School of Education News

Underwood, member of Blue Ribbon Commission, highlights concerns about public school funding formula

June 06, 2018

UW-Madison’s Julie Underwood is part of a Blue Ribbon Commission on School Funding, and the panel held its final hearing at the State Capitol on Monday.

The group of lawmakers, superintendents, lobbyists and educators was pulled together by Wisconsin legislative leaders in December and traveled around the state in 2018 to conduct public hearings to learn more about school funding issues. It was chaired by Sen. Luther Olsen (R-Ripon) and Rep. Joel Kitchens (R-Sturgeon Bay). 

Julie Underwood on WISCAs Madison’s local CBS affiliate, WISC/Ch. 3 reported, “teachers, administrators and parents have been vocal about the many issues facing the public school system.” 

The current public school funding formula is based on a revenue limit set in the early 1990s. It puts a cap on the amount of money school districts can get from the state and from local levies. 

“The message is absolutely clear: we’re falling short,” Underwood said during a Monday news conference. “We’re falling short on our children and we’re at a point of doing harm and we need to fix this."

Underwood is the Susan Engeleiter Professor of Education Law, Policy and Practice, and the former dean of the School of Education. 

Teachers and parents have testified, WISC reports, that low-income students, English language learners and special education students are many of the students struggling. 

“The state funds special education for private schools at a 90 percent reimbursement and a 26 percent (reimbursement) for our public schools," said Underwood. "That doesn’t make sense and it’s unfair.”

To learn much more about this important and nuanced topic, check out the entire WISC report for free on this web page.

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