Sizing up the University Budget Cuts: The 2.5% Fallacy

Sunday, March 1, 2015 at 5:42 PM by

The Governor’s budget proposes cutting state funding for the University of Wisconsin System in the 2015-17 biennium by 13% below the current level, and by 17.8% below the level requested by the university.  A cut in state support of that magnitude, coupled with frozen tuition, would not only hurt students, but would also be a tremendous blow to one of the engines of Wisconsin’s long-term prosperity.  

However, the Governor’s office and some proponents of the budget bill contend that a better way to look at the proposed cut is that it’s just 2.5% of total spending for the University System.  For a number of reasons I think the 2.5% figure is misleading and inaccurate.  It’s a lot like saying that a 13% cut in Social Security benefits would only amount to a tiny drop in the total net worth of all retirees in the U.S.  That might be an accurate statement about the aggregate wealth held by retirees, but it’s of little or no consolation to most Social Security recipients.  Read more

When is Money for Schools not Money for Schools? When It’s for Tax Cuts Instead

Thursday, February 26, 2015 at 2:53 PM by

Why haven’t the property tax cuts included in Governor Walker’s budget proposal gotten much attention from the media or community advocates? One reason might be because of the way he has structured the tax cuts, which are mingled with state support for public schools. A new budget summary from the Wisconsin Budget Project includes information about the tax cuts and other parts of the Governor’s budget that affect taxes and state revenue.

Unlike income taxes or sales taxes, property taxes are levied by local governments, including counties, cities, school districts, and technical college districts. So when state lawmakers want to cut property taxes, they can’t do it directly. Instead, they increase the amount of aid to local governments while simultaneously prohibiting those governments from increasing their budgets. The result is that local governments must then cut property taxes.

In the state budget, this method of cutting property taxes shows up as an increase in state spending in aid for local governments. Read more

New Resource Shows What Cuts to Education Would Mean for Individual School Districts

Friday, February 20, 2015 at 10:18 AM by

A new website demonstrates the magnitude of proposed cuts to education for individual school districts, and can serve as a resource for parents and other advocates for public education who want to show how the cuts will affect schools in their communities.

The website is run by School Funding Reform for Wisconsin, a group that believes that public schools are critical to the health and vitality of Wisconsin communities. The website includes estimates of dollar amounts in per-pupil aid that would be lost to individual school districts next year if the Governor’s budget is approved without changes. The website also has pie charts, like the one below, available for individuals to download and use in their own advocacy. Read more

Resources for Corrections Would Outstrip State Support for University System, under Governor’s Proposal

Wednesday, February 18, 2015 at 3:10 PM by

Wisconsin would spend significantly more on prisons and corrections than on helping students pursue their educations at the University of Wisconsin System, if Governor Walker’s budget is passed without changes.

Governor Walker has called on lawmakers to dramatically reduce the amount of support the state provides for the University System. About 180,000 students attend the University of Wisconsin System, at 13 four-year universities and an equal number of two-year institutions. Each year, the UW system awards about 36,000 degrees. Those degrees help graduating students become part of the well-educated workforce Wisconsin needs to compete in the global economy. Read more

New Summary of K-12 Education Issues in Governor’s Budget

Friday, February 13, 2015 at 9:55 AM by

Governor Walker has proposed an education budget that cuts resources for children attending public schools, devotes additional public money to private schools, and cuts property taxes. A new budget summary released today by the Wisconsin Budget Project describes these and other aspects of the Governor’s education plan.

The new summary describes:

  • How the proposed cuts to education would come on top of dramatic reductions in resources for public schools that have already occurred;
  • How the Governor proposes to deliver a property tax cut by requiring most school districts to reduce the amount of money they taken in from property taxes; and
  • How an expansion of the school voucher program would increase the state budget line for tuition at private schools by $17 million, in addition to shifting funds from public schools to voucher schools.

Read the new summary here. You can also bookmark our page devoted to 2015-17 budget issues, which includes this summary as well as other analyses. Read more

Categories: 2015-17 biennial budget, Blog, EDUCATION, K-12, STATE BUDGET | Comments Off

A Preliminary Overview of the Governor’s 2015-17 Budget

Tuesday, February 3, 2015 at 9:09 PM by

Now that the Governor’s budget bill has been introduced, we can begin to see the painful consequences of policy choices that state lawmakers made last session, such as enacting large tax cuts on the basis of overly optimistic revenue projections.  But the deep cuts in areas such as the UW System budget aren’t inevitable if the state reconsiders the rejection of federal Medicaid funds, stops digging the budget hole deeper by passing more tax cuts, and closes tax loopholes.

It will take quite a while to carefully dissect and analyze the Governor’s budget bill, but here are some initial comments relating to major items in his plan – to the best of my abilities in the very brief time I’ve had to study the Dept. of Administration (DOA) documents.  [NOTE:  After reviewing the bill more carefully, I’ve added an update in the portion about school funding, because the blow to public schools is much greater than I initially thought.]   Read more

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

Categories: Blog, EDUCATION, K-12 | Comments Off

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

Categories: Blog, EDUCATION, K-12 | Comments Off