K-12 Education

Request#1 – School Year Start Date

Please allow for local autonomy concerning the start of the school year. The legislature has discussed allowing more local autonomy. HON K-12 would like the ability to start school a few days before Labor Day. We envision a state where the legislature allows each school district to make that determination. We understand tourism generates tremendous revenue, which is very important to HON communities. Allowing school districts this change would not impact tourism in northern Wisconsin. What is good for Wisconsin Dells is not necessarily good for northwest Wisconsin. At a minimum, we would like to see outreach done to determine if the Labor Day cutoff is still truly an issue and to whom.

Request #2 - ASSEMBLY BILL 110—115.28 (56) AND 118.015 (4) d of the statutes

This bill relates to the development of a guidebook for parents, teachers, and providers related to dyslexia and related conditions. Only 7 states have NO dyslexia laws, and Wisconsin is one of them.

If this bill has not passed by the time you see/hear this, we ask for support for this bill, and that DPI be required to develop a dyslexia guidebook.

Request #3 - School Funding/School Funding Formula

Please support at least a $200 per pupil revenue limit increase in each year of the biennium. With the cost of inflation and the increasing challenges facing our school districts, it is critical that school districts in our state are able to at least maintain programming. Especially in northwest Wisconsin, where competition for employing quality educators is fierce with our neighbors across the border, additional funding is needed. Our schools have made some terrific gains and improvements in recent years, but additional funding is critical for allowing us to continue moving our systems forward.

Additionally, school funding must be spendable. While the complexity of the school funding formula has made it difficult for some constituents to fully understand Wisconsin school finance, people are catching on to the clever tactics of using the public’s support for funding schools to provide property tax reductions. School levy credits and increases to general aid without a corresponding revenue limit increase do not provide any additional funding to schools for supporting the educational needs of children. We appreciate the desire to hold the line on taxes, but the funds that the public thinks are intended for schools should be provided to schools in a spendable manner. Wisconsin taxpayers deserve the truth, and schools need sustainable funding from the state that can be spent on providing services for our children. While some recent efforts have been made to provide funding through new state grants, the competitive grant process often promotes more red tape, greater inequity between school districts, and a less efficient use of our state’s limited resources. New funding should be made available through the revenue limit formula and/or per pupil aid adjustments, so Wisconsin taxpayers can realize the greatest return on our state’s investment.

The Blue Ribbon Committee that studied the Formula did not publish the recommendations or findings.

Key questions we have are:

1. What has changed in Northern Wisconsin regarding the funding formula?

2. Will there be further study?

Request #4 - Mental Health Supports

School districts across our great state need a substantial increase in funding for school age mental health services. Society is not prepared for the mental health challenges facing our children. Our communities are expecting all school districts to play an increasingly involved role in helping to address these complicated issues. In the Barron and Rice Lake school districts, trauma sensitive teams have been created to give universal supports to our students and families in order to better serve student mental health needs. The current model for trying to provide these services in most Wisconsin communities is not sustainable. A significant investment by our state in the schools and county agencies expected to provide these services is sorely needed.

Request #5 - Special Education Funding

Our school districts need a substantial increase in funding for special education. Due to inadequate funding for very important special education services, the annual general fund transfer for special education services in the Barron Area School District is approaching $2 million. The Rice Lake Area School District transfers $2.75 million annually from the general education fund to cover unfunded special education costs. We are proud of the great and necessary services that our school districts provide, but it is frustrating to think about how funding has not kept up with the needs of our children, and the expensive services mandated by law. Transferring millions of dollars from general operations each year to provide required special education services is not a viable and sustainable solution.