Nothing is more frustrating than seeing inaccurate information online especially when it comes to our schools. The misleading rhetoric from the left has somehow infiltrated the minds of individuals in our area and their claims on education funding are far from the truth. Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican-led legislature have actually increased funding for education not decreased the state’s investment.
The current biennial state budget for K-12 education provides the largest amount in actual dollars in state history to Wisconsin schools. Republicans voted to spend $700 million more in this biennium alone to improve schools. In addition, the budget contains $6 million in new money for special education and mental health services as well as new technology grants for broadband and one-to-one learning initiatives. We’re putting more money directly into the classroom, increasing per pupil funding and helping teachers through additional grants and a better licensing process. Most recently, we made a $100 million investment in school safety improvements and mental health training.
We understand that we live in polarized times and some people won’t accept this reality: Republicans do support schools. We want every child regardless of where they live in Wisconsin to have an excellent education.
We invite you to look at the education funding numbers for yourself. The figures below are from the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau and show state support for K-12 schools from the last six school years.
State Support for K-12 Education
- 2013-2014 —$5,987,400,000
- 2014-2015 —$6,149,900,000
- 2015-2016 —$6,258,400,000
- 2016-2017 —$6,458,791,200
- 2017-2018 —$6,731,326,400
- 2018-2019 —$6,994,390,000
K-12 education funding is the largest funded program in the state budget, making up 33 percent. It’s double the amount of the next largest general fund program, medical assistance benefits. To say that Republicans aren’t making schools a priority is simply wrong.
These state dollars are distributed to districts in several ways that include general aid payments and money going to a specific purpose, which is called categorical aids. The Legislative Fiscal Bureau gave us the state funding levels for the Racine Unified School District since 2013. It estimated that general aids increased by 16.1 percent and is now at $153,290,554 for the current school year. Categorical aids increased by more than 40 percent. Keep in mind that the student population is decreasing in the district, yet funding from the state is increasing.
Of course, more money doesn’t necessarily translate into better results in the classroom. Racine Unified received lower marks on their report card again this year. It received a “meets few expectations” grade. More than a handful of schools received a failing grade. It is understandable that people want answers; they want accountability but no one should make state funding the scapegoat.
There are many problems and issues with Racine Unified that time and space won’t allow us to address here. We do want to point out that Racine Unified seems to be stuck in a pre-Act 10 world where the district favors a select few rather than serving the district’s students and parents. While districts across Wisconsin have utilized the tools that are available from Act 10, Racine Unified refuses to innovate or even ask their employees to pay a reasonable amount for their health insurance. Like you, we continue to be frustrated with what we’re seeing at Racine Unified. As we have in the past, we will continue to support our schools and demand accountability. Children leaving Racine Unified must be ready for life after high school, whether it’s college or the workforce. We hope you can join us in that goal.