A new proposal that would limit opportunities for voters to approve new resources for schools would in practice require districts to wait as long as three years after an unsuccessful referendum before trying again, significantly longer than the minimum two-year wait specified in the bill.
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.
Currently, school districts have significant flexibility in when they ask voters to approve new resources. Some lawmakers are seeking to reduce that flexibility, by requiring districts to wait at least 730 days – two years – after an unsuccessful referendum to put another referendum before voters. Under the proposal, Assembly Bill 481, districts would also be limited to scheduling elections at the same time as the annual April elections or the November elections in even-numbered years. 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.
The Governor and some proponents of the budget bill have understated the size of the proposed cuts to the University of Wisconsin System.
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