Voters in 27 Districts Raise Taxes on Themselves for Schools

Friday, November 7, 2014 at 8:00 AM by

Wisconsin voters approved ballot initiatives in 27 school districts on Tuesday, voluntarily raising property taxes in order to fund services or improve infrastructure in their districts.

Measures approved by voters included:

  • Allowing the Glendale-River Hills School District to exceed revenue limits by a total of $4.9 million over the next five years. District officials said schools would be forced to cut academic offerings and extracurricular activities without the additional revenue.
  • Allowing the Racine Unified School District to exceed revenue limits by a total of $127.5 million over the next 15 years. The additional revenue will be used to address maintenance issues on aging buildings. The district plans to rebuild two elementary schools and add on to a middle school.
  • The issuance of $23 million debt that will allow the Altoona School District to build a new elementary school, and make maintenance, safety, and health-related improvements on existing buildings.
  • Allowing the Gilman School District to exceed revenue limits by a total of $1.6 million over the next four years.
  • Read more

Wisconsin’s School Funding Cuts among the Nation’s Deepest

Wednesday, October 22, 2014 at 9:35 AM by

Wisconsin ranks 5th worst in the country in depth of cuts to school funding since the start of the recession. These cuts weaken our schools and could make it harder for the next generation of Wisconsin workers to compete for highly skilled jobs in the global economy.

Wisconsin has cut state support for investment in schools by 15% per student since 2008, a deeper cut than all but four other states, according to a new version of a report released by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

 That 15% cut (in inflation-adjusted spending) means the state is spending $1,014 less on each student in fiscal year 2015 compared to 2008. When measured in dollars per student, Wisconsin’s cut is larger than all other states except for Alabama.  

Most states are spending less on education than they did before the recession, even if their cuts weren’t as deep as the ones made in Wisconsin. Read more

Low-Income Students are on the Wrong Side of a Wide Opportunity Gap in Wisconsin Schools

Wednesday, September 17, 2014 at 2:30 PM by

For Wisconsin to take full advantage of opportunities for economic growth, we need to make sure that all our students attend thriving schools, regardless of their economic status. Yet Wisconsin students who come from families with low incomes are far more likely to attend failing schools than other students, according to new school performance information released by the Department of Public Instruction.

Statewide, 1 in 11 students from families with low incomes attend schools that fail to meet expectations set by the Department of Public Instruction. That’s compared to the 1 in 77 students who are not from low income families who attend failing schools. Put another way, low-income students are 7 times more like to attend a failing school than are other students.

Low-income students are also less likely to attend schools that receive the highest rating. Just 1 out of 41 students from low-income families attends a highest-rated school, compared to 1 out of 11 students from families who do not have low incomes. Read more

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This Fall, Wisconsin Students Are Heading Back to Crowded Classrooms

Thursday, August 28, 2014 at 10:37 AM by

Classroom sizes in Wisconsin have increased substantially in recent years, according to a new analysis from the Wisconsin Budget Project.   

Wisconsin still has fewer students per teacher than the national average, but our rank has been dropping. In 2004-05, Wisconsin ranked 18th among the states in the number of students per teacher. By 2011-12, Wisconsin’s ranking had dropped to 30th.

student teacher ratio                     

Wisconsin had 1.2 more students per teacher in 2011-12 than in 2004-05; nationally, schools averaged an increase of just 0.2 students per teacher of this period. Only three states  – California, Arizona, and Nevada – had larger increases in student-teacher ratios than Wisconsin over this period, according to the analysis.

One of the things making Wisconsin’s class size trend worrisome is that poverty has increased very substantially in our state over the last decade. Low-income children often need more help from their teachers, and schools can’t adequately respond to that increased need when ratio of students to teachers is growing.  Read more

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To Reduce Income Inequality and Boost Economic Growth, Make sure every Student has an Opportunity to Attend College

Wednesday, August 13, 2014 at 1:15 PM by

Rising levels of income inequality are acting as a drag on the U.S. economy, but we can counter the economic harm by expanding opportunities to attend college, according to a new report from Standard & Poor’s, a financial services company.

Here’s the crux of the report, in a sentence:

Our review of the data, as well as a wealth of research on this matter, leads us to conclude that the current level of income inequality in the U.S. is dampening GDP growth, at a time when the world’s biggest economy is struggling to recover from the Great Recession and the government is in need of funds to support an aging population.

Pretty clear, right? Prominent policymakers, including President Obama, have warned time and again that high levels of income inequality are slowing economic growth. This report adds something new to the conversation in that it represents the viewpoint of a private sector company, and could be an indication that the business community is starting to view income inequality as a problem. Read more

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Governor’s Guidance Gives Hints of What’s to come in Next Budget

Thursday, July 31, 2014 at 10:09 AM by

Governor Walker has given state agencies guidance on how to develop their proposals for Wisconsin’s next budget, giving some glimpses into what the state’s 2015-17 budget might bring. 

Wisconsin has a two-year budget. The budget process starts in the summer of even numbered years – like now — when the Governor instructs agencies in how to develop budget requests. Agencies submit their requests to the executive branch by September 15, and the Governor takes the requests into consideration when developing his own budget proposal to submit to the Legislature. The Governor is expected to release his budget proposal in the early part of 2015. For more about the Wisconsin state budget cycle, check the Wisconsin Budget Project’s Budget Toolkit.

For the upcoming budget, Governor Walker recently instructed agencies to assume there will be zero growth in General Purpose Revenue (GPR) appropriations in each fiscal year. In other words, he wants agencies to submit budget requests that are not any higher their budgets were two years ago, even though inflation and other factors have pushed costs up.  Read more

Falling Behind: Support for Wisconsin’s Schools Not Keeping up with Inflation

Tuesday, July 8, 2014 at 11:02 AM by

Most school districts will receive less state support next school year than they did this school year, when the rising cost of living is taken into account. Fifty-nine percent of Wisconsin districts will either receive less general aid next year or receive an increase that is smaller than the projected 2015 rate of inflation, according to new figures released last week.

State lawmakers increased the amount of general aid to districts by 2% between this year and next year. The state’s Department of Public Instruction uses a complex formula to distribute that aid among the school districts. Based on this formula, there can be a significant amount of variation in the amount of general aid an individual district receives from one year to the next. Six percent of school districts will receive a boost of 10% or more in the amount of general aid they receive next year, and 19% will have their general aid drop by at least 10%. Read more

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A Decade in the Wrong Direction: Wisconsin Student Poverty Rate Increases for the 10th Consecutive Year

Wednesday, June 4, 2014 at 2:52 PM by

A recent release from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction reports upsetting news concerning the state’s student poverty rate. The percentage of Wisconsin children representing low-income families has increased for yet another year.

In the 2013-14 school year 43.3 percent of students were eligible for free or reduced-price school lunches. Although this is only an increase of one-tenth of a percentage from the previous academic year, it is important to note that this pattern of seemingly small increases over the past decade has led to a near 14 percentage increase in the number of Wisconsin’s children who are from low-income families and thus, eligible for free or reduced-price lunch.


Students who are in families with an annual income that is less than 130% of the federal poverty level quality for free school meals, while students in families earning more than the 130% but less than 185% of the federal poverty level are eligible to receive reduced-price lunches. Read more

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Oversize Student Loan Debt Acts as Drag on the Economy

Wednesday, May 21, 2014 at 2:55 PM by

Many college students graduating this month have heavy loads of student loan debt, a burden that may be weighing down the entire economy. Students who must commit a large part of their incomes to student loan repayments are holding off on making big purchases, reducing the overall level of economic activity.

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Teacher Appreciation Week: Number of Teachers in Wisconsin has Declined

Friday, May 9, 2014 at 2:10 PM by

Today wraps up Teacher Appreciation Week, when the National Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) suggests we make a special effort to let teachers know that their hard work in schools and classrooms makes a difference to children in our communities. In Wisconsin, there are fewer teachers to appreciate than there used to be.

The number of teachers in public schools in Wisconsin has dropped by about 5% over the last five years, as Wisconsin lost about 2,900 teachers.  Student enrollment in Wisconsin public schools stayed virtually flat over that same period, resulting in more crowded classrooms.

Number of Teachers in Wisconsin has Declined                       

It’s not altogether clear why the number of teachers in Wisconsin has decreased over the last few years. The decline in Wisconsin isn’t part of a larger trend – the number of teachers nationally actually increased slightly over this timeframe. And the decline clearly starts before 2011, when state lawmakers limited union rights and reduced teacher compensation by requiring public employees to pay a larger share of their benefit costs. Read more

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