The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

School Finance Network campaigns for funding

  • A statewide, nine-member coalition launched its campaign last week for an increase in funding for Wisconsin public schools.
  • The School Finance Network, as the group is called, wants to change the formula by which state aid to schools is determined, stressing the need of the individual students.
  • The plan calls for funding to be supplied by an increase in state aid, and for no rise in local property taxes.

A statewide coalition unveiled a plan last week that offers changes to ways Wisconsin public schools are funded and provides solutions to other current problems.

The nine-group School Finance Network consists of school boards, business leaders, teachers and parent groups across the state.

The plan was announced last week at Green Bay West High School's library.

The plan will not merely rearrange existing funding within the state, but build upon the existing model in order to successfully fund all schools. One of the SFN's main points of the proposal is to allocate money on a student-by-student basis.

In its proposal, the SFN wants to increase aid for children with disabilities and special needs, for low-income students and for small, rural school districts.

"We need funding not just based on the numbers, but on the needs of students," said Jill Malak, a representative from the Wisconsin branch of the American Federation of Teachers, one of the member groups.

Enacting the plan, according to the SFN, will allow for many districts to avoid making cuts to vital programs and to continue to offer courses like business, art and music, as well as vocational and technical training.

Greg Sawyer, a physics teacher at Green Bay West and another member of the coalition, said that in order to continue the tradition of strong public education in Wisconsin, area leaders need to step up the effort.

"Our coalition has a plan that is a starting point to change the current funding system into one that is more financially accountable, significantly more effective and puts the funding where it is needed most-with children and their educational needs," Sawyer said.

The comprehensive plan, which stresses an increase in state funding rather than money received from local property taxes, may prove to be difficult to pull off, after Gov. Jim Doyle announced cuts are to be expected in his State of the State address.

But it is vital to keep schools strong, especially in the down economy, said business leader Paul Linzmeyer. He connected improved education to a stronger economy in the future.

"Our economy is dependent on an educated workforce," Linzmeyer said. "The jobs of tomorrow will depend on a higher level of skills that will be gained in public school classrooms.

"The School Finance Network plan recognizes that a quality education is a valued tradition in our state and a permanent asset to our economy," he said.

The plan gives several options the state has in its power to increase school funding without raising property taxes. Among them are: closing corporate tax loopholes, changing the sales tax system and eliminating tax breaks and subsidies for companies that do not keep jobs in Wisconsin.

Julie Underwood, dean of the University of Wisconsin-Madison's School of Education, said the time is right to look into new ways of funding schools. One clear way is to focus on individual student needs.

"We know that some children cost more to educate," she said. "New models of school finance look more at the individual. (The SFN's plan) will reimburse school districts as they serve those students' needs."

Right now, there is no legislation attached to the proposal.

The nine-group coalition consists of: the American Federation of Teachers — Wisconsin, Fair Aid Coalition, School Administrators Alliance, Southeastern Wisconsin Schools Alliance, Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools, Wisconsin Association of School Boards, Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators, Wisconsin Education Association Council and Wisconsin PTA.

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