be set by the Board of Regents (10%).
Governor Walker has proposed significantly increasing state support for public schools, but the bulk of the increase would be distributed to school districts in a way that does not take into account the challenges faced by districts with high numbers of students coming from families with low incomes.
We don’t yet have the full details on what the Governor is proposing for the state’s education budget, but he released a brief summary earlier this week. His budget proposal includes additional funding at aimed addressing the challenges of rural schools, increasing student achievement in summer school programs in Milwaukee, and helping school districts connect students with disabilities to employment. (Read more about his education proposals in this AP article: Walker Proposes Big $649 Million Boost for K-12 Schools.)
By far the biggest component of the education proposal is an increase in the amount of financial support that the state provides to school districts. Read more
This year, voters in Wisconsin voluntarily raised property taxes on themselves by a record amount to pay for additional investments in local schools. The increase could signal a growing frustration with the strict limits on school district budgets that have been imposed by state lawmakers.
The state limits the average amount each school district may spend to educate students, but voters in a district can override the spending limit by approving a referendum lifting the spending caps and raising their property taxes. Voters also determine via referendum whether to allow a school district to issue debt for big capital projects, such as building a new school.
Prior to 2011, state lawmakers allowed regular, relatively predictable increases in the amount school districts were allowed to spend on each student. That approach ended in 2011. Since then, lawmakers have allowed either small or no increases in the caps they impose on school district budgets. Read more
On Tuesday, voters in dozens of school districts across the state will determine whether to provide additional resources to children in public schools. The dollar amount school districts are asking voters to approve is far larger than the amounts that were on the ballot for the 2012 or 2008 presidential election.
Next week, school districts will ask voters to approve:
- $1.14 billion in borrowing for new construction and building updates:
- $140 million in increases to school district budgets. These increases boost school district budgets for a set period of time and then expire, at which point school districts revert to their previous budget levels; and
- $59 million in increases to school districts budgets on a recurring basis.
The requested amounts dwarf the amounts on the ballot for the two most recent presidential elections. The amount of borrowing that is on the ballot this November is three times higher than the proposed amount four years ago; the proposed amounts for non-recurring increases in budget caps is six times higher than it was four years ago, and five times higher for referendums to lift the budget caps on a recurring basis. Read more
Most counties in Wisconsin have fewer children than they did five years ago, with some of the biggest declines occurring in counties in northern Wisconsin, according to new population figures released by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. The decrease in the number of children has led to declining enrollment in many rural school districts, presenting those districts with a host of financial challenges that stem from trying to pay for fixed costs with diminished resources.
Between 2010 and 2015, the number of children in Wisconsin declined by about 42,000, from 1.34 million to 1.30 million, for a decline of 3.2%.
The decline was most severe in the northern part of the state, with virtually every county in the north experiencing a drop in the number of children. The counties with the largest declines in percentage terms between 2010 and 2015 included:
- Adams County, -16.0%;
- Iron County, -15.5%;
- Lincoln County, -14.1%;
- Bayfield County, -13.3%; and
- Rusk County, -11.9%.
Wisconsin provides far less public support per student to the University of Wisconsin System than it did fifteen years ago, according to an analysis of newly-released figures.
In 2016, the state provided $6,800 in General Purpose Revenue (GPR) support to the UW System per full-time equivalent student. That’s down more than a third from the $10,500 that the state provided to the UW System per student in 2001. Dollar amounts are from a Legislative Fiscal Bureau memo and are adjusted for inflation; student FTEs are from the University of Wisconsin website.
The chart shows that steep cuts to the University of Wisconsin System are nothing new – indeed, they date back fifteen years. The difference is that in in the early 2000s, lawmakers allowed tuition to rise substantially at the same time as they cut GPR support. That increase in tuition cushioned the effects of the reductions in state support but also raised the price of a university education, pushing the cost of higher education out of reach for some struggling families. Read more
Public school teachers earn significantly less than comparable workers – and the gap is growing wider, making it more difficult to attract new teachers to the profession.
Nationally, public school teachers earned 17.0% less per week worked than other workers in 2015, according to a new report from the Economic Policy Institute. That wage gap has tripled since 1979, when the wage gap was 5.6% between teachers and other workers. The analysis controls for age, education, race/ethnicity, geographical region, marital status, and gender.
In Wisconsin, the wage gap means that public school teachers earn $229 per week less than other workers with the same level of education. Teachers earn less than other college graduates in every state in the U.S.
Teachers not in a union face a larger wage penalty than teachers in a union, according to the report.
When benefits are included, teachers still earn less than other workers: 11.1% less per week worked. Read more
Summer is almost here, and children will be out of school – but many of them will still have access to free or reduced-price meals through a program that helps students get their nutritional needs met during the summer months.
Students participating in summer school, summer camps, sports or pre-college programs run by colleges or universities, and certain other summer activities can get free or reduced-price school meals thanks to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service Program. During summer 2015, Wisconsin children were served 2.8 million free or reduced-price meals at 872 different locations.
Free and reduced-price school meals are an important way to help make sure that all students have the nourishment they need in order to succeed, regardless of family income. It’s difficult for students to reach their full potential if they have to worry about where their next meal is coming from. Making sure that students get the meals they need during the summer helps facilitate summer learning and also helps make sure that students come back in the fall ready to study. Read more