Keep Our Public Schools Fully Funded
The Blue Ribbon Commission on School Funding held its final public hearing on June 4, at the Wisconsin State Capitol. Public education supporters came to send a united message to keep funding public schools fully.
“We have attended every single one of these hearings,” said Heather DuBois Bourenane, Executive Director of Wisconsin Public Education Network. “And we have heard superintendents, board members, parents, and teachers say the same thing from one end of the state to the other: our system of school funding is not working and is not fair.”
“We believe every student in every public school in Wisconsin deserves equal access and equal opportunity to receive an equally excellent public education. The state is not currently meeting this obligation. To do so, our public school districts and community members have made clear their needs for a funding formula that is predictable, sustainable, transparent, and adequate to meet student needs.”
These advocates will call on members of the Blue Ribbon Commission to take what they have heard and use it to develop a comprehensive plan – including policy and budget recommendations, and future legislation – to address the funding inequities in the current system.
“We heard so many unique stories around the state,” DuBois Bourenane said, “but clear patterns emerged. We took careful notes and compiled a summary of the main categories of concerns. The bottom line is that the state is not meeting its moral, legal, or constitutional obligation to our children.”
The bulk of public testimony at Blue Ribbon hearings has revealed five main issues of concern for school leaders and community members:
- Revenue limits, which vary widely and do not correspond to financial need, are unfair and widen the gaps between “have” and “have not” districts.
- The funding formula is broken, overly complicated, and doesn’t do what it’s supposed to. It should be overhauled to adequately meet the most pressing needs of our students (particularly to address poverty, needs of English language learners and students with special needs, mental health issues, and challenges facing rural schools)
- Special education funding is inadequate and must be sufficiently restored. Public schools have a mandate to meet the needs of every child, and local communities should not be responsible for paying the lion’s share of these increasing costs.
- Wisconsin’s teacher crisis creates tensions within and between districts, and has resulted in winners and losers as many (and especially rural) districts cannot afford to “compete” with others.
- The growing costs of privatization and the lack of taxpayer transparency for publicly funded private schools is problematic and costly for urban and rural schools alike.
“People who understand best the challenges facing our schools have spent the past six months sharing their concerns, and have called on the members of this Commission to produce results. We’re here today to let them know we expect them to deliver,” said DuBois Bourenane. “There is no mystery surrounding what our schools need to succeed; the mystery is why we haven’t provided the resources for them to do so.
Blue Ribbon Commission on School Funding co-chair Senator Luther Olsen is quoted in the “No Time to Lose” report, which he co-authored as a member of the National Council of State Legislatures, as saying “ I believe we have identified the fundamentals of education that are necessary to succeed in preparing our children to be internationally competitive in today’s changing economy. It is imperative that we acknowledge and adopt those fundamentals if we are to be champions in education again.”
Wisconsin public schools desperately need funding reform, and Wisconsin calls on this bipartisan Commission to demand and deliver results.