FOX47 NEWS - Changing the School Funding System

Jeff Angileri
Feb 3, 2009, 9:44 PM

An independent group says Wisconsin's funding formula for public schools is broken, and Tuesday its members called for sweeping changes.

Students at Glacier Edge Elementary in Verona had a chance to test their roller blading skills this week. Across Wisconsin, others are not so fortunate. Money troubles are forcing schools to cut classes like gym, music, art, even advanced learning programs.

More than 15 years of revenue caps have prevented school boards from meeting the cost of inflation, resulting in endless cuts to programs, staff, and services, said Rep. Sondy Pope-Roberts, (D-Middleton).

Right now, funding is based in part on local property taxes. Revenue caps keep increases in check. But coalition members of the School Finance Network say that's not providing enough money for some districts. And they don't want the burden to fall on property tax payers.

What we're doing is tearing communities apart by having people who have children in school -- who can see first hand what the challenges are. We're pitting them against property tax payers -- many of whom are older. Their children have already been through school and they're struggling to pay taxes and just stay in their homes, said Pope-Roberts.

The coalition wants the state to increase its share of education spending at a number that better matches costs. The idea is -- if schools are getting more money from the state -- communities are less likely to go to referendum.

A proposed plan would increase state aid on the basis of income growth, and give more money to districts to pay for special needs children. Rural schools would also get more money. Architects of the plan refused to say exactly how much it would cost.

It will be in the hundreds of millions of dollars to start and would grow. How much that will be and how long it will take to do will be up to the legislators to decide, said Robert Borch, Assistant Superintendent of Elmbrook Schools.

Coalition members say this is not a redistribution of education funds, and no school district would receive less money.

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