Falling Support for Schools Threatens Wisconsin’s Economic Future

Thursday, January 12, 2012 at 10:25 PM by

Massive reductions in state and local support for education could inflict severe damage to Wisconsin’s public schools, according to a new report from the Wisconsin Budget Project. Wisconsin’s well-educated workforce has long been a foundation of the state’s economy. This blow to Wisconsin’s educational system threatens to undermine that key driver of economic development.

Nearly $2 billion in cuts over the next two years will leave students with fewer courses in math, science, and other core subjects, along with dwindling opportunities for career and technical studies. Class sizes have increased, and teachers and support staff have been laid off, not only hurting students but also adding to the state’s already elevated unemployment rate.

Wisconsin’s cuts to education spending were bigger than those in most other states. On a dollars-per-student basis, Wisconsin’s cuts were the second largest in the country. The report also notes that the poorest school districts have been hit the hardest by cuts in state funding for education. Districts with more than 60 percent of students eligible for free or reduced lunch saw their general state aid decrease by almost twice as many dollars per student as the state’s more affluent districts, as shown in the chart below.

In addition to the large cuts to state spending on education, the Legislature imposed stricter constraints on property taxes, severely limiting districts’ ability to compensate for the loss of state dollars with local funds.

At the same time as state support for public schools has plummeted, support for private schools has increased. The Legislature spent $27 million over two years to expand the voucher system that allows parents to use tax dollars to send their children to private schools. The Legislature paid for that expansion by docking public schools an extra $11 million.

To be competitive in the 21st century economy, Wisconsin must continue to invest in the education of our future workforce. The cuts we’re seeing in school districts all over the state represent a thread to our state’s economic vitality.

One Response to “Falling Support for Schools Threatens Wisconsin’s Economic Future”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Everyone is entitled to their opinion.

    However, from my house I’m not seeing
    teachers laid off or class sizes increased.
    I see a school district that FiNALLY has some
    room to run a school system! The local news reported that the school district is finally able to ask tax payers for a reasonable tax increase to provide for future plans…like more technology, even a new school building!
    They are no longer worried how to make ends meet. The school board seemed positive and hopeful for the first time in years! This district could move toward better things—finally!

    I have two teachers as neighbors who are married. They engineered a couple of babies and worked the system to get about $200,000 of income without doing ANY work for two whole annual school terms! When my husband and I had kids, we worked opposit shifts and didn’t have one stitch of paid time off. Not that family leave is wrong. BUT it is wrong when married teachers deliberately think that they deserve all this nice nice benefit stuff simply because they breath. And now since the reforms, oh my goodness. There is nothing but anger coming out of that house. Oh, they got such a shafting! “I’ll only show up to work right when the bell rings and not a minute before!” Since the reforms, I’m hoping these kinds of situations of a total tromping all over the rest of the public will stop. This kind of greed and behavior can’t ever be justified.

    Well, the school head administrator put in his quit notice after two years employment with the district. I’m not too unhappy about him leaving. I’m hoping that he will find a better job outside of Wisconsin and not have to deal with monetary shortfalls in any other place. However, if anyone watches the news….the whole global environment is sinking. Where’s this guy going to go and find his gold?
    The grass may be greener, but drought will eventually turn it brown. He’d be better off
    in a ‘field’ like Wisconsin that is holding its own through these hard times.