Blue Ribbon Commission on School Funding Headquarters

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Wisconsin Public Education Network Partners Eager to Testify at Blue Ribbon Commission Hearings

Upcoming Meetings of the Blue Ribbon Commission on School Funding:

HOW TO SUBMIT WRITTEN TESTIMONY: Those who wish to share concerns with the Commission, but cannot make it in person, can also submit testimony in writing to the Commission co-chairs, Rep. Joel Kitchens and Sen. Luther Olsen at Rep.Kitchens@legis.wi.gov and Sen.Olsen@legis.wi.gov.

Tips for Testifying

Tell YOUR story. MAKE IT LOCAL. Here are some talking points you might use to customize your testimony. We highly recommend connecting with business managers, superintendents, and board members to best understand the local funding picture, and share stories of how this impacts local students.

We learned at the first hearing in Milwaukee that the Commission is taking very seriously the input provided by the public and school officials. We asked directly for some guidance on what kind of testimony would be most helpful and effective, and this is what we learned:

  • Sen. Olsen advised us to “Think big.” Don’t just list the problems or your grievances – show what it would take to solve them in your district/schools. They are looking for transformative funding solutions  – not bandaids – and not testimony that just enumerates concerns without pointing toward solutions.
  • Be specific. Tell stories that SHOW how funding impacts teaching and learning in your schools.
  • Focus on policy, not politics.
  • Bring it in writing. Speakers who had visuals and written copies of their testimony seemed to make a bigger impact. If you don’t bring a hard copy, email the chairs your testimony after the hearing.
  • COORDINATE with other districts in the region. Speaking together (or back to back) as a coalition of districts, parents, board members, etc, is a powerful way to touch on key themes that impact local schools and emphasize points made by others. Each speaker gets 5 minutes, so plan carefully to make sure that the important points are covered. Repetition can be good if it emphasizes areas of concern, but monotony is bad.
  • Organize your thoughts and stay focused on the key areas where reform is needed. We highly recommend the model of the SWSA (Southeast Wisconsin Schools Alliance). They brought a team of business managers from several districts, who focused their district-specific examples and suggestions under four key categories, and delivered VERY effective and clear testimony:
    • Predicability
    • Adequacy
    • Sustainability
    • Transparency

If we can continue to tell the story of how the current funding structure falls short in these four areas in districts around the state, the committee would have solid data to discuss and work into their final report.

If you are new to testimony and would like more guidance, see the video of the webinar we held on giving effective testimony.

What is the Blue Ribbon Commission on School Funding?

In December of 2017, the legislature convened a special commission to address the problems associated with school funding in Wisconsin.

According to the Blue Ribbon Commission’s Scope Statement, the Commission is tasked with evaluating the following items:

  • The effects of distributing general aid through our equalization aid formula. Attention will also be given to other factors that could improve our efforts to provide equal educational opportunities to all pupils;  
  • The relationship between declining enrollment districts and the fixed costs that districts face, and the possible incorporation of a minimum aid per district;  
  • Evaluating transportation costs and how districts pay for those costs;
  • Review of high-cost categorical aids and the consideration of other aids that could be created to meet specific needs;
  • Methods to better align funding for various school choice options such as open enrollment, school choice and independent charter schools;
  • Consideration of funding levels for certain extended learning opportunities like summer school, preschool or dual enrollment;
  • Options to provide revenue-limit equity to low-spending districts; and
  • Other technical changes that could improve the transparency of the school finance system.

This commission is our best chance at moving past the politics and seeing real change in how our schools are funded. It is an opportunity to show decision-makers what funding equity looks like, and help map out the road to achieving a formula that ensures equal opportunity for success for every student.

While we are eager to learn more about the plans for this important committee, there are many voices that will not be heard at the committee level – parent advocates, members of  grassroots advocacy teams, active teachers, school business or finance managers, sitting board members, representation from the Wisconsin Rural Schools Alliance.  These voices must be heard through our collective advocacy.

The committee is made of these legislators…
  • Rep. Joel Kitchens (R-Sturgeon Bay), Co-Chair
  • Sen. Luther Olsen, (R-Ripon), Co-Chair
  • Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills)
  • Sen. Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green)
  • Sen. Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma)
  • Rep. Cody Horlacher (R-Mukwonago)
  • Rep. Romaine Quinn (R-Rice Lake)
  • Rep. Sondy Pope (D-Mt. Horeb)
  • Rep. Jason Fields (D-Glendale)

 Contact information for above Lawmakers

…and these private citizens
  • Dr. Joni Burgin, Superintendent, Grantsburg School District
  • Dr. Bill Hughes, Seton Catholic Schools, Milwaukee
  • Dr. Michelle Langenfeld, Superintendent, Green Bay Area Public Schools
  • Ted Neitzke, CEO, CESA 6
  • Dan Rossmiller, Director of Government Relations, Wisconsin Association of School Boards
  • Lori Saqer, Director of Business Operations, Messmer Catholic Schools, Inc.
  • Dr. Julie Underwood, Professor, Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis, UW-Madison

Upcoming Hearings of the Blue Ribbon Commission for Equitable Funding

The next hearing has been scheduled for Feb. 2 in Milwaukee (details tba). To see the most updated meeting schedule click here.

Why do we need school funding reform in Wisconsin?  One word: inequity. The current funding formula does not value all students (or districts) equally or fairly, and the funding gaps across districts are creating “haves” and “have nots” that make it hard to hire and retain educators, provide equitable opportunities for all students, and meet the needs of our most vulnerable children. Special education funding, for instance, has been flat for a full decade. Districts are going to referenda at record rates. Wisconsin’s “teacher exodus” hurts our communities and our economy.

KEY RESOURCES: Visit http://www.reformwi.org to download at-a-glance charts for your senate district that visualize the funding disparities for our public schools. School Funding Reform for Wisconsin takes the latest data from DPI and illustrates how revenue limits and private school voucher deduction impact your district.

Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) Memo on school funding

How to Testify at the Blue Ribbon Hearings: a Wisconsin Public Education Network webinar with Dr. Julie Underwood and Christopher Thiel. Click here to access the webinar’s presentation materials.

Action Steps YOU Can Take

VotePublic 2018-4 (1)

  1.  Make sure you are connected with us via email! [email SUBSCRIBE to hdb@WisconsinNetwork.org to join our mailing list] This way you will always be updated with the latest news and action steps associated with the Blue Ribbon Commission.
  2. Contact the above legislators. Let them know you support this important work. Thank them for serving and invite them to call on you for feedback and input as they begin this discussion. To get an effective and lasting solution, the public must be part of the conversation. 
  3. Be a Blue Ribbon Ambassador. Be a voice for fairness at the hearings. They are open to the public. Wear your green GO PUBLIC shirt if possible. Keep your testimony focused on your own experience and personal, specific  examples from your district. Tell a story that illustrates the urgent need for funding reform and a fair and equitable formula – connect at the level of the heart and be a voice to remember after a long day of testimony. The best testimony shows us why you care, why we should care, and how this decision impacts all of us. And after you testify, amplify! Share video or written copies of your testimony online, with the local paper as a letter to the editor, and as widely as possible. Let your community know what is at stake and how they can share their own concerns. The upcoming schedule for the hearings is listed below, but also make sure to check here for the most updated meeting times. And check out our webinar on how to testify at the hearing! If you are a school board member, consider writing a board resolution to share with the Commission. See this great sample from the Port Edwards board here!
  4. Become connected with a local grassroots group in your area to amplify your voice and to make sure your community knows about this important opportunity to help create equitable funding in our public school system. There is a network map of our partners on the home page.
  5. Get organized! We provide tool kits and workshops to help you create local level action in your community. Organize and attend public forums, do research, know where candidates stand on issues, create surveys and write letters to the editor in support of public schools. If you would like more information about workshops and how one could come to your community, please email our executive director, Heather DuBois Bourenane, at hdb@wisconsinnetwork.org.
  6. The most important thing you can do this year is #VOTEPUBLIC and get others in your community to do the same. If we want to see real change in our education system, we need to get lawmakers into office who know that education equity is a top priority for voters.
  7. Share the above steps with your family and friends, get them involved. The more voices the better. We summarized all the above information into one handy infographic.


Elements of the World Class Education System- Why Equitable Funding is Important

Every child in the state of Wisconsin deserves to be enrolled in a world-class education system. The National Conference of State Legislatures developed four elements that a world-class education system MUST include in their No Time to Lose Report. These elements includes language that clearly shows equitable education funding is the only way to achieve the high standards our students deserve.

Elements of a World Class Education System-page-001





















To read the full No Time to Lose Report and to learn more about the NCSL visit their website.

Please feel free to share and use this infographic.

About the author: Wisconsin Public Education Network

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