The new legislative session has kicked off in Madison. The legislature will be developing the 2023-25 biennial budget this session. This will be an important budget for public education in Wisconsin. The superintendents from the 39 school districts that make up Cooperative Educational Service Agency (CESA) 11 have developed the attached letter to help provide citizens with important information about educational funding and to ask for support.
Cooperative Educational Service Agency (CESA) 11 is made up of 39 school districts serving over 48,500 children in communities across northern and western Wisconsin.
Public education is a source of pride in Wisconsin. Experiences, opportunities and academic excellence within our public schools lead the nation. The ACT Exam is a nationwide objective measure of college and career readiness. High school students from our state consistently perform at the highest levels on this important exam. Over 93% of Wisconsin’s Class of 2022 high school students took the ACT Exam. This level of participation is much higher than the national average. Wisconsin ranks #2 in academic outcomes for states where at least 90% of students took the ACT Exam (ACT.org).
While there is much to celebrate about the accomplishments of our state’s public schools, a detrimental shift in the state’s funding for public education has taken place. With Wisconsin’s public schools continuing to receive top academic rankings in the nation, educational funding for student programming, maintaining school facilities as well as recruiting and retaining high quality staff members has now fallen below the national average. Where Wisconsin’s per-pupil funding for public education ranked among the nation’s top 11 states in 2002 it has fallen to 25th place as of 2020 with funding now below the national average (Wisconsin Policy Forum).
The current Wisconsin Biennial Budget has provided public schools with a zero dollar increase on per-pupil funding over the past two years. This has left school districts to contend with the twin pressures of COVID and runaway inflation with no additional state resources. Federal dollars from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund have buoyed Wisconsin schools on an emergency basis. However, these federal funds are only temporary and will not be available into the future. If current financial conditions are allowed to continue, Wisconsin’s public schools will face a fiscal cliff. We encourage community members to reach out to your local superintendent to learn more.
Stagnant state funding has shifted more of the cost of educating children onto each of our communities. Of the 424 school districts in Wisconsin, 83% have held a capital referendum in the past 10 years and 50% have held a referendum since 2020. This at a time when our state has a record budget surplus of over $7 billion on-hand (Wisconsin Policy Forum).
Your help is needed. With our state’s school districts being squeezed financially and a $7 billion budget surplus on-hand, it’s time for our legislators to take action in support of public schools. Now more than ever, your voice is needed. Please take the opportunity to reach out to your elected officials in Madison for better funding of our public schools.
Thank you for your support of public education in our community and state.
The CESA 11 Superintendents