K-12 Finance

Current school funding is a complex combination of state, local and federal aid. Funding in districts is largely based on antiquated revenue limits that have cemented in place funding gaps for 25 years. Students are worth more, or less, depending on where they happen to live, or whether they attend a choice or charter school. The current funding system even utilizes a three-year rolling average of enrollment that allows districts to receive funding for students they no longer educate.

WILL’s priorities for K-12 finance include public school spending transparency, student-centered funding models, and closing the funding gaps between school sectors.

Legislation and Testimony

AB 378 | SB 373

An Act to create 115.28 (13m) of the statutes; Relating to: making school district and school financial information available to the public.

Bill Text | WILL Testimony | Press Release

Research and Analysis

Fund Every Kid: Reforming Wisconsin’s School Funding Formula

July 20, 2021 | Will Flanders

The current funding formula in Wisconsin is characterized by inequality across sectors and districts, with the value of a student changing depending on where they go to school. We propose a reform to the funding system that will create equitable funding no matter which school door a child walks into, and will begin the conversation about more fundamental reform to the system.

Press Release | Report

The case for public school spending transparency in Wisconsin

February, 2020 | Libby Sobic and CJ Szafir

Transparency in public school spending achieves several goals, including promoting effective and efficient use of taxpayer dollars, empowering school leaders and parents to help understand how resources are flowing from the state to the classroom, and providing a base line to understand how schools are being allocated funds and whether schools are getting “fair funding.”

Report

Truth in Spending: An Analysis of K-12 Spending in Wisconsin

March 18, 2019 | Will Flanders

Truth in Spending: An Analysis of K-12 Spending in Wisconsin lays out the facts about K-12 spending in Wisconsin, where Wisconsin ranks nationally, and which school districts are getting the most bang for the buck. Most notably, using the most recent year of data available from DPI, Will Flanders examined the relationship of K-12 spending on public schools and student outcomes.

Press Release | Report

Money for Nothing: The Relationship Between Various Types of School Funding and Academic Outcomes

August 7, 2018 | Will Flanders

This report looks at the relationship between test scores and the number of non-teachers in a school district, per pupil spending in a district, and teacher pay. None of these factors seem to be linked to higher student test scores.

Press Release | Report

Biased Questions, Biased Answers: Getting Beyond the Rhetoric and Talking Points on School Financing

August 29, 2016 | Will Flanders

The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty has released a policy brief, authored by Dr. Will Flanders, that objectively explains the recent debate over K-12 public school funding, spurred by Legislative Fiscal Bureau memos.

Press Release | Report

Pope’s Fallacy: A Brief Primer on General School Aid

July 21, 2015 | Martin Lueken, CJ Szafir

In response to critics of education reform, who regularly cite data provided by Wisconsin’s Department of Public Instruction, the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty has released a policy brief correcting common misunderstandings of how Wisconsin K-12 education finance works and provides a more complete and accurate perspective on the effects of the recent biennial budget on general school aids.

Press Release | Report

Diminishing Returns in K-12 Education

April 3, 2015 | Martin Lueken, Rick Esenberg, CJ Szafir

Wisconsin does not seem to be receiving a good return when measured against global education benchmarks. Using OECD data, this report builds the case that the current Wisconsin K-12 system spends too much for too little in results. Despite spending over $3,000 more per pupil than the average of economically developed countries (OECD), the average Wisconsin student scores better than only 52% of students in the OECD in reading and 47% in math. These results are worse when Wisconsin school districts are compared to specific high-performing countries.

Press Release | Report

Media and Commentary

Wisconsin State Journal | Republican groups eye school funding overhaul that factors in student poverty

July 19, 2021 | Elizabeth Beyer

WILL Blog | SCHOOL FUNDING AND THE PANDEMIC: HOW MUCH MONEY IS ENOUGH?

May 25, 2021 | Libby Sobic and Will Flanders

WILL Blog | School Closures Saved Schools Money. But Where Did it Go?

January 6, 2021 | Will Flanders and Jessica Holmberg

Wisconsin State Journal | If education is changing, so should the funding.

October 30, 2020 | Will Flanders

EdWeek | As More States Reveal School Spending Numbers, Questions, Criticisms Abound

February 5, 2020

Radio Interview | Libby Sobic with John Muir on K-12 Spending Transparency (WTAQ)

February 4, 2020 | Libby Sobic