New details are unveiled for K-12 school finance reform. Among other things, the plan to pay for Wisconsin public education would guarantee a minimum level of state aid ($3,000) for every student – regardless of where they live.
Department of Public Instruction Superintendent Tony Evers says he wants more truth in budgeting. He says by eliminating $900 million in property tax credits for homeowners, it would end the “school funding shell game.” Evers says, “Well certainly the use of the school property tax levy credit being called ‘state aid’ is a shell game because it’s not … that tax levy credit does not pay for a single pencil, pen or book in any schools. And what it does is it compels school districts to actually levy for that credit and that money should be going directly to schools.”
Evers says his Fair Funding for our Future plan would make the confusing school funding formula transparent, and eliminate the middle man. “Absolutely; there’s no reason to have a middle man. The school districts already — and will continue to — have revenue control so that they can only spend so much. So that money should go directly to schools. This plan will be property tax neutral and we believe when it is implemented it will hold the line on property taxes.”
Also, the state’s top teacher says his plan accounts for family income, not just property wealth, as a factor in the state general aid formula; it strengthens rural schools and schools with declining enrollments; and provides predictable growth in state aid.
Evers first talked about his plan back in June and later gave some details during his State of Education address in September. He also likes the idea of increased collaboration among districts to save money without losing their identity.
The state funds 62 percent of K-12 public education — that’s less than the two-thirds funding commitment. Evers is proposing an increase of state aid by 2 percent in the first year and 4 percent the next — an extra $420 million. Ninety-three percent of Wisconsin’s public schools would get more state aid under the proposed funding plan announced today.
Evers says he has exchanged voice messages with Governor-elect Scott Walker about the plan and he is briefing legislators looking for support.