Rural School Leaders: Funding System Broken

By John Forester | October 31, 2014

Rural school leaders from northeast Wisconsin met yesterday in Ashwaubenon for a panel discussion on the problems facing rural schools and the impact on Wisconsin rural school children.  They called on both gubernatorial candidates to offer more detail on their K-12 education proposals before next Tuesday’s election.  See links to news coverage of the event below.

WBAY News Story

Green Bay Press-Gazette News Story

Fox 11 News Story

WSAW News Report


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Walker Opens Up 7-Point Lead

By John Forester | October 30, 2014

From WisPolitics:

Gov. Scott Walker opened up a 7-point lead on Dem rival Mary Burke in the latest Marquette University Law School Poll.

The survey found 50 percent of likely voters backed Walker, while 43 percent supported Burke. That’s a change from two weeks ago, when the two were tied at 47-apiece among likely voters.

Among registered voters, it was Walker 46, Burke 45. Poll director Charles Franklin said the contrast in the numbers for likely voters vs. registered voters underscores how important turnout is with more Walker voters are saying they’re likely to turn out Tuesday than Burke voters.

“If more people show up, this looks like a very close election,” he said.

Franklin also said several factors accounted for the shift in Walker’s favor compared to the results from two weeks ago.

One, there was an uptick in the number of Republican voters who say they will for sure turn out next week. It was 93 percent in this survey, compared to 82 percent in the last one. Franklin said while there is reason to be skeptical 93 percent of Republicans will turn out on Election Day, that number matches the final Marquette Law poll before the 2012 recall election.

Eighty-two percent of Dems and 75 percent of independents said they plan to turn out. Two weeks ago, 80 percent of Dems and independents planned to show up.

Two, independents swung back in Walker’s direction. Likely independent voters backed Walker 52-37; two weeks ago, 45 percent backed Burke, compared to 44 percent for Walker.

Finally, the gender gap re-emerged for both candidates, with Walker taking a much larger advantage among male voters than Burke has with women. Walker led among likely male voters 58-36, while Burke had the edge with likely female voters 49-43.

The average gender gap in the six Marquette polls since July has been a 52-42 lead among women for Burke and a 55-40 lead among men for Walker.

The poll also found slight upticks for Walker on several questions, while Burke’s favorability rating has dropped.

Fifty-two percent of likely voters approve of the job Walker is doing, while 46 percent disapprove. Two weeks ago, that was 50-48.

Walker was also viewed favorably by 51 percent of likely voters and and unfavorably by 46 percent.

Burke, meanwhile, was viewed favorably by 39 percent of likely voters and unfavorably by 49 percent. Two weeks ago, it was 44-44.

Also, 54 percent of likely voters say the state is on the right track, while 42 percent said it was on the wrong track. Asked about “all the changes in state government” the last few years, 53 percent of likely voters said they have made things better, while 40 percent said they’ve made things worse.

See Milwaukee Journal Sentinel coverage here.

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Statewide Voucher Program Enrollment Counts

By John Forester | October 23, 2014

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) has announced enrollment information related to private school voucher students in the statewide Wisconsin Parental Choice Program (WPCP).

Of particular interest are the following two pieces of information:

For more information see DPI News Release.

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Milwaukee Journal Sentinel On School Funding

By John Forester | October 23, 2014

Here is an excellent editorial from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on school funding.

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Borsuk on Post-Election Voucher Reality

By John Forester | October 20, 2014

​In his latest column, Alan Borsuk, education columnist for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, identifies the real post-election issue on vouchers as cost.  In the process, he reiterates the SAA’s argument that voucher expansion is a burgeoning entitlement program for tuition-paying parents of private school students.  Borsuk is always worth the read.


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Latest Marquette Law Poll: Dead Heat

By John Forester | October 16, 2014

From WisPolitics…

The latest Marquette University Law School Poll has Gov. Scott Walker and Dem rival Mary Burke tied among likely voters.

Forty-seven percent of likely voters backed each candidate two weeks after the poll had Walker up 50-45.

The poll also found a tie in the AG’s race, where Dem Susan Happ and Republican Brad Schimel were each backed by 42 percent of likely voters surveyed. Last time, Schimel had a 41-39 edge.

Poll director Charles Franklin said there has been a series of subtle shifts in the poll compared to the one conducted two weeks ago. One of the biggest, he said, was the movement among independents.

Partisans are locked in to their party’s candidate with 96 percent of Republicans backing Walker and 94 percent of Dems supporting Burke.

But Burke edged Walker among independents in this poll 45-44 after he led 53-40 among those voters two weeks ago.

“This is where the volatility is,” Franklin said.

In addition to independents swinging toward Burke, more of them also indicated they plan to vote in November compared to those who said the same two weeks ago.

Among partisans, 82 percent of Republicans and 80 percent of Dems say they are likely to vote. That was 80 percent and 77 percent, respectively, two weeks ago.

Among independents, 80 percent said they’re likely to vote, compared to 67 percent two weeks ago.

Franklin said if those numbers hold, it would suggest a turnout of about 2.6 million voters, just eclipsing the number that turned out for the 2012 recall election.

Still, that would be significantly higher than any other non-presidential election in Wisconsin over the past 60 years. A GAB tally of turnout going back to 1948 shows the highest turnout for a mid-term election was 2.17 million in 2010.

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General Aid Certified to Districts

By John Forester | October 16, 2014

From . . .

Just over half the state’s school districts will see an increase in state funding during the current academic year, according to an annual report on K-12 aid from the state Department of Public Instruction.

According to the report, 220 of the state’s 424 public school districts will see aid increases totaling more than $120 million, while 204 will see no increase or an aid drop. The 202 districts with aid decreases will see their funding drop by a total of nearly $35 million.

DPI said although overall aid increased by $94.4 million, the districts themselves will only see $85.5 million due to “statutory reductions to general state aid for private voucher schools in Milwaukee and independent charter schools supported by state tax dollars.”

Milwaukee Public Schools — by far the state’s largest district — will see an increase of 0.73 percent, although DPI said the district’s aid was reduced by more than $60 million for the city’s school choice program.

Most other large districts also saw aid increases, including Madison (4.06 percent), Kenosha (2.84 percent) and Green Bay (3.66 percent). Among the state’s 10 largest districts, only Eau Claire and Sheboygan saw aid drops, at 3.98 percent and 0.32 percent, respectively.

The Northwood School District in northwestern Wisconsin saw the largest aid decrease, with an aid level more than 30 percent below its 2013-2014 total. Pewaukee saw the largest increase at more than 150 percent, which DPI attributed to increased enrollment and a loss of property value in the suburban Milwaukee district.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, touted the overall aid increase, saying “our communities are continuing to see the benefits of the fiscally responsible policies of the last two legislative sessions.”

Minority Leader Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, countered the report “exemplifies how our school finance system is broken and inequitably chooses winners and losers among classrooms across our state.”

See the DPI release here.

See state aid totals by district here.

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Rural Superintendents Speak Out on School Funding

By John Forester | October 15, 2014

School superintendents from Southwestern Wisconsin spoke out on the underfunding of their school districts and the impact it has on the students they serve at a press conference in Platteville yesterday morning.  These superintendents did an outstanding job of framing the issue.

For more information, see the NBC15 (Madison) coverage of the event.

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Questions For Candidates

By John Forester | October 14, 2014

With Election Day just three weeks away, the SAA wanted to provide members with a few questions about public education that voters should ask of candidates for state office before entering the voting booth on November 4th.  We are providing these questions in the body of a sample op-ed piece.

Feel free to use this op-ed piece and to modify it for your own use.

Thanks for listening.  And, thanks for all you do on behalf of Wisconsin public school children.


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Wistax on School Fund Balances

By John Forester | October 14, 2014

​A couple weeks ago, Wistax released an issue of its newsletter, Focus​, devoted to a look at school fund balances.  Given the political interest generated by the UW System fund balance controversy, it is surprising that the Wistax piece received such limited media attention.

You might recall that the SAA released two school fund balance documents for SAA members in its August 25, 2014 blog post.  In their newsletter, Wistax makes many of the same major points that the SAA did in its work on school fund balances.

I want to leave you with an excerpt from the final section of the Wistax newsletter:

“. . . it is fair to say that many Wisconsin school districts have been building reserves to ensure future fiscal stability at a time of spotty economic recovery, divisive partisan politics, and boom-bust state budgeting.  Ironically, the source of the latter is state government’s inability for years to build any meaningful budget reserves.”


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