Wisconsin’s School Funding Cuts among the Nation’s Deepest
Wisconsin ranks 5th worst in the country in depth of cuts to school funding since the start of the recession. These cuts weaken our schools and could make it harder for the next generation of Wisconsin workers to compete for highly skilled jobs in the global economy.
Wisconsin has cut state support for investment in schools by 15% per student since 2008, a deeper cut than all but four other states, according to a new version of a report released by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
That 15% cut (in inflation-adjusted spending) means the state is spending $1,014 less on each student in fiscal year 2015 compared to 2008. When measured in dollars per student, Wisconsin’s cut is larger than all other states except for Alabama.
Most states are spending less on education than they did before the recession, even if their cuts weren’t as deep as the ones made in Wisconsin. But some states, including our neighbor Minnesota, have taken a different approach and increased resources for classrooms. State support for education in Minnesota increased by 3.8% per student between 2008 and 2015, or $383.
State revenue declined sharply in Wisconsin during the recession. But instead of addressing budget shortfalls by taking a balanced approach that includes new revenues, state lawmakers relied very heavily on cuts to state services, including education.
During the recession, a large infusion of federal Recovery Act funding enabled states to cushion schools from deep cuts, but that funding ended several years ago. Although many states have been replacing the temporary federal funds as their economies and tax collections recover, Wisconsin has not. Rather than using increased revenue to restore the lost funding for public schools, Wisconsin lawmakers have prioritized tax cuts. Most school districts will receive less state support in the 2014-15 school year than they did last year, when the rising cost of living is taken into account. Sixty-one percent of Wisconsin districts will either receive less general aid next year or receive an increase that is smaller than the projected 2015 rate of inflation, according to our analysis of final school aid figures released last week.
Reducing investment in schools has long-term economic consequences. Quality elementary, middle, and high school education provides a crucial foundation that allows children to go on to succeed in college and the workplace.
At a time when Wisconsin’s schools are called on 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.
You can read the full CBPP report here: “Most States Still Funding Schools Less than Before the Recession.”
Tamarine Cornelius & Jon Peacock