AEF Releases Revenue Limit Gaps for Legislative Districts

AEF today announced the release of 84 revenue limit gap analyses for key legislative districts. These materials will help legislators understand the impact that 30 years of revenue limits have had on their constituent school districts. In combination with our Revenue Limit Map, the new district-by-district analysis drives home the fact that Wisconsin’s system for school funding leaves almost 25% of students behind in favor of much higher funding in select school districts. As many readers know, the funding is not based on demographics or student need. Instead, revenue limits are based on what a school district was spending 3 decades ago. The differences were established then and have persisted ever since. It makes no sense and is not a fair way to distribute tax dollars.

The current legislative district analysis shows the revenue limit in every public school district for those legislators. Working with the school finance experts at RW Baird and our colleague Dr. Andrew Reschovsky, emeritus at UW-Madison’s LaFollette School of Public Affairs, we were able to show significant deficits in a single budget year as well as the cumulative effect of low funding for many school districts across the state.

We also summarized a recent research project we commissioned from Dr. Jesse Rothstein, noted economist from the University of California. In that study and a follow-up by AEF, we found significant impacts of revenue limits on district operations and student outcomes. We found that low revenue districts:

  • Send a smaller share of their students to college.
  • Spend 25% less per student on elementary teachers and have 8% more children per classroom.
  • Make up just 17% of districts that spend more than $3000 per MS/HS student, while high revenue districts are 50% of the total.
  • Spend 30% less, but have 12% more students for every school counselor.
  • Spend 22% less on nursing care compared to high revenue districts.
  • Make up just one-third of the districts spending the most on Library Media Specialists.

Furthermore, districts at the bottom level of revenues in 1993 are almost all still there today. Revenue limits trap students and districts in unfavorable funding cycles creating winners and loser every time there is a new state budget.

A brief explanatory video is available on AEF’s YouTube Channel.

In the 2019-2021 budget cycle, the Joint Finance Committee added $700 to the low revenue amount. AEF is calling for a $1500 increase in the 2023-2025 budget. This would create a situation where more than 350 out of 421 districts are funded at the same per pupil amount. In fact, over 90% of districts would be funded within 10% of the same per pupil amount. That’s a much more fair distribution of state and local tax revenues.

Here you can scroll through the data sheet for Senator Romaine Robert Quinn from a large portion of northwestern Wisconsin. See below for the links to the data sheets for all of the 84 legislators we were able to provide information to. These data sheets were distributed to the offices of these legislators at the State Capitol on March 10th, 2023 (Representative Hurd was emailed her report on 3/16/23).

AEF members agree: it’s time for the unfair, unequal, and unconstitutional revenue limit system to sunset.

For more information, contact AEF Executive Director John Humphries at (608) 438-6109 or