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
Wisconsin has cut about $1 out of every $8 that it spends supporting students in K-12 schools, a cut larger than all but three other states, according to a new report. Wisconsin cut state general funding for K-12 schools by 12.7% per student between 2008 and 2016 after adjusting for inflation, with only Oklahoma, Alabama, and Arizona making larger cuts.
Many of the other states with the biggest cuts to education have also cut income taxes during this period. Wisconsin, like Oklahoma, Arizona, and Idaho made very deep cuts in state support for education while also implementing significant income tax cuts.
Wisconsin’s cuts to education are especially deep when compared to what has happened in Minnesota in recent years. In Minnesota, lawmakers have made significant new investments to ensure that children have access to an excellent public education. State general funding per student increased by 6.9% in Minnesota between 2008 and 2016. Read more
Teachers in Wisconsin school districts have less experience that they did a few years ago. Most of the loss of teaching experience occurred between the 2011 and 2012 school years, in the aftermath of dramatic changes that lawmakers made to Wisconsin public schools.
As the new school year approaches, some Wisconsin school districts are finding it difficult to attract candidates to fill vacant teaching jobs.
According to recent news reports:
- The LaCrosse school district is struggling to fill 23 vacancies before the 2015-16 school year starts. A school district official said the number of applicants for openings has dropped in recent years.
- The Portage school district has hired 32 full-time teaching positions in recent months, with still more positions to fill before school beings. “We’ve had a significant decrease in the number of people we see applying for positions,” said a school district administrator.
- Schools in Southeastern Wisconsin are having a hard time finding substitute teachers. Officials from the Yorkville, Whitewater, Elkhorn, Fond du Lac, North Fond du Lac, Rosendale-Brandon, and Green Lake school districts said their districts struggle to hire substitutes.
Officials from those school districts cited a number of reasons for their difficulty in hiring teachers, including state-level changes to salaries, benefits, and collective bargaining rights of school district employees (changes that are sometimes collectively referred to as Act 10); dissatisfaction among potential job applicants with the growing emphasis on standardized testing for students; and an improving economy that offers a wider range of career options. Read more
Last week the legislature’s budget committee made many changes that will shake up K-12 education in ways that reduce control by elected school boards and siphon funding away from public school districts. We thought that part of the budget was done, but today the committee’s “omnibus motion” on the UW System compounds the problems for some of the school districts in the state by creating new mechanisms for the creation of independent charter schools without the approval of school boards. Read more
6/2/15: This post has been revised. The original post stated that most of the new money set aside for public education would not go to public schools, and identified the dollar amounts of the new funding that would go towards property tax cuts, voucher and charter schools, and public schools.
Since the original post, further analysis of the budget proposal has shown that the complexities of the school funding system make it difficult to pinpoint the exact share of the new resources that would actually go to public schools. The revised post below demonstrates, as previously posted, that much of the new money would get delivered to public schools in a way that would not allow districts to put that money to work educating public school students. However, the revised version of the post does not identify the exact dollar amount that would be available to school districts.
The budget package passed this week by the budget committee of the Wisconsin legislature includes new money for education in Wisconsin, but a closer look shows that most of that money would wind up in other places than public schools. Read more
Wisconsin voters approved ballot initiatives in 43 school districts on Tuesday, voluntarily raising property taxes in order to fund academics or improve infrastructure in their districts.
Measures approved by voters included:
- Approving $41 million in borrowing that will allow the Madison Metropolitan School District to expand five overcrowded schools and renovate other school buildings to improve accessibility. More than 80% of voters approved Madison’s referendum.
- Allowing the Manitowoc School District to exceed revenue limits by a total of $6 million over the next three years. School officials said that without a successful referendum, the district might have to close an elementary school, eliminate the fifth and sixth grade band programs, and make other cuts to academics.
- Borrowing $17 million to renovate athletic facilities at several schools in the Kenosha School District.
- Allowing the Hilbert School District to exceed revenue limits by $1.2 million over the next three years to avoid making cuts to classroom academics and teaching staff.