Senator Mark Miller (D-Monona) issued a statement giving his spin on education funding in the recently passed Wisconsin budget. It is a confusing statement, in that Miller seems to all but ignore the continued shift in funding from the state to local property taxpayers (the old 2/3 formula is long gone, we are now struggling to stay above 60% and if the levy credit is treated as what it is — property tax relief — the real level of state support is hovering a little above 50%) to concentrate on the last minute, behind closed doors insertion that was intended to limit the cuts in state aid to any school districts to 10% or less (Quadric Aid anyone?).
Things didn’t work out as planned, resulting in some 100 districts (including MMSD) taking hits of 15% (see this editorial from the Appleton Post Crescent for more). As far as I can tell the $4,519 in lost aid to MMSD that Senator Miller refers to is the portion of the loss due to the 10%/Quadric Aid legislation. In total MMSD is experiencing a $9 million shift in funding that must be filled by local resources.
I hope to have a chance to write more about Senator Miller’s figures and other budget numbers soon.
For now I want to point to one thing that Senator Miller is correct about. Here is the quote:
These large cuts are primarily a function of the school aid formula…
I’d add that they are also a function of the reduction in education investments and shifts to local property taxes, but all that can be broadly considered part of the “school aid formula.”
The good news is that Senator Miller as a co-sponsor of the Pope-Roberts/Breske Resolution is on record saying that Wisconsin’s school funding system needs to be changed and that it should have:
1. Funding levels based on the actual cost of what is needed to provide children with a sound education and to operate effective schools and classrooms rather than based on arbitrary per pupil spending levels;
2. State resources sufficient to satisfy state and federal mandates and to prepare all children, regardless of their circumstances, for citizenship and for post−secondary education, employment, or service to their country;
3. Additional resources and flexibility sufficient to meet special circumstances, including student circumstances such as non−English speaking students and students from low−income households, and district circumstances such as large geographic size, low population density, low family income, and significant changes in enrollment;
4. A combination of state funds and a reduced level of local property taxes, derived and distributed in a manner that treats all taxpayers equitably regardless of local property wealth and income;
The current funding system is inadequate in all these areas and the recent budget moved us in the wrong direction on all of these.
Time to get to work.
All of us can point the finger at the “school aid formula,” but only Senator Miller and his colleagues in the Senate and the Assembly have the power to change it.
Remind them, please.
Thomas J. Mertz