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Revenue Controls Force School Districts to Cut at Heart of Education

WEAC President Stan Johnson (at podium) talks about the impact of the revenue caps on school districts. Joining him at a State Capitol news conference is Miles Turner (left) executive director of the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators.

State-imposed revenue controls are cutting the heart out of the state's great schools, according to a survey released Friday (December 17, 2004).

The Wisconsin Education Association Council and Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators annual survey of school administrators uncovered a new trend in the 2003-2004 school year: districts are being forced to cut academic programs because of state-imposed revenue controls. Revenue controls severely limit the funds school districts can raise and spend.

"WEAC and WASDA have conducted annual surveys of school superintendents to determine the impact of revenue controls since they were imposed on school districts in 1993," WEAC President Stan Johnson told a State Capitol news conference. "Every year, the survey documents the fact that revenue caps are increasingly harming the quality of education in our schools. Superintendents say their districts have been very diligent in finding ways to make cuts that don't affect students and learning, but they are now beginning to cut academics - the heart of education."

Five years ago, 41% of districts reduced the number of academic courses. In 2003-2004, 52% reported cuts to academics.

  • 13% of districts reported cutting sections of foreign language, vocational education, business education, family and consumer education, music, art, band, and physical education programs.
  • 12% reported eliminating entire courses in those content areas.
  • Cuts were least likely in the core (tested) areas of English/Language Arts, math, science and social studies.

Johnson said Wisconsin's schools are among the best in the nation, but that status is threatened by revenue controls.

"We have reached a point where we no longer provide great schools for every child," he said. "As curriculums are narrowed, more and more children will be denied learning opportunities. Evidence of this new reality is found in the growing societal gap, which continues to widen. A truly great school system would achieve a narrowing of this disparity."

"School districts have done a heroic job living under this law, but they have reached the limit," WASDA Executive Director Miles Turner said. "Districts are forced to make short-term decisions that will inflict long-term damage on schools, children and our communities."

"If the quality of education declines, it's not just the kids who are hurt," Johnson said. "The value of Wisconsin residents' single largest investment - their homes - will also decline, because schools and property values are directly related."

"This is a serious concern for all Wisconsin residents, whether they have children in school or not," Turner said. "Schools are an integral part of every community and its economy."

Other findings in the study:

  • 68% increased class sizes.
  • 60% offered fewer courses.
  • 55% reduced programs for gifted and talented students.
  • 53% reduced courses in art, music, theater.
  • 51% reduced extracurricular programs.
  • 49% reduced programs for at-risk students.

The complete survey
Resoure page on school district revenue caps

Posted December 17, 2004

At the Capitol News Archives