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From Our Blog
We are proud of the wise, proactive actions of the leaders of Wauwatosa East High School, others at the Wauwatosa School District and the school board. Common sense safety measures, like the resolution passed by the board, are what we need at the state level. Read...
Did you know... Over half of our public school districts received less state aid in 2017-2018 than they did in 2016-2017. Enrollment in the voucher program is set by state statute to increase every year until the 2026-2027 school year when the caps come off...
In The News
One Wauwatosa School Board seat is up for election on April 3. Check the SOS Wauwatosa Voter's Guide to learn more about the candidate, Eric Jessup-Anger. And be sure to vote!
ACTION ALERT: There is a public hearing this Wednesday on a fast-tracked new bill that would have a dramatic impact on public school library funding by transforming operations of the Common School Fund. ----- SENATE PUBLIC HEARING: Committee on Government Operations,...
One Wauwatosa School Board seat is up for election on April 3. Check the SOS Wauwatosa Voter’s Guide to learn more about the candidate, Eric Jessup-Anger. And be sure to vote!
ACTION ALERT: There is a public hearing this Wednesday on a fast-tracked new bill that would have a dramatic impact on public school library funding by transforming operations of the Common School Fund.
SENATE PUBLIC HEARING: Committee on Government Operations, Technology and Consumer Protection
The committee will hold a public hearing on the following items at the time specified below:
Wednesday, January 31, 2018, 9:30 AM, Room 201 Southeast, State Capitol
Senate Bill 713: Relating to: the authority of the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands to make trust fund loans and delegate authority to invest trust fund moneys, the use of common school fund income moneys, and making an appropriation. By Senators Stroebel and Craig; cosponsored by Representatives Hutton, R. Brooks, Katsma, Macco, Horlacher and Tusler.
The companion Assembly Bill 857, has not yet been scheduled for a hearing.
FROM OUR FRIENDS AT Citizen Advocates for Public Education:
Dear CAPE members and friends,
Some background information on school library funding –
School districts receive an annual distribution of earnings from the Common School Fund. These funds (commonly known as Library Aid) are used to purchase library books and other instructional materials. Managed by the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands (BCPL), the Common School Fund was established by the Wisconsin Constitution in 1848 with the granting of about 1.5 million acres of land for educational purposes. The vast majority of these lands were sold to create the principal for a permanent school fund, with the earnings to be exclusively used to support and maintain common schools (now known as K-12 public schools) and their libraries. On average, the Common School Fund provides $32 million annually to Wisconsin school libraries.
What’s happening now?
Two bills – Senate Bill 713 and its companion bill Assembly Bill 857 – have been introduced that would end the Common School Fund as we know it and eliminate the BCPL loan program that benefits schools, towns, villages, technical colleges, CESAs, and public library systems. The bills would eliminate the requirement that schools spend Common School Fund disbursements on instructional materials, library books, or school library computers/software. They would also eliminate BCPL’s authority to make loans, the interest on which currently goes into the Common School Fund.
Why are we concerned?
The current structure has been working well since the founding of our State.
Over the past 10 years, the BCPL State Trust Fund Loan program has invested over $1 billion in communities throughout Wisconsin.
Distributions from the Common School Fund are often the only dollars available for school libraries to purchase materials.
What can you do if you are concerned?
Contact your state Senator or state Representative today and ask them to oppose Senate Bill 713 and Assembly Bill 857.
You can add one of the above concerns or any personal concerns of your own as talking points, or you can simply leave a message stating your opposition. The important thing is to make a phone call stating your request.
If you are not sure who your legislators are, you can look them up here: https://maps.legis.wisconsin.gov/
You can also send an e-mail to your legislator. The email addresses of members of the Wisconsin Legislature all have the same format. For members of the Assembly, the form is Rep.Jones@legis.wisconsin.gov; for members of the Senate, the form is Sen.Adams@legis.wisconsin.gov.
Sample e-mail to your Senator
Subject line: Please oppose Senate Bill 713
Dear Sen. ___________,
I am writing to ask you to oppose Senate Bill 713. The Common School Fund provides the funds for materials and services essential for our public school libraries. This structure has worked well for over 150 years and I ask you to maintain it. (This is just a sample text; feel free to use this or insert your own thoughts here.)
Sample e-mail to your Representative
Subject line: Please oppose Assembly Bill 857
Dear Rep. ________________,
I am writing to ask you to oppose Assembly Bill 857. (Include your text here.)
Please contact your legislators today. Then share this information with others who might be concerned about this issue and encourage them to contact their legislators. If you have questions, please respond to this e-mail.
Thank you in advance for taking action on this important issue!
Citizen Advocates for Public Education
On August 28, 2017, the Wisconsin State Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee met and voted on the 2017-2019 State Budget. This was not the final step towards passage; the budget will next be reviewed by the full State Senate, State Assembly, and then signed by Governor Walker.
We are pleased that the public education advocacy work by Support Our Schools (SOS Wauwatosa) and similar advocacy groups across Wisconsin is paying off and making a difference. After six years of cuts, flat budgets and minimal increases, we were relieved when the Governor proposed an increase in per pupil funding of $200 for 2017-2018 and $204 for the following year. We saw this as a bare minimum and hoped for more, but recognized that it was an improvement. Fortunately, the Joint Finance Committee voted in support of that increase.
Other changes are being proposed in this budget, and we think it’s a good time to review the three main things SOS Wauwatosa has been advocating for over the past two years:
- Increase the state imposed revenue cap so districts can make decisions locally about how much money they want to spend and the types of programs they want to offer in their district.
- Increase state aid by $300 per pupil, per year, and stop efforts at the state level to place more of the costs for funding public schools onto local property taxpayers.
- Pause the statewide voucher school expansion until these schools are held to the same accountability measures as our public schools so taxpayers can be assured of their performance.
Unfortunately, this budget falls short on all three items:
- Although the low revenue adjustment under revenue limits was increased for a small number of districts, the state imposed revenue cap for most districts was not increased. It is our understanding that Senator Luther Olson and Representative Joel Kitchens are convening a committee in the coming year to review and simplify the state funding formula, increase transparency, and reduce the use of “categorical aids”; we will be following their efforts closely and will hope for significant improvements.
- Public education advocacy groups all across Wisconsin were asking for a state aid increase of $300 per pupil, per year, because we are concerned about public education. Many schools are struggling to make ends meet, and polls consistently show that the vast majority of Wisconsinites value their public schools and want to see their funding increase. According to the Wisconsin Taxpayers’ Alliance, our state recently dropped below the national average in per pupil funding; we believe this trend needs to stop.
- Instead of a pause in the statewide voucher school expansion, the Joint Finance Committee voted to increase the number of families statewide who will qualify for taxpayer-funded vouchers to send their children to private schools. Some changes were made to accountability measures (e.g. for the first time, the Department of Public Instruction will have the authority to demand background checks for staff in voucher schools), but they are still not held to the same standards as public schools. The bottom line is that we continue to be very concerned about the increasing diversion of public funds to private schools.
Moms, dads, grandparents and citizens all across Wisconsin are proud of our long tradition of quality public schools. As we’ve said before, we believe that public schools are the heart of our communities and the key to a prosperous future for our state. If ultimately passed as currently proposed, this year’s budget is a small step in the right direction, but our advocacy efforts will continue in earnest. We believe our kids deserve better.