Governor Walker has proposed significantly increasing resources for Wisconsin’s public schools, a move that has gotten a great deal of attention – and has attracted some controversy for the size of the increase. But his budget also includes a major increase in the amount of public money that goes to pay for private school tuition, a fact that has been mostly overlooked.
Through the state’s private school choice program, Wisconsin uses publicly-funded vouchers to pay tuition at private schools across the state. To participate in the program, students must have family incomes of up to 300% of the poverty level if they live in Milwaukee or Racine (about $73,000 for a family of four) or of up to 185% of the poverty level if they live in the rest of the state ($45,000 for a family of four). About 36,000 students are expected to receive publicly-funded vouchers to pay for private school tuition next year. Read more
House Plans to Cut Medicaid Would Jeopardize Critical Health Services for Students
Wisconsin schools have a lot at stake in the debate about federal support for Medicaid. Even though Wisconsin ranks 19th nationally in the size of its school-age population, our state ranks 7th highest in federal funding for Medicaid services provided by schools.
According to a new report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Wisconsin schools received more than $187 million for Medicaid services in 2015, including more than $107 million in federal Medicaid funds. That amount is higher than in all but six other states, despite the fact that Wisconsin ranks near the bottom in total Medicaid spending per child. These figures indicate that Wisconsin schools have done a good job of utilizing federal assistance to support school-based health services.
Medicaid provides health care for more than 1.1 million Wisconsinites, including about 500,000 children, but many people are unaware of its significance for schools. Read more
Some state lawmakers are seeking to restrict the ability of Wisconsin residents to raise new resources for schools, by banning certain types of school referendums and limiting others. The proposed measures have the potential to harm rural school districts, many of which are struggling to manage the financial effects of declining enrollments.
For a brief description of the proposed restrictions on school referendums, see this summary from the Wisconsin Association of School Boards.
One of the measures proposed would prohibit Wisconsin voters from permanently increasing property taxes to raise their school district’s state-imposed budget cap. Instead, voters would only be able to approve raising new revenues for a maximum of five years at a time. The state would invalidate referendums approved in the past that permanently raised property taxes and set them to expire after five years.
Eliminating the ability of voters to raise their property taxes on a permanent basis would hit rural school districts hardest. Read more
On Tuesday, voters in many Wisconsin school districts approved new resources for children in public schools.
Voters approved 40 out of 65 school referendums on the ballot, raising their property taxes to replace school buildings, improve academic offerings, and provide needed services to students.
Wisconsin residents voted to approve $465 million in borrowing for new construction and building updates, $228 million to expand school district operating budgets for a set amount of time, and $7 million to expand school district budgets on a permanent basis.
In a way, it’s not surprising that Wisconsin voters are willing to approve additional money to help educate children in their district. An overwhelming majority of Wisconsin residents think schools are doing a good job, according to a recent poll by Marquette University.
This map shows the location of successful and unsuccessful referendums. You can hover over a shape to get information on the district that held the referendum, the outcome, the type of referendum, and the dollar amount. Read more
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