Frequently Asked Questions
Q) What is “Fair Funding for Our Future”?
Fair Funding for Our Future is the name given to State Superintendent Tony Evers’s school finance reform plan. The plan addresses some of the most critical problems with the current school funding system and proposes changes to help to ensure the quality of our schools, protect taxpayers, and provide a greater level of transparency by assuring state aid for schools goes directly to schools.
This plan is realistic and ready, providing solutions that are good education and public policy, as well as politically viable. It is a powerful first step that makes long overdue changes to the funding formula, maximizes existing resources, and sets the stage for greater state support in future years.
Q) Why are changes needed to the way in which we fund our schools?
Across our state, schools are struggling. Many have been forced to lay off staff and cut programs. Others are struggling to determine how to address aging facilities and how to ensure that students receive the quality education they need for success in the future. To be sure, the tradition of excellence in Wisconsin education is at risk.
There are many reasons why the current school funding system simply does not work for our schools and students:
- Revenue limits have required many districts to increase class sizes, reduce programming, etc.
- There is no minimum funding per student in Wisconsin, and dozens of districts get little or no general school aid.
- The current system counts the School Levy Tax Credit as “state support for schools”, when none of those dollars go directly to schools.
- The current system relies only on property wealth, without accounting for income as a factor in communities' ability to pay for schools--thus districts with high property values but low per capita income fare poorly.
- We no longer have a predictable system of funding our schools that districts can count on.
Q) How does the “Fair Funding” plan address these problems?
The plan reforms Wisconsin’s school funding system by:
- Restoring reasonable growth in revenue limits (+$225-230 per pupil annually) and requesting reasonable investments in general aid (3.75% in FY14 and 5.4% in FY15) to provide a modest increase in school spending while protecting taxpayers;
- Establishing predictable growth in state aids by creating a pathway to restoring the state's two-thirds funding commitment, creating a more sustainable and well-aligned funding structure;
- Guaranteeing a minimum amount of state general equalization aid for every student ($3,000), providing vital resources to school districts that currently receive little or no state aid;
- Incorporating a poverty-factor into the formula (30%), accounting for families’ ability to pay—not just their property value;
- Directing all state aid right to school districts;
- Making technical formula changes that strengthen rural, declining enrollment and negatively aided districts by increasing the secondary cost ceiling and special adjustment aid level;
Q) Which school districts would receive funding under the plan? Would this reduce the amount of money that my district receives?
Under the Fair Funding for Our Future plan, all school districts would see an increase in their state general equalization aid.
Q) But this plan would move the School Levy Tax Credit (SLTC) into general school aids. Won’t those communities that currently benefit from the credit lose under this plan?
When the impact of moving the SLTC is taken into account, all districts would see increased or the same amount of total state aid (general aids and levy credits) for schools. Under the plan, 95% of school districts would see an increase in total state aid (402 of 424), and the remaining 5% would receive the same amount through a hold harmless provision in the plan.
Most districts in communities that currently benefit more from the SLTC than the state’s general equalization aid formula would be positively impacted by the Fair Funding reforms, particularly the minimum aid per student and the income weighting component. For those districts that may still be negatively impacted, the plan includes a $5 million hold harmless provision, so no Wisconsin school district would receive less total state aid (general aid and levy credits) than it does now.
Q) Will taxes increase?
This plan holds the line on property taxes. In the first year of the plan, gross statewide school property taxes are estimated to decrease by more than 18% – more than when the state instituted the two-thirds funding commitment in the 1990s. In net terms (i.e. when the impact of the SLTC is considered), net statewide school property taxes are estimated to be held at 0%.
Q) How can the state superintendent ask for an increase in state aid right now?
This plan is about establishing priorities. Especially during these difficult economic times, it is extremely important for Wisconsin to have highly educated students prepared to compete on the world stage. In this way, ensuring that our state has quality public schools is more critical than simply a matter of ensuring that the Wisconsin public school tradition continues. It is a matter of guaranteeing our future economic success.
Q) How would this impact spending caps (i.e. revenue limits)?
Next year, under state law, districts will not be allowed any per student increase under revenue limits. The state superintendent’s plan will provide increases of $225 per student in the 2013-14 school year and $230 per student in 2014-15. These efforts would provide districts with a modest increase in their spending during difficult economic times, while helping to hold the line on property taxes across the state.
Q) Does use of School Levy Tax Credit dollars in the formula include both the regular School Levy Tax Credit and the First Dollar Credit, thus eliminating both programs?
Under this plan, the School Levy Tax Credit and the First Dollar Credit would be included as state general equalization aid to schools in 2014-15.
Q) Are categorical aids being affected?
Given the difficult economic times, the plan includes the increased funding in our highest need areas:
- Special Education
- High Cost Special Education
- Bilingual/Bicultural Education
- School Breakfast
- Sparsity Aid
The plan establishes the following new categorial aids:
- Supplemental Bilingual-Bicultural Aid: Provide $100 per student to all school districts educating English Language Learner students, not just those required to have programs.
- High-Cost Transportation: Target state resources to geographically large rural districts whose transportation costs exceed 150% of the state average.
- Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM): Create a statewide STEM initiative by awarding competitive grants to districts implementing STEM activities.
- College & Career Ready/Career and Technical Education: Promote job creation by providing $1,000 per student to districts graduating students with a high-need industry certification.
- Accountability: Support the best practices of high-performing schools and invest in reading and math coaches in lower-performing schools.
- Graduation: Increase graduation rates by targeting grants to districts with persistent graduation and/or dropout issues.
- Educator Effectiveness: Provide $80 per educator to support new evaluation systems per state law.