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Wisconsin School Finance System


Wisconsin has 322 K-12 Common school districts, one First Class school district, 45 Unified school districts, 43 elementary (K-8) districts, and 10 union high school (9-12) districts, for a total of 421 public school districts. One of the state's 43 K-8 districts is a unified school district. All are fiscally independent; that is, they do not depend on other local units of government such as counties or municipalities for their local tax revenue. Each district has taxing authority.

In addition, there are 12 cooperative educational service agencies (CESAs)--which are fiscally dependent on school districts--that provide programs and services to local districts. Five counties operate county children with disabilities education boards (CCDEBs), of which one is fiscally dependent and four are fiscally independent.

Revenue Sources

Wisconsin public school districts derive their revenue through four major sources:

  • state aid;
  • property tax;
  • federal aid; and
  • other local non-property tax revenues (such as fees and interest earnings).

Under current law, there is a limit on the annual amount of revenue that each school district can raise through the combination of general school aid (defined as equalization, integration and special adjustment aids), computer aid, and select property taxes.

Informational Papers

Two informational papers--authored by the Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau--explain the Wisconsin Finance System in greater detail. Informational Paper #24 (State Aid to School Districts) and Informational Paper #12 (Local Government Expenditure and Revenue Limits) can be found under “Publications” on the Legislative Fiscal Bureau website.