The Impact of the State Budget on Wisconsin’s Public Schools
Universal Student Success
|State Superintendent Carolyn Stanford Taylor administers the
WI Dept. of Public Instruction and its $7.5 billion annual budget
data is speaking. We have to look at it and we have to deliberately figure out how we’re going to move the needle on increasing academic success, access to
opportunities for all of our students.”
Governor Tony Evers’ 2019-2021 biennial budget for public education contained several policy initiatives. One was to take a pause as it related to school choice
and vouchers so that the state could assess where we are. That initiative did not make it through the budget process.
They also submitted an equity budget for Wisconsin’s public schools that asked for significant funding increases for a state school system that had been largely
starved for funds the previous eight years under Governor Scott Walker.
“Our ask was $1.4 billion,” Stanford Taylor said about the request above what the department had received in the prior biennial budget. “We knew it was a big ask,
but it was what we believed was needed as an infusion of resources into our schools. What we did get was about $500 million additional dollars.
One of the biggest beneficiaries of the increased funding was special education. Special education is a semi-unfunded federal mandate. While public schools are
mandated to provide special education, the necessary funding levels are not authorized and so the state and local districts must make up the difference and
historically the state has lagged behind in providing its share of funding. This budget will ease the pain somewhat.
“We had an infusion of about $100 million for special education,” Stanford Taylor said. “That was progress because we had been flat funded for almost 10 years.
This will allow districts some flexibility in how they use their money. It will help with the general fund because districts had been in the position where they had to
take funds from the general fund to meet the obligation of our special needs students because we have federal requirements around those needs.”
The districts will also receive an increase in per-pupil state aids because of Governor Evers’ use of the partial veto, which will help districts better align their
revenues with student needs.
“The additional dollars we received were also for the school milk program,” Stanford Taylor said. “We received additional dollars through the governor’s partial
veto. We received an additional $88 per student in per pupil aid. This too will allow districts to fund additional programs, materials, and resources that they have
not been able to do in the past.”
With the continued trend of mass shootings in public places — including public schools — and increases in suicide rates for young people, there has been
increased attention placed on mental health services that will help identify and treat young people who have oftentimes been victimized, abused and traumatized at
home, school and/or in the community — fertile ground for the development of anti-social behavior.
“We received about a $12.9 million increase over the biennium for mental health,” Stanford Taylor said. “We found with our Youth Risk Behavior Survey that one in
five of our students are dealing with depression and suicide ideation. And you know, with many of our kids, the trauma that they faced before they even got to our
doors. And so this will help us start to address some of that. Now what we asked for was support with districts hiring pupil service staff. What we got was
additional dollars to hire a social worker. That is forward movement and we appreciate that. That’s a good start. The infusion of these dollars certainly does go a
long ways. And we heard not only from the groups that we were talking about, but there was also a blue ribbon commission that also issued a report that aligned
really well with our request. So while we are thankful for the dollars we received, we will still continue to advocate for additional dollars.”
And it is important for school personnel to form important relationships with students and their families in order to mitigate the impact of trauma on student’s lives.
“We developed some social-emotional learning competencies that go pre-K through adulthood because we understand that it doesn’t just stop in the early years,”
Stanford Taylor said. “And all of our students don’t come possessing those skills. And I think that is one of the things that we moved away from. We’ve always
known that creating community, a sense of belonging for our kids and that relationship with a caring adult is critically important. But I think in the age of testing, we’
ve kind of moved away from that. All of the attention was around a test score. And now we are moving back to those things that really address the whole child and
creating that sense of community so that it’s not the child coming to a space where they don’t feel they belong in, that they’ve got peers and adults who care about
them, who they can take their issues to and we can provide the kind of supports that they need, whether it is supports within the school or support outside of the
school to try to wrap around some of those things.”
In this day and age, technology makes it easy for students to slip into their own self-defined worlds that often serve as a barrier to the students to learn crucial
human interaction skills they will need to succeed as citizens and in the business world. The self-imposed isolation can also exacerbate mental health issues.
“We’re hearing from businesses,” Stanford Taylor said. “This is what they are looking for, schools to prepare kids for that kind of environment when they graduate.
It’s starting to be missing. We’re in the age of technology when we can tweet or text a quick message. You will see people walking along the street with each other
who are each on their device, but are not communicating with each other. We are trying to overcome that with the social-emotional competencies from pre-K to
adulthood. We’re actually teaching those, having kids interact and work together and figure out do we creatively solve this problem. We’re bringing the group think
together so that when they are out in the world, they are prepared with the kinds of skills that businesses and others tell us they need.”
Stanford Taylor also wanted the state to fund after school program that, when it is done right, continues the learning day for students while giving them a safe place
By Jonathan Gramling
Since she was appointed the State Superintendent of Education at the beginning of the year,
Carolyn Stanford Taylor has had the chance to visit school districts across the state — she will be
opening the school year in Jefferson, Wisconsin on September 3 — to take the pulse of public
education in Wisconsin. There is good news and bad news.
“I’ve had the opportunity to witness some of our great leaders in the state in terms of educators
and students,” Stanford Taylor said. “Our students are doing some awesome things that show
excellence. But of course you know we have our challenges and we’ve said that. As a state, we
do well when you talk about ACT and attendance and all of that. But we have a population of
students who are not doing as well, who are not being served as well through our school
systems — our students with disabilities, our students of color, our students living in poverty and
our English learners. We have to be very intentional about strategies that we employ to move
those students to success. That is really our message when we continue to talk about equity. The
to be until it is time to go home and their parents and guardians are at home. It also
cuts down on the number of situations when students can get involved in anti-
social — and possibly illegal — behavior.
“We asked for state-dedicated fund for after school or after hours programming for
our students,” Stanford Taylor said. “Many of our kids need that support beyond the
school day. We did not get those dollars, so right now we are solely dependent on
federal dollars, which come to us through the 21st Century Community Learning
Centers. It didn’t solely have to be community schools. We’re talking about after
school programming such as the Goodman Community Center, all of those who
receive funding through our 21st Century Community Learning Centers. Currently
from the federal dollars, we have a number of districts and community
organizations who receive funding. But we wanted a state investment so that we
could address the additional needs. The needs go beyond the dollars that we
receive from the federal government.”
This fall is proving to be a very special time for Stanford Taylor for two reasons. The
first is that she will be giving her first State of Education address.
“We will be doing the State of Education address on September 19th at the State
Capitol,” Stanford Taylor said. “It will be my opportunity to address the state of
Wisconsin about where we are and what our challenges are and what our
opportunities are. It is open to the public. We will also be honoring our teachers
who are in Friends of Education. It is 12 noon on the second floor of the Rotunda.
We will also showcase student talent.”
The second reason is that her daughter, Carlettra Stanford, was recently appointed
chief of schools for elementary for the Madison Metropolitan School District.
“I am so extremely proud of Carlettra,” Stanford Taylor said. “She’s done a
wonderful job in all of her other endeavors and Mendota is an example as a
community school. I know it was hard for her to leave that school. She did great
work and I can only see her doing greater things in this new position.”
The apple does not fall far from the tree. Good things are in store for Wisconsin’s