Education spending down in WisconsinWisconsin public schools budgeted to spend $10.28 billion in 2011-12, or 5.4 percent less than in 2010-11. Expenditures per student dropped 5.1 percent, from $12,660 to $12,012.
Wisconsin public schools budgeted to spend $10.28 billion in 2011-12, or 5.4 percent less than in 2010-11. Expenditures per student dropped 5.1 percent, from $12,660 to $12,012. The decline was due largely to a 5.5 percent reduction in state-imposed revenue limits enacted in the 2011-13 state budget. These and other important facts about Wisconsin’s public schools are detailed in SchoolFacts12, the annual reference guide from the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WISTAX). For every school district in the state, SchoolFacts provides a wide range of information on spending, revenue, enrollment, staffing, and test scores.
Much of the school spending decline can be attributed to reduced benefit costs. Changes in state law allowed districts to require higher employee contributions for both retirement and health insurance, or to change to lower-cost health insurance providers.
Overall, spending declined the most in areas that are labor intensive. Lower compensation costs — primarily due to reduced benefit costs — for instructional personnel (down 6.8 percent) resulted in a 5.4 percent drop in overall instruction costs. Funding for instructional support declined 5.5 percent. Spending on building and grounds fell 3.3 percent, while transportation costs rose 1.5 percent due largely to higher fuel costs.
In addition to reducing revenue limits, the governor and legislature also cut state aid to schools to help balance the state budget. General (or equalization) aids were down 8.3 percent in 2012 and near 2004 levels, WISTAX said. Categorical aids (e.g., special education and transportation) dropped 6.9 percent in 2012. Combined,
total state aids were $4.89 billion, or 8.1 percent less than in 2011. WISTAX’s new SchoolFacts book also has information on school property taxes, which are tied to state general aids and revenue limits. Due primarily to the combined reduction of state aid and revenue limits, statewide school levies fell 1.0 percent in 2012. The reduction was the first since 2006 and the largest since the 16 percent drop in 1997 when the state added more than $1 billion to school aids and related tax credits.
Lower revenue limits and falling student numbers led to a continuation of several years of staff declines.
The number of teachers fell 1,438 (-2.5 percent) in 2012. Library staff (-93, -8.9 percent), support staff (-992, -3.1 percent), and specialists (-360, -5.6 percent) also fell by relatively large percentages. There were 75 (-2.1 percent) fewer administrators in 2012 than in 2011.
WISTAX’s SchoolFacts12 also reports that statewide school enrollments declined more than 700 to 857,082 in 2011-12, their lowest level since 1995-96. Enrollment figures are important because they affect district finances, particularly the size of the district’s revenue limit and its state aid. Despite the decline in Reduced Revenue Limits Push School Spending Down 5.4 percent in 2011-12 WISTAX’s SchoolFacts12 Provides Comprehensive School Information statewide numbers, some districts continued to grow. Over the last five years, Geneva J4 increased student numbers 41 percent, from 91 to 128 students. Several large districts also grew significantly. During 2007-12, Holmen, Kimberly, New Richmond, Oconomowoc, Sun Prairie, and Waunakee each had enrollment increases of 10 percent or more.
SchoolFacts, the state’s most complete published collection of Wisconsin school district information, also contains summary figures by cooperative educational service agency (CESA) and by district size.
Supplemental reports for an athletic conference, a select group of districts, or a district’s history can also be ordered from WISTAX. Now celebrating its 80th year, WISTAX is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization
dedicated to public policy research and citizen education.
SchoolFacts12 can be purchased by writing the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, 401 North Lawn Ave., Madison, WI 53704-5033; c 608-241-9789; or go to www.wistax.org.