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Legislative Commission Meets To Reform State School Funding

Members Hope To Have Plan By Next State Budget

School lockers
wired_gr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The state Legislature’s Blue Ribbon Commission on School Funding kicked off Thursday morning with presentations from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau and the state Department of Public Instruction. The goal is to reform the state’s school funding formula by the next state budget.

Wisconsin schools get their funding from local, state and federal aid. The commission addressed topics like revenue limits, tax leveeing and declining enrollment.

Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, co-chairs the commission. He said he doesn’t want this commission to “collect dust.”

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“It’s time that we really take a look at this and figure out what funding system and how do we wanna make sure that our schools can do what they need to do for the next 20 to 50 years,” Olsen said.

Commission members shared a cautious optimism for the group and its goals. Rep. Jason Fields, D-Glendale, said he had mixed feelings about the commission, but said he hopes this commission focuses on the children.

“I’m thankful that I get the chance to sit with all of you and learn and hear, and I’m hoping that at the end of the day we come away with something being done,” Fields said. “I would hate for this to be a waste of time.”

The commission is a bipartisan effort that also includes educators, school officials and advocates.

Ted Neitzke, the CEO of CESA 6, an educational advocacy organization, is on the commission. He said he’s held every role in education, “… and the one thing that’s been consistent is dollars not being equitable across neighboring school systems.”

The commission hopes to have a plan ready by the next state budget in 2019.

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