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Cuts Show Legislature Needs to Reprioritize Education Funding

State Sen. John Lehman says its time to explore and possibly implement a plan that funds public schools more fairly.

Just last week, the Senate Education and Corrections Committee met to hear testimony from education leaders and perform a checkup on the state of education following the first year of major cuts. The conclusions from the committee were that the cuts were in fact real and they hurt.  There was overarching, bipartisan agreement that we need to fix a flawed public education funding formula.

For many years now, legislators and education leaders have agreed that the school funding formula needs to be revamped.  Because of the extreme cuts in the last biennium it is all the more imperative that we no longer put off this task.

School districts are required to balance their budgets and they took drastic steps to absorb the cuts, but not without impacts to quality.  We cannot continue on this course, there needs to be a reprioritization of public education in our state government.

Governor Walker and Republican legislators cut education by $1.6 billion over the biennium.  These were the largest cuts to state aid for public education in Wisconsin history.  In the same budget Republicans provided 2.3 billion dollars for corporate special interests over the next ten years.  Clearly education was not a priority.

During our recent hearing, former Racine Unified Superintendent Jim Shaw and his colleague, Dr. Carolyn Kelley from UW-Madison’s Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis Department briefed senators on their research demonstrating how the cuts in Act 32 disproportionately hurt poor school districts more than rich school districts. 

Our state’s flawed funding formula exacerbated the effect of the cuts.  Schools struggling with poverty, declining enrollment and transportation costs were the hardest hit in the new aid adjustments. 

Most importantly, Senator Bob Jauch reminded all of us at the hearing that our State Constitution unequivocally guarantees public education for all Wisconsin citizens and support for our school districts must be as uniform as possible.  The disproportionate cuts not only hurt our children’s education statewide, but they also raise constitutional questions for how our state ensures school districts remain uniform.  We need to refocus our attention not only to sparing our children’s education from destructive cuts, but we also have to relook at our state’s school funding formula.

Many school districts have been setting aside money for a rainy-day fund in case the state cuts general aid or any other unforeseen event, but now many of them have dipped into those funds and the threat of bankruptcy looms.  Even school districts that had large "rainy day" accounts years ago have now exhausted their reserves because the state aid part of their budget has dropped so precipitously. 

A silver lining found in last week’s hearing was that members on the committee acknowledged a bipartisan middle ground.  Republicans and Democrats can agree that our current funding formula is broken and needs to be fixed.  It is time to dust off Department of Public Instruction Superintendent Tony Evers’ “Fair Funding for Our Future” proposal and begin to help our struggling schools.

Stormy Weather September 06, 2012 at 04:55 AM
Fiscal responsibility would be a good place to start! For example, RUSD spent around $100 K to send groups to SEWAC at Alverno College. I think it cost about $1,000.00 a head and RUSD sent around 100 people. SEWAC trained them on Jay McTighe's book, "Understanding by Design." So what does RUSD do after spending 100 K on teacher training? Well... Instead of utilizing the people that they trained on Jay McTighe's book, they actually pay Jay Mc Tighe a lot of money to come in for a recent professional development day! So my question is... What was the purpose of paying 100 K for training if you aren't going to utilize the trained personal?
Stormy Weather September 06, 2012 at 05:20 AM
And here's another wasteful spending... Remember Jamie Vollmer... RUSD paid over $10,000.00 for Jamie to come to Racine and speak. Did we get our money's worth? I don't know, but here's the link to the Patch story. http://caledonia.patch.com/articles/jamie-vollmer-to-racine-unified-community-you-have-power-to-affect-change What I do know, is that RUSD (DID NOT) have to spend thousands of extra dollars to buy Jamie's books! But they did! They used tax payer dollars to buy them, and then they gave books to all the VIPs at RUSD! The administration, school board members, principals, etc. - They all got books! I wouldn't be surprised if they gave one to Shaw as a going away present!
oak creek resident September 06, 2012 at 04:11 PM
Exactly. What liberals, and even the Patch moderator here don't understand, is that school staffs have grown geometrically while student enrollment has grown more linearly over the past 20 years. Why do schools now need 3 or 4 assistant principals when 20 years ago they maybe only had 1? Just too much of a money black hole. Schools need to learn to spend within their limits, for too long they've always gotten their way, along with the teacher's union.
Randy1949 September 06, 2012 at 04:58 PM
There's more to it than that, JRH. Why should seniors (or anyone else) be forced off property they own simply because their income no longer matches the perceived value of that property? Fiscal responsibility in the school districts is a good place to start, but that won't do the whole job. Education benefits us all, not just the property owners, and there should be a balance in education funding from all sources, income tax included.
Johnny Blade September 06, 2012 at 05:07 PM
How do you keep Seniors in thier houses .. Let them OWN thier land and property .. as of right now we RENT our land via property tax .. It is the new Fuedal system, rent your land from the Barron (STATE) and this way they can push you around and take your home .. Mob tatics at its finest .. all should be funded through sales tax

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