Commentary on Wisconsin K-12 Tax & Spending Policies

Will Flanders:

  1. The school finance structure is based on systems—not students. The testimony highlighted the archaic nature of school finance in the state in funding particular school districts and types rather than students themselves. School funding in Wisconsin is based on two student-count dates, and a three-year-rolling average of enrollment. The student count dates are in September and January. This means that funding is based on the number of students attending the school on those specific count dates. This means the current system continues to fund a student even if they no longer attend the school after the count date.

A three-year-rolling average requirement means that a student who leaves a school district today will still be partially funded by taxpayers for three years. Moreover, funding for our school choice and independent charter school students exists entirely outside of the system that funds public schools, even as more and more students take advantage of these programs.This archaic system fails to reflect the dynamic nature of modern education, where students regularly move between districts and sectors. Our system is essentially funding ghost students who are not actually attending the schools receiving the funding. Particularly in the aftermath of COVID-19, it is vital that education funding in Wisconsin be less tied to buildings, and more to where students live.