Press Release – 11-10-16

For Immediate Release
Contacts available for comment/interview:
John Gaier, AEF President, Neilsville School District – jgaier@neillsville.k12.wi.us (715)743-3323
Scott Wittkopf, Study Author and Research – scottw@frame4future.com (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.