Wisconsin’s School Funding Cuts among the Nation’s Deepest
Wisconsin’s cuts to education since the start of the recession are the 7th largest in the country, according to a new report. These cuts deepened the recession, slowed the recovery, and have the potential to make Wisconsin less prosperous in the future.
Wisconsin has cut state investment in K-12 schools by 15.3% since 2008, a deeper cut than 43 other states, according to a report released by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a non-partisan policy research organization. Percentage cuts in each state, which are calculated after adjusting for inflation, are shown in the chart below.
When cuts in state aid for education are measured in dollar amounts rather than percentage terms, Wisconsin’s cuts to education since the recession rank second in the nation, trailing only Alabama’s cuts. In 2014, Wisconsin will spend $1,038 less per student in state aid for K-12 education than it did in 2008, after adjusting for inflation.
Most states are spending less on education than they did at the time of the recession, but there are some notable exceptions. Two states that border Wisconsin maintained or increased investment in K-12 education between 2008 and 2014: Minnesota, which held state spending on education constant over this period, and Iowa, which invests $550 more per student in state aid for education now than it did in 2008.
Cuts to education have consequences for students and classrooms. One effect of shrinking resources is a slow decline in the number of teachers who are educating Wisconsin’s future workforce. Between 2008 and 2013, the number of teachers in Wisconsin public schools fell by nearly 2,100 a reduction of 3.5% in the teacher workforce, according to the state Department of Public Instruction. The result: crowded classrooms and sub-optimal learning conditions for students.
State revenues have begun to recover from the beating they took during the recession, but Wisconsin has only reinvested a small fraction of the education funding that was cut during the downturn. Instead, policymakers have diverted revenues that could have been invested in education to implement an income tax cut that mainly benefits the highest earners.
At a time when the nation is trying to produce workers with the skills to master new technologies and adapt to the complexities of a global economy, Wisconsin should be investing more — not less — to ensure our kids get a strong education. These deep cuts to education have undermined our ability to educate Wisconsin’s children and there could be consequences for Wisconsin’s economy down the road.