Wisconsin’s next governor has promised big changes for schools and taxpayers – from tying teacher pay raises to performance and giving each school a letter grade to expanding alternatives to public schools and helping school districts cut costs.
But the first challenge facing Republican Scott Walker and the GOP-controlled Legislature next year is closing a $3 billion deficit in the state’s general fund, 44 percent of which covers K-12 education.
“I don’t think anybody is going to, in the short run, be able to solve the budget problems without cutting state funding for K-12,” said Andrew Reschovsky, a UW-Madison economics professor. “The current situation is unsustainable in the long run. There really is a crisis in how we fund schools.”
State Superintendent Tony Evers this week is expected to kick-start the school spending debate by announcing the details of his plan to reform the state’s complex education funding formula. In June, he said his proposal would move away from distributing aid based on property values and take into account factors such as student poverty – a move that could help districts such as Madison with high property wealth but also a lot of poor students.
The state cut $284 million, or 2.6 percent, from school aid in the current budget, resulting in an 8 percent reduction for Madison. The state also reduced the amount districts could increase revenues from $275 per pupil to $200 per pupil, which helped keep a lid on property taxes but forced districts to make budget cuts.