Children on swingset on Wisconsin playground

School funding is scarcer than ever in Wisconsin.

Most school districts will receive less state support next school year than they did this school year, when the rising cost of living is taken into account. Fifty-nine percent of Wisconsin districts will either receive less general aid next year or receive an increase that is smaller than the projected 2015 rate of inflation, according to new figures released last week.

State lawmakers increased the amount of general aid to districts by 2% between this year and next year. The state’s Department of Public Instruction uses a complex formula to distribute that aid among the school districts. Based on this formula, there can be a significant amount of variation in the amount of general aid an individual district receives from one year to the next. Six percent of school districts will receive a boost of 10% or more in the amount of general aid they receive next year, and 19% will have their general aid drop by at least 10%.

Even the few districts that got increases in general aid may have trouble investing that money in classrooms. The amount of money school districts can spend is limited by the state, and state lawmakers allowed districts to increase their budgets by only a very small amount next year, well under the inflation rate. That means the few districts with increases in general aid from the state may have to use that money to reduce property taxes rather than to strengthen core academic programs or address classroom overcrowding.

Wisconsin’s cuts to public education have been well-documented as some of the largest in the country. The new aid figures show that lawmakers continue to shrink resources for Wisconsin’s schoolchildren, choosing to use recent budget surpluses for tax cuts, rather than schools.

by Tamarine Cornelius

Photo by Bethlehem Lutheran Church released under a Creative Commons No Derivatives license.