High Poverty School Districts Would Benefit From Proposed Wisconsin DPI Budget

Nov 16, 2016

School spending accounts for roughly one-third of Wisconsin’s budget every year, and if state education leaders succeed in convincing the state to adopt their budget proposal, districts could see even more money over the next two years – particularly if they serve a large population of economically disadvantaged students.

Every two years, state departments work with industry stakeholders to create a budget request. Wisconsin’s Department of Public Instruction submitted its proposal Tuesday to Governor Scott Walker and the Legislature.

State superintendent Tony Evers outlined a few new priorities for 2017-19, chief among them is fixing Wisconsin’s school funding formula to provide more money to a vast majority of districts.

“We have to move toward a more fair and equitable way of funding our schools,” Evers said in a video released by DPI Tuesday afternoon. “We’re going to be focusing on empowering innovation and opportunity across the state of Wisconsin, as well as working to provide resources to our kids that struggle the most.”

General state support for Wisconsin’s public schools has decreased over the last decade. Evers wants to reverse that trend with a slight funding boost in 2017 – 2.7 percent – followed by an additional 5.4 percent increase the following year.

In total, DPI is requesting an additional $707 million for schools over the next two years. This would guarantee a minimum of $3,000 to support each student.

What’s more, Evers’ reform proposal changes the way Wisconsin distributes additional money to account for families’ ability to pay.

This would mean for the first time incorporating a “poverty factor” into aid calculations. A district’s cut of the pie would be weighted based on the number of students it serves who live in poverty or foster care, and learn English as a second language.

DPI says this kind of change would protect rural districts, as well as districts with declining enrollment – like Milwaukee. MPS, the state’s largest urban district, has lost approximately 1,000 students per year in the last decade, due in part to a thriving school choice program.

DPI estimates roughly 94 percent of state school districts would receive more state funding under this proposal. This could also lower districts’ need to seek additional money through referendum or property tax levies.

Within its budget request, DPI has also proposed funding increases for special education students and English learners. Additional priorities include supporting additional school-based mental health programming and summer school opportunities.