Get the facts you need to take action where you live!
Take action for public education in 2023:
VISIT THE 2023 BUDGET HQ! This is the hub of all things state budget, what it means for our kids and public schools, and what we can do about it.
Click here for the Elections HQ, where you’ll find information and resources about spring and fall elections.
- Visit the Get the Facts page to learn more about our shared values and how elections play a role in achieving them
- Visit the Equity Resources Page for information on educational equity and how to talk about it
Click here for the Digital Action HQ, where you’ll find information and actions you can take from your computer or phone to get your community involved in the #VotePublic campaign.
DID YOU KNOW…
- SPOTLIGHT ON SPECIAL EDUCATION: Wisconsin’s reimbursement for special education cost has been at an all time low (under 25%) in recent years and was called “worst in nation” by a national expert who testified at a public hearing of the Blue Ribbon Commission on School Funding. Despite a tiny increase that lifted a 10-year funding freeze in the 2019-2020 school year, due to inflation the percentage is unlikely to meet the targeted goal of 26% for the 2019-2020. Because of this, our public schools face more than a ONE BILLION DOLLAR FUNDING GAP every year in unreimbursed costs. This is money they must take from their general funds to cover the actual costs of necessary and mandated special education services. Both the Governor and the bipartisan Blue Ribbon Commission on School Funding have proposed increasing the state’s reimbursement to at least 60%, while districts around the state are calling for a 90% reimbursement (private school special needs voucher students are eligible for a 90% reimbursement). In February of 2020, the state legislature rejected a proposal to use the co-called “surplus” to help cover this gap. The money could have been used to increase the reimbursement rate to 43%. Click here a chart with the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau’s analysis of what that funding would mean to local students (see full 2/28/2020 Legislative Fiscal Bureau memo here).
- Meanwhile, the price tag of the private school voucher program for taxpayers in 2019-2020 is $351,180,390.29. The combined cost for vouchers and independent (non-district) charter schools is over $427.7 million.
- 317 private schools are participating in the statewide private school tuition voucher program in 2019-2020. The program provides taxpayer funded vouchers to attend private schools for 43,450 students.
- Married families of four making $61,120 or less are eligible to receive a taxpayer funded voucher for their children to participate in the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program (WPCP)
- 87% of children receiving vouchers in the WPCP since it began were either already attending private schools, homeschooled, or new to Wisconsin schools. Only 13% of students receiving vouchers in the WPCP program transferred from public schools.
- In the 2019–2020 school year, 57% of all students who attend schools that participate in the voucher program receive a taxpayer funded tuition voucher.
- 230 of Wisconsin’s 426 public schools districts received less state aid in 2017-2018 than they did in 2016-2017
- The caps for enrollment on the statewide voucher program are slowly being lifted every year until they are set in statute to be lifted entirely in 2026-27 school year.
Sources: DPI 2017, DPI 2018, DPI 2019.
Links and Resources:
- FOLLOW US for the latest news, updates and action alerts:
WisconsinNetwork • twitter: @ WiscEdNetwork
- FULL ARCHIVE OF OUR ‘SCHOOL FUNDING’ PRESENTATIONS: here.
- School Funding Basics with Dr. Julie Underwood, Sept. 14, 2022: video, slide deck
- School Finance 101 with Bob Soldner and Dee Pettack, DPI, Aug. 2, 2021: video
- School Funding 102 with Bob Soldner, DPI and Dr. Julie Underwood, Feb. 25, 2021: video, slide deck, one-page school finance resource
- Special Education Funding in Wisconsin: How it works and why it matters, Wisconsin Policy Forum
- Essential background and context: Public Education: Cornerstone of Democracy. Public Funds Public Schools webinar with Dr. Julie Mead. Great video to screen with your group or at an event!
- What are VOUCHERS and how to they impact public schools? Learn more in this presentation by Dr. Julie Underwood.
- How much can YOUR district spend on students? This amount is fixed by the state and varies by district. In order to spend more, districts have to go to referenda and ask voters to raise local taxes to meet school needs. See the Revenue Limit per pupil for your school district at: https://sfs.dpi.wi.gov/
sfsdw/RevenueLimitReport.aspx [put in year, then select your district to see your per pupil spending limit this year] & compare Revenue Limits per pupil in districts across the state at: https://dpi.wi.gov/sites/default/files/imce/sfs/xls/longitudinal_revlimpp.xls [go to “data” tab at the bottom of the sheet, then scroll to the right to move from 1993-1994 to 2021-2022].
- How much are vouchers and independent charter schools costing local schools? See the Jan. 14, 2020 Legislative Fiscal Bureau memo here and a chart with data by district here.
- How much aid does your district receive from the state? State Aid: https://dpi.wi.gov/sfs/
- What districts are going to referenda this year? Referenda Reporting. This DPI website lets you see who’s going to referendum statewide, and for what: https://sfs.dpi.wi.gov/
10 Ways to Support Wisconsin Students & Schools (pdf/handout)
Video: How Public Schools Came to Be (DPI)
Video: “Road to Referendum” The school funding process utilized by the state of Wisconsin is complicated and unpopular, if not broken. Ask anyone who pays into it. “Road to Referendum” details the problems inherent in the current funding system, and highlights some possible solutions, from the point-of-view of the community of Eau Claire, WI — which is headed to a fall referendum on school financing.
Network for Public Education: Privatization toolkits
Wisconsin’s school funding system is inequitable and unfair largely because of two things: revenue limits (restrictions on how much schools can spend) and an antiquated funding formula that bases state aid on property values rather than student needs. Learn more on this disparity here: Funding Public Education in Wisconsin: The Property Tax-School Funding Dilemma, Andrew Reschovsky, Professor Emeritus of Public Affairs and Applied Economics, La Follette School of Public Affairs, UW-Madison
At our Summer Summit every year, we hold a session called School Funding 101, here is the powerpoint presentation from the 2019 Summit. For more in-depth information on these topics and to have a chance to ask the tough questions in person, come to our 2020 Summer Summit.
Revenue Limits are the set amount each district is allowed by the state to spend per pupil. These limits were set in 1993 and frozen under Governor Walker, so they are no longer increased yearly to adjust for inflation. The difference between the revenue limit and the amount of state aid received is paid for by the local property tax levy. In recent years, record percentages referenda have passed statewide as voters choose to raise taxes on themselves to cover basic needs of local schools. A recent Marquette law school poll found 80% of people want more funding for our public schools. Let’s call on lawmakers to fix Wisconsin’s broken funding formula and provide adequate resources to our public schools to guarantee that every student has equally opportunity and access to an excellent public education in our state!
Here is an overview of the whole state and a close up of District 1.
Click here to see your district and download these images
Special Education Reimbursement. In 2018, Wisconsin reimburses special education costs at just 26%. This interactive map show how much aid districts would receive if the state covered these mandated costs at a 90% reimbursement rate.
- 2019-2020 Voucher/Charter Aid Reductions and Related Property Tax Increases. All the data you need to break down voucher and charter costs for your district in the form of this Legislative Fiscal Bureau memo, and two helpful spreadsheets breaking down the numbers: 2019-20 Taxes Choice, SNSP, Charter 1-14-20 and Goyke Jan 14 memo attachment.
DPI Resource: Wisconsin School Finance system (website)
DPI: Challenges for Wisconsin: School Finance and Vouchers (pdf)
How School Privatization opens the Door for Discrimination (Powerpoint), from 2019 Summer Summit, presented by Dr. Julie Mead, UW-Madison Professor of Education Law
DPI: Introduction to Special Education Funding (PowerPoint)
DPI: A brief history of vouchers (pdf)
“Public Schools: Make Them Private,” by Milton Friedman (1995)
Mead, J.F. (2015). Private in Name Only: A Statutory and Constitutional Analysis of Milwaukee’s Private School Voucher Program. Washington and Lee Journal of Civil Rights and Social Justice. 21(2), 331-382.
FUNDING GAPS: Click here to see how Wisconsin compares to other states in funding high and low poverty students. https://edtrust.org/map/