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School Funding Reform

Monday, July 23, 2018

School funding is a major topic of discussion in Wisconsin. With the size of school districts rapidly changing and the poverty rate of Wisconsin’s student population nearly doubling since 2001, the current funding system needs to adapt to Wisconsin’s changing demands. It is imperative to understand how schools are funded in our state, why that system is not working for everyone, and how we can change it so that every student gets an excellent education.

A new series of funding reform videos from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction was created with the purpose of providing more information about how school funding works in the state, why it needs to change, why referendums are part of the conversation, and what can be done to fix it. The brief videos provide accessible information and establish an entry-level look into these matters to create a broader understanding of Wisconsin’s school funding system while pointing to areas that could be adjusted.

Why It Matters

As a state, we need to update our school funding system so that all students have optimum learning opportunities and experiences, allowing them to thrive as individuals and contribute to the economy, creating a high quality of life for themselves and others.

What is It?

Funding for public schools comes primarily from state aid and local property taxes. Some funding comes from the federal government, with a much smaller amount coming from local ticket sales or fees. If a district needs to increase their budget, property taxes are raised, which can be a challenge for many communities. This video provides details of what our funding systems look like and why adjustments are necessary.

Why a School Referendum?

In order to raise the revenue limit, a district must ask permission for more funding through a referendum. Because revenue limits are not adjusted for rising costs, and because some education funding has been redirected over the years, referendums have been a prominent topic of discussion across the state.

How to Improve the School Funding System

This final video explains how current funds for education could be used in a more efficient way. By focusing on many of the factors necessary to serve all of our students, particularly in districts that serve large geographical areas, families with low incomes, English learners, or students with disabilities, meaningful improvements can be made. There are several ideas to improve the school funding formula, which include establishing more efficient parameters around per-pupil aid, making sure resources marked for education are actually used for education purposes, and increasing state school aid while raising revenue limits.

See what your district is estimated to receive this year and learn how those amounts are determined on the Department of Public Instruction State and Federal Aid website. Then contact your legislators to voice your support to fix Wisconsin’s school funding inequity, making sure all students receive an excellent education.

For more information, check out the Department of Public Instruction funding reform website, where you can find the videos, a path to contact your legislators, and communication resources on how to fix our school funding system.