School Finance Update from WAES

From the Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools:

Hopes for early state budget fade into the distance
School districts lose under Assembly version of the budget
“Extra” Assembly school aid goes to taxpayers, not kids

School-funding reform calendar
The Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools (WAES) is a statewide network of educators, school board members, parents, community leaders, and researchers. Its Wisconsin Adequacy Plan — a proposal for school-finance reform — is the result of research into the cost of educating children to meet state proficiency standards.


Hopes for early budget fade into the distance

It seems to happen every two years: Wisconsin gets into the budget season, the rhetoric begin to fly, and … before you know it … school-funding reform once again recedes into the background and the crisis continues to grow. This budget cycle is no exception, and it could go on for quite a while.

The Senate and the Assembly passed vastly different versions of the budget — by some reports up to $10 billion apart — along party lines. Additionally, the policy focus of the budgets is quite different, leading many to believe it could be well into the fall before a conference committee agrees on a compromise budget and sends it to both houses and eventually the Governor for approval.

Your best bet to follow news coverage of the budget process is to log into your hometown newspaper or go to one of two excellent statewide sites and follow the links. Your choices are The Wheeler Report or


School districts lose under Assembly version of the budget

Depending upon your party affiliation, political or social point-of-view, or how much stake you put in the need for adequate school funding, the differing versions of the 2007-09 budget are the best and worst of all possible worlds.

If you want to wade through the hundreds of pages in both the Senate and Assembly versions, go here. The sad fact is that once the numbers are run through the filter of the Assembly budget, every district in the state loses or stands pat in the revenue limit formula.

Also analyzing the Assembly version of the budget are: WEAC; the Wisconsin School Administrators Alliance; and the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families You can also find analysis on the websites of The Wheeler Report or


“Extra” Assembly school aid goes to taxpayers, not kids

Between passage of the budget and the start of the work of the conference committee, points and counterpoints have been flying between legislators, especially over what the budget really means to Wisconsin public school districts.

One claim being made by many legislators is that the Assembly budget actually puts more money into public schools … more money, for example, than the Governor’s budget.

One such claim was made by Assembly Education Committee chair and 80th Assembly District Rep. Brett Davis. Reacting to 79th Assembly District Rep. Sondy Pope-Roberts criticizing him for comments during the budget debate, Rep. Davis said the Assembly actually put more state money into the budget for schools than the Governor asked for.

Technically, he was right. The Assembly budget reduced the amount of school aid in the Joint Finance Committee version by $85 million and did increase the state share of school funding by $200 million over two years — with the key phrase being state share. What Rep. Davis didn’t say was that the net effect of the Assembly action was to take money away from public school children. Every cent of the $200 million increase went for property tax relief (bringing the total to just short of $800 million). Not one penny went into a classroom or to a child.

As Rep. Pope-Roberts said, “You’d have to be delusional to divert money from students and classrooms, squander it on tax cuts, and still call it an ‘investment in education.'” Another take on the Pope-Roberts vs. Davis debate can be found here.

After taking a look at the Assembly budget, the budget coverage, the budget analysis, the budget comment, and the budget vote, please contact your state representatives and let them know what you think. To find out who represents you, go to Remember, this is the starting point for the compromise our schools will have to live with for the next two years.


Help us better serve you by letting us know when you change e-mail addresses. In that way we can stop sending the update to the old one and switch over to the new one as soon as possible.


School-funding reform calendar

Sept. 8 — Jack Norman, IWF research director, will be part of a discussion on TABOR and school funding at Fighting Bob Fest (, noon, at the Sauk County Fairgrounds in Baraboo (follow the link to “getting there” at the website)

Sept. 13 — School-funding reform presentation at Hayward High School, details to follow
Sept. 20 — School-funding reform presentation for District 1 of the Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups, 10 a.m. at the Behring Senior Center, 113 10th St., Monroe

Sept. 20 — School-funding reform presentation for the Manitowoc League of Women’s Voters, 7 p.m., other details to follow

Oct. 23 — School-funding reform presentation for the Janesville Retired Educators Association

Please feel free to share your copy of the WAES school-funding update with anyone interested in school-finance reform. Contact Tom Beebe ( at 414-384-9094 for details.

Thomas J. Mertz

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Filed under AMPS, Budget, Pope-Roberts/Breske Resolution, School Finance, Take Action

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