The commission has some interesting ideas for encouraging district consolidation. Without a doubt, Wisconsin has far too many school districts for its size and population. Consider Florida and Wisconsin, two states of very similar land area but very different populations. Wisconsin has about 5.7 million people and 422 school districts. Florida has about 21 million people and 67 school districts—one per county.
The commission proposes incentivizing consolidation by providing additional per pupil funding on a short term basis for schools that enter grade sharing, and additional funding per pupil of $150 per student for consolidated districts. Because the cost savings from consolidation could be substantial, these seem like reasonable moves that ought to be encouraged.
Consolidation is not the answer for every area of the state—some areas are doubtless too remote for reasonable transportation times. But a substantial reduction in the number of school districts in the state ought to be encouraged.
The Blue Ribbon Commission has proposed some valid ideas, but do not go far enough if we truly want to transform education funding in Wisconsin. Nonetheless, their proposals can serve as welcome jumping off point for a school funding debate that needs to happen in our state.