Our public schools are facing a funding crisis. The system of funding our public schools primarily from local property taxes isn’t working and we need to fix it.
Currently, the state reimburses only 30% of the cost for special education and only 4% for English Language Learners which causes significant budget shortfalls for schools that have a high number of students in either category. A lot of Wisconsin’s schools do not have school nurses, reading specialists, gifted and talented coordinators, or school psychologists because they cannot afford them. Many schools are facing crumbling infrastructure. Meanwhile, schools in areas with higher property values and growing populations are building cathedrals to learning with beautiful athletic “complexes” and industrial arts centers. All kids deserve all of these things, but our current system of school finance certainly creates a system of winners and losers, and it’s simply not right. Public schools are supposed to be the great equalizers and we have to take action to fulfill that purpose.
I was an invited speaker for the Blue Ribbon Commission in 2018, and I shared how the current school finance system has created more inequity between our public schools since 1993. As State Superintendent I would work with the legislature and our school boards association and use the recommendations in the 2019 Blue Ribbon Commission on Education Funding as our plan for fair funding. We will increase reimbursements for special education and English language learners in addition to re-examining how we distribute per-pupil finding.