WSJ Editorial Asks Legislature to Cut Public Schools Some Slack

Finally, some common sense. And from the Opinion Page of one of the state’s most conservative Editorial Boards. Today’s Wisconsin State Journal cautions communities to stop beating each other up over school finance woes and focus on the real culprit: our Legislature’s failed public school finance system.

Recounting the mixed results from more than 70 referenda requests in 52 school districts that were on the ballot this past Tuesday alone, the editorial goes on to explain why the state formula makes it virtually impossible for Wisconsin’s 425 school districts to both balance their budgets and avoid program cuts. After 14 years of cuts, critical programs….even those with proven track records such as SAGE….are potentially on the chopping block.

And instead of ponting the finger at the State Capitol, too much energy has gone into local finger-pointing: at administrators who “can’t cut the inefficiencies,” at school boards who “aren’t willing to long-range plan,” and even at students themselves, particularly students with higher educational price tags, such as students living in poverty and students with disabilities. Recent letters to the editor and blogs have called students “bozos” and “slackers.” Some bloggers have suggested that we really need to assess whether we can educate “all” students these days, given limited resources.

Let’s see: 1. Blame school leadership and school boards in communities across the state for not being “efficient” or having “long range plans; 2. Blame children because, hey, it’s easy. They don’t vote and they usually don’t blog; or 3. Focus on policymakers who created a flawed system and refuse to roll up their sleeves to make changes.

I know where my energies will go in the next few weeks.

Beth Swedeen


Filed under AMPS, School Finance

6 responses to “WSJ Editorial Asks Legislature to Cut Public Schools Some Slack

  1. Ed Blume

    Beth, I wish you’d first put your energy into figuring out how to balance the MMSD budget without closing schools. The MMSD board has to vote on the budget on April 30. The legislature won’t vote on the state budget until sometime in June.

  2. Troy D

    I too was surprised to see that even the WSJ was addressing the underlying issues of school finance. Yes Ed we need to focus on school closings that will come up soon, but now is the time to contact your legislators. They are currently creating the budget. Within the next two weeks the joint finance committee is holding various listening sessions across the state. It is also an important time to visit their offices and tell them your story of how the revenue limits have impacted your school, family, community. NOW, in conjunction with advocating for your local school is the best time to lobby your elected representatives.

    1. 1993-94 budget the state reimbursed local school districts for 45% of costs related to special education. In the proposed 08-08 budget the rate will be only 29% reimbursement.

    2. The proposed budget reimburses local districts 12% of bilingual aid. In 1993-94 it was 33%.

    Call, write, visit.
    Troy D

    “You have to recognize when the right place and the right time fuse and take advantage of that opportunity. There are plenty of opportunities out there. You can’t sit back and wait.”

    Ellen Metcalf

  3. Troy is right: the window for advocating on state revenue caps is literally the next two weeks. The last Joint Finance hearing is Tuesday up north. Then Joint Finance goes into session to go through the budget blow-by-blow.

    I don’t think it can be stressed enough that Madison now has two members on Joint Finance, which is probably THE most powerful legislative committee in determining how public dollars are spent in Wisconsin. JF also is more politically balanced now than it has been in recent years: 8 Repubs and 8 Dems. And of the Republicans, more of them are more keenly aware of specific public education issues than previous JF members. Kitty Rhoades and Luther Olson have been pretty involved in public school financing. We need to have a more powerful voice collectively from Madison about the specific impacts the funding formula has had on our schools.

  4. Ed Blume

    The budget bill currently contains no significant change to state funding of school aids. So, what’s the “ask?”What should people ask Joint Finance to do in the budget?

    Are any of the member of Finance willing to introduce whatever changes MAPS supports? Any action by Finance requires a motion.

    From my 20+ years working in and around the legislature, school finance will be one of the last action items in the budget process. The majority party’s legislative caucuses will reshape the finance committee’s recommendations, spend whatever money needed to win a majority vote on the budget, and then spend any remaining money on school aids. Caucus action will occur in late May and early June.

    In other words, a clear and consistent message between now and final action on a specific proposal (or motion) might help win some changes in the school aid forumla or funding.

  5. tmertz

    The “ask” is mostly on the ELL, Special Ed and SAGE funding. It is also to keep pressure on for future actions.,com_jd-wp/Itemid,31/p,94/


  6. Troy D

    Please check out the link,com_jd-wp/Itemid,31/p,94/

    It clearly outlines the “Ask” If we all work together, closing of schools can be a thing of the past. Cutting of strings, tag, etc. can be a thing of the past too. It is all of our responsibilities to multi task. Yes, advocate to keep your school open, AND actually do something that will address the underlying issue of how our schools are funded. Now is the time to advocate for the schools on a state level. If you choose to wait for June or July I would say, “thank you for caring.” Do it then too. I will do it now. If we fail, we will do it again in August. The important thing is that you are involved in changing how schools are funded. Some like to say that we can’t do anything to address how schools are funded. They want us to just accept that things will not change and we should just plan to accept sub-standard funding for schools. I won’t.

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