We must state our significant concerns with the Omnibus Education Package that was recently passed by the Joint Finance Committee. We believe that this budget underfunds Wisconsin public schools and will force school districts to reduce educational opportunities for the children they serve. We are not alone. An unprecedented number of school district administrators and school boards have already written letters urging their communities to ask their local legislators to re-think aspects of this legislation.
For the purpose of this letter, we will limit our concerns to the financial implications of this bill:
- School districts across the state, including ours, will face state aid cuts in order to support voucher expansion. In its’ current iteration, this bill will provide less state aid to Wisconsin public school students than was provided in 2010.
- For the first time since revenue limits were imposed in 1993-94, there will be no adjustment in per pupil revenue limits in either year of the 2015-17 biennium.
- The proposed law allows students in special education to be allocated $12,000 in publicly funded annual vouchers to attend private and parochial schools. The reality is that costs vary significantly from student to student based upon their individual needs. As a result, the new law could over fund a special needs student while significantly limiting funding to another. It is difficult to understand a change in funding for private/parochial vouchers even though there has been no increase in funding for public school education students in eight years.
- Alan Borsuk, Education Columnist for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, recently noted that “…the impact of no increases in school spending for years on end is building… Ultimately, the key education story out of this budget is the continuation of zero-increase spending policies.”
- Per pupil educational spending in Wisconsin will drop below the national average. A few years ago, we were 12th in the nation.
- Our School Districts have used the authority and flexibilities provided by Act 10. However, not all school district expenses can be controlled by Act 10. We ask that allowable resources for our students and all 860,000 public school students in our state allow us to keep pace with inflation to help us manage the costs we cannot control through the Act 10 tools.
We believe that the fiscal pressures on public schools are being imposed by legislators who adhere to the false narrative that our schools are “failing.” Wisconsin has one of the highest graduation rates in the nation, with high school graduation rates exceeding 90%. Our state consistently scores among the top four states in the nation on the ACT College Entrance Exam and the vast majority of School Districts scored well on the newly created State Report Cards. Our School Districts have performed well on the State Report Cards and in the competitive world of open enrollment!
We urge you to learn more about the proposals in the 2015-2017 state budget and how it will impact schools throughout the state of Wisconsin. Please join us in advocating on behalf of the children so that we can continue to provide one of the best public education systems in the nation.
We are not trying to be partisan. While we believe that people of good faith can legitimately disagree on education policy, we also believe that many legislators are listening more to special interests than they are to constituents. Many things pertaining to education in the Omnibus Bill have direct ties to special interest groups, and little or nothing to do with the day to day concerns and issues being discussed by parents or members of the community.
If you agree, now is the time to let your voice be heard by forwarding this message to families, friends and neighbors. You may also contact your representatives directly. Though our schools are small, we cover a wide geographic area.
Possible Assembly Representatives: Possible State Senators:
District 39 Representative Mark Born District 8 Senator Alberta Darling Rep.Born@legis.wisconsin.gov Sen.Darling@legis.wisconsin.gov
District 58 Representative Bob Gannon District 13 Senator Scott Fitzgerald Rep.Gannon@legis.wisconsin.gov Sen.Fitzgerald@legis.wisconsin.gov
District 59 Jesse Kremer District 20 Senator Duey Strobel Rep.Kremer@legis.wisconsin.gov Sen.Strobel@legis.wisconsin.gov
John Engstrom Scott Sabol
District Administrator District Administrator
Friess Lake School Neosho, Saylesville, and Herman Schools