Published on September 15, 2014
Schultz said. “What it means is poor parts of the state, more rural parts of the state, are falling fur- ther and further behind, and that has consequences for kids.” The Fair Funding proposal would aim to restore the two-thirds promise over time. But it would also guarantee a minimum level of state aid per student to schools, something that doesn’t currently exist. “The base funding of $3,000 per student is incredibly important because, as I toured on the Rural Schools Task Force, I met so many districts. I think I actually heard the number, one out of ten dis- tricts receive no state funding,” Wright said. The Fair Funding plan would also credit schools with high poverty rates, which could especially aid northern Wisconsin districts. Across the state, the proportion of students eligible for free and reduced lunch, a classic indicator of poverty, more than doubled between 2001 and 2012. Meanwhile, a provision called sparsity aid credits poor, rural, low-enrollment schools, helping shoul- der the cost of things like transportation. A push to expand sparsity aid in Wisconsin died in the Legislature last session, and is not a major point in the Fair Funding template. “I think that that is something we denitely need to consider as we revise,” Wright said. While the Fair Funding plan may be attractive to many interested in school funding changes, it doesn’t come without cost. Last legislative session, the up-front cost was estimated at $400 million. Wright believes if rural schools get better funding, people can be condent the money will be spent properly. “We already have a signicant amount of accountability measures,” she said of current state stan- dards. The Fair Funding proposal is multifaceted. But neither Schultz nor Wright think breaking it down into smaller pieces in the Legislature for ease of passage would work. “It’s important that we do it as a big package because if we take it apart too much, I think it doesn’t work as a whole,” Wright said. “It’s more politically viable because it’s been thought through and it can be explained as a package,” Schultz said. Would suburban lawmakers, whose school districts may be comfortable with the current system, vote for a change?