AEF Announces State Superintendent Candidate Forum: January 20th @ 6:30

The Association for Equity in Funding (AEF) announced plans for a State Superintendent candidate forum to be held January 20th, 2021 from 6:30-8:00 PM via Zoom.

AEF Steering Committee members will ask the candidates for their views about how to best fund schools in Wisconsin, about issues related to funding equity, and about their understanding of the state school finance system. Other questions will relate to the Blue Ribbon Funding Task Force recommendations and the impact of inequitable funding on student success. 

AEF Steering Committee Chair John Gaier expressed his excitement at the opportunity to hear from the candidates. “While the Blue Ribbon Commission on School Funding has made some important recommendations, AEF is concerned at the slow pace of adoption of those recommendations. Our new State Superintendent will have a heavy workload, collaborating with legislators and the Governor to help make our funding system more equitable and fair. Our candidate forum will be a great opportunity for our members, media, and voters to learn more about this important topic,” Gaier said.

Requests for the Zoom link can be sent to AEF Executive Director John Humphries, at

The Wisconsin Association for Equity in Funding (WAEF) is a group of Wisconsin school districts that seeks financial equity in the state system of school financing. The members include urban, suburban and rural schools. The two issues that brought this group together have been the wide differences in the amount school districts have been able to invest in the education of their children and the even wider differences in the property tax burden to pay for that investment.


AEF Announces John Humphries Is New Executive Director

For Immediate Release:

John Gaier, President

Wisconsin Association for Equity in Funding


AEF Announces John Humphries Is New Executive Director

Neillsville, WI, August 31, 2020

The Wisconsin Association for Equity in Funding (AEF) announced today the retention of John Humphries as Executive Director, as it prepares to launch a new phase of efforts at improving equity in state school funding.

“We are thrilled to have someone with John’s background and experience in this critical position in our organization, “said John Gaier, President of AEF. Not only was Mr. Humphries a successful District Administrator in a rural, low-revenue district, he has central office leadership experiences in urban Beloit, suburban Middleton-Cross Plains, and small rural schools from Dodgeville to La Farge to Thorp.

AEF plans to continue their work to remedy the educational inequities that result from an antiquated school funding system. “Our first order of business will be to maintain and even extend the revenue limit adjustments from the last state budget cycle” Gaier said. Revenue limits were increased from a minimum $9700 to $10,000 per student in the current biennium, a clear improvement, but one that highlighted the need for more equity. Preliminary analyses suggest that this change had a minimal impact on the overall variability of revenue amounts that districts across the state are allowed to raise through state aid and local taxes.

AEF will clearly demonstrate the impact of continuing revenue limit discrepancies, and will begin to re-examine the groups highlighted in AEF’s last major effort: the Vincent v. Voight decision in the Wisconsin Supreme Court. “Legislators should be on notice: the Vincent decision made it very clear that our State Constitution requires equity. AEF intends to tirelessly advocate for equitable funding and equitable opportunities for all children across the state.”

In addition to district office experience, Mr. Humphries brings seven years of experience at the Department of Public Instruction where he was a lead author on a 5-year administrative rule change process involving special education. Humphries was also the lead technical consultant on the settlement to a federal class action lawsuit, Jamie S v. Milwaukee Public Schools, et. al.  In his 2017 bid for State Superintendent, Humphries worked across the political aisle to rally support for school improvement. He brings critical background to the AEF at a time when school finance is taking center stage.

“I’m very excited for this opportunity to improve funding equity across the state. What was a short-term fix, Revenue Limits have turned into a decades-long error in our school funding model. As a District Administrator in a low-revenue district, I saw firsthand the inequities caused by our funding system. I will work tirelessly to ensure that voters and legislators across the state understand how this system is impacting children every day. A great education should not be related to the amount that your district spent in 1993.“

John Humphries has served on the Mount Horeb Community Foundation Board, and was President of the Wisconsin School Psychologists Association. He and his wife Kay Rhode live in Mount Horeb and have two adult sons. He can be reached at, or via cell at 608-438-6109.

The Wisconsin Association for Equity in Funding (WAEF) is a group of Wisconsin school districts that seeks financial equity in the state system of school financing. Members include urban, suburban and rural schools, educating about 85,000 students across Wisconsin. The two issues that brought this group together have been the wide differences in the amount school districts have been able to invest in the education of their children (Revenue Limits) and the even wider differences in the property tax burden to pay for that investment.


AEF Releases New Study

On April 10, AEF held a press conference at the Capitol to release it latest study. The study underscores the increasing need to address funding disparity. Previous factors that
protected certain district types against declining student outcomes due to poverty and truancy have disappeared. Specifically, the effects of poverty and truancy have become too strong to be overcome by the previous resiliency of rural and suburban districts.

The study also indicates that increased funding disparity has a greater negative effect within low poverty districts, such that state report card scores of low poverty districts with high funding disparity no longer differ from state report card scores of their counterpart median and high poverty districts with high funding disparity. These factors all point to a greater urgency to address the root causes of disparity, as well as the disparities we now know to be caused by inadequate funding of our Wisconsin public

AEF’s latest study

Learn more about your school district’s funding disparities.

AEF Press Conference Presentation




Evers Aims to Fully Fund Public Schools

During his inauguration speech, Governor Evers stated that his aim is to fully fund public education. WUWM reported that “Evers sought a $1.4 billion increase to education funding over the next two years. As governor, he plans to propose a similar budget.”

Michelle Langenfeld who serves as the superintendent of Green Bay Area Public Schools, is an AEF member and served on the Blue Ribbon Commission was quoted as saying: “I’ve never felt more hopeful about the investment in children, in public education in the state.”

AEF Statement on GOP Assembly School Funding Plan

The Assembly Republicans and Governor Walker have released plans that call for additional support for our PK-12 public school systems in the next biennial budget. Members of the Wisconsin Association of Equity in Funding (WAEF) applaud the change in direction from past budget decisions that included significant funding cuts and minimal increases (far below the cost of inflation) for PK-12 public schools.

WAEF members believe our lawmakers have heard the voice of the citizens of the state and have agreed that PK-12 public schools need additional funding support from Madison. We strongly endorse the Governor’s proposal to increase per student categorical funding of $200 per student in the first year and an additional increase of $204 in the second year. We encourage Governor Walker to continue to advocate for this increase and secure these funds in the final budget.

WAEF has reviewed the Assembly Republicans proposed PK-12 education funding plan, and support the effort to create greater equity by allowing low spending districts the authority to increase their revenue limit to $9,800 per student. While the increased low spending revenue cap authority is a great move to help school districts, we are concerned that this increased revenue is a shift to property owners and in many property poor school districts this would be a significant burden through large increases in the mill rates.

WAEF proposes for consideration that the Governor and legislators consider supporting a plan that would achieve the $200 and $204 increases as well as the Assembly Republican’s plan to increase the low spending revenue cap floor at $9,800 per student. Both plans could be accomplished by shifting a portion of the property tax levy credit to the school districts that are the lowest spending districts in the state. This shift could be easily done.

Both the Governor’s and the Assembly Republicans’ proposals call for increase in funding the property tax levy credit. If the Governor and the Legislature are truly committed to property tax relief, they should provide that relief to the school districts that need it the most. The property tax levy credit is the mechanism that would accomplish all the goals of the Governor as well as those in the recently released proposal of the Republican Assembly.

Press Release – 11-10-16

For Immediate Release
Contacts available for comment/interview:
John Gaier, AEF President, Neilsville School District – (715)743-3323
Scott Wittkopf, Study Author and Research – (608)628-8535

AEF study results are critical to statewide reliance on school referendum

While school funding has reached crisis levels for many Wisconsin school districts, Tuesday’s referendum results show that people care deeply about investing in their community schools. Yet due to a broken school funding system, educational opportunities for many children today are even more dependent on where they live, and their financial status.

The Wisconsin State Constitution and State Supreme Court call for us to provide a “sound, basic education” in “as nearly uniform as practicable” public schools for every child. Despite this, throughout Wisconsin, community school districts are faced with relying on local referendum to meet the basic needs of our students.

On Tuesday night, nearly 70 referendum statewide sought to fill a $1.3 billion hole in our state’s public education investment. In a resounding affirmation of Wisconsin’s community schools, all but twelve passed. The results, however, are also a resounding vote of no confidence in our broken school funding system. For every school district passing a referendum, there are many more who cannot financially afford or politically attempt to pass a referendum.

Our recent study shows that our broken school funding system is already having a negative effect on student educational outcome. Most importantly:

1. Greater funding inequity saw DPI School District Report Card scores drop significantly.

2. Greater funding inequity saw the benchmark 8th grade math scores drop significantly. In many districts, we found that adequate funding is actually the difference between proficiency and non-proficiency in math.

Through our research, we have found that the school funding system in Wisconsin has created funding disparity in the majority of school districts for over a decade. The need for school districts to rely on record level referendum just to meet basic needs, is further evidence of these inequities and contribute to our systemic education problems.

The AEF will continue to work with its statewide partners and present research-based evidence to ensure that all children are empowered through public education no matter where they live, no matter what their circumstances, and that Wisconsin taxpayers are treated fairly.

AEF Study Shows School Funding Has Negative Effects on Important Measures of Student Outcome

In 2015, the Association for Equity in Funding (AEF) commissioned a second study through the Forward Institute to continue examining the systemic effects of school funding in Wisconsin. The first study, released in 2014, concluded that the current school funding mechanism in Wisconsin is insufficient to ensure that every child in every school has the resources necessary to receive a “sound, basic education” as defined in Vincent v. Voigt (Wisconsin State Supreme Court 2000). Further, the systemic effects over time are creating resource deficits due to increasing rates of higher needs students which are reaching crisis levels.

In order to effectively measure disparity in funding between school districts with vastly different student demographics, the first study developed a “Funding Disparity Rank” for each school district in Wisconsin. This ranking was generated by combining school funding and spending capacity, adjusts for inflation over the 10 years of the study; then uses a formula to “equalize” districts based on high needs student rates (as defined in Vincent v. Voigt). The “Funding Disparity Rank” provides for an apples-to-apples comparison of school district funding and spending capacity.

What remained unclear after the first study, is whether the school funding model and resulting disparity as measured by the “Funding Disparity Rank” has a direct impact on student performance and outcome?

This new study sought to answer that question.

Study Results

This study finally addresses the “adequacy” of funding question by testing whether funding disparity and other factors known to negatively affect outcome (i.e., student poverty and truancy) have a positive or negative association with key measures of student outcome.

Based on the study analyses, the following are key results that funding disparity does indeed have a negative effect on student outcome:

  1. The “Funding Disparity Rank” (FDR) interacts with student poverty (measured by Free-Reduced Lunch (FRL)) rates to have a significant negative effect on school districts’ Department of Public Instruction (DPI) issued report card scores, particularly in districts with higher rates of FRL
  2. In the important benchmark of 8th Grade Math scores, funding disparity was found to have a significant negative effect. School districts with higher funding disparity, as measured by our previously discussed index, saw lower test scores. This is further evidence that the Wisconsin school funding system itself is creating segregation of opportunity.


The results of this study demonstrate that the system funding the education of our children in Wisconsin actually contributes to inequity of educational opportunity. The quality of educational opportunity in Wisconsin now largely depends on where you live, and the relative affluence of your family and community. Further, the systemic problems indicated by this study require immediate solutions to address systemic issues of student poverty, truancy, and increasing inequity in school funding.

New AEF study shows school funding disparity has negative effects on important measures of student outcome

On Wednesday, September 14, 2016 at 2:00 p.m., State Representative Melissa Sargent (D-Madison) and State Senator Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma) will host a public press conference in the Assembly Parlor. The Association for Equity in Funding will release a new study, “Wisconsin School Funding and Student Outcome: Systemic Roadblock to Opportunity.” The study has important implications for Wisconsin schools and the communities they serve.

The study is embargoed until September 14th, 12:00 p.m. (noon); however, media may contact the following with any inquires prior.