Tue September 4, 2012
Report: Wisconsin's Education Cuts Among the Country's Deepest
A new report ranks Wisconsin number eight among states that have cut public funding to K-12 education. But critics of the report say it ignores the positive effect that eliminating collective bargaining rights has had on the ability of school districts to save money.
The report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington shows the cut in per-student funding in Wisconsin is actually the fourth-largest in the country. Jon Peacock of the Wisconsin Budget Project says that's the wrong direction for the state to be heading. He says eventually these budget cuts will have an impact on the quality of education the schools are offering.
"Wisconsin has long prided itself on being number one or number two in ACT scores," he says. "I think we should continue to aspire [to] that. And at some point if we keep making cuts like this we really can't expect those kind of outcomes."
But the chair of the state Assembly Education committee, Steve Kestell, says Wisconsin has come up with a unique approach to school funding that he believes in the long run will allow school districts to use their money more effectively, and cushion themselves from state funding cuts.
"We've always been kind of chasing after the escalating costs no matter how much we put in," he says. "What makes Wisconsin a little unique, post Act 10, is that we've actually done something about the escalating costs and given school districts a whole lot more ability to control their costs."
Kestell is referring to the limitations on teacher union bargaining rights included in Act 10 that have allowed some districts to reduce the cost of teacher salaries and benefits. But critics point out that the budget cuts have led to the lay off of more than a thousand teachers.