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
Research and Analysis
Tidal Wave: Exploring the Ripple of Ending School Choice in Wisconsin
BREAKING THE CHAIN: DECOUPLING SCHOOL CHOICE FUNDING IN WISCONSIN
June, 2023 | Will Flanders
School choice in Wisconsin is undergoing some exciting changes. In this policy brief, we explore how private schools in the choice program are currently funded, and why decoupling would be an important improvement.
GHOST STUDENTS: THE INEFFICIENT ALLOCATION OF TAXPAYER DOLLARS IN WISCONSIN’S SCHOOLS
March 3, 2023 | Will Flanders
Wisconsin uses what is known as the “Three-Year Rolling Average” to count students for the purposes of calculating school district revenue limits. Under this system, three years of enrollment data are used in calculating how much money the district is able to collect from state and local taxpayers.
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.
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.”
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.
A Deep Dive into Governor Evers’ K-12 Budget Proposal
April, 2019 | Will Flanders, Libby Sobic
We dive deep into nearly every provision in his budget, from his infamous choice freeze and public charter moratorium to the lesser-known provisions like changing private school accreditation, new-teacher licensing, the Early College Credit Program, and more mandates from Madison on local school districts.
Money for Nothing: The Relationship Between Various Types of School Funding and Academic Outcomes
Biased Questions, Biased Answers: Getting Beyond the Rhetoric and Talking Points on School Financing
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.
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.
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