The cuts to Wisconsin schools are among the largest in the country, a new report shows. The Center on Policy and Budget Priorities compared cuts in state education funding, and found that Wisconsin topped the list of the states with the largest cuts as measured on a per student basis. In 2012, the state of Wisconsin will provide $635 per student less for public K-12 schools than in 2011. The analysis compared figures from the 24 states for which figures on education spending were readily available.
Compared to other states, Wisconsin also ranks high in the percent change in education spending per student. Behind only Illinois and Texas, Wisconsin’s decrease in state support represents a cut of 10.0% per student between 2011 and 2012. Wisconsin is expected to spend 11.9% less per student in 2012 than four years earlier, in inflation-adjusted dollars.
Wisconsin’s recent hefty cuts to education are especially concerning because they come after years of waning support for education. A recent Wisconsin Budget Project analysis of total spending on classroom instruction (rather than on educational administration or support services) shows that Wisconsin’s growth in instructional spending has lagged the national average. For every dollar increase in instructional spending at the national level over the last decade, Wisconsin has invested only 59¢.
Between 2000 and 2009, Wisconsin’s rank in instructional spending per pupil dropped from 11th nationally to 16th. That can be attributed to Wisconsin’s flat per pupil spending between 2003 and 2008, as shown in Fig. 1, while the national average increased by eight percent during that period.
Stagnant support has taken its toll in Wisconsin classrooms. In the last four years for which there are figures, Wisconsin’s ranking in student/teacher ratios slid from 21st nationally to 30th. Between 2000 and 2010, the number of students per teacher increased in Wisconsin by 0.5 students, while the national average decreased by 0.7 students.
Wisconsin is not alone in making significant cuts to state support for education, but the cuts we are making to our public education system are greater than those in many other states. These massive cuts threaten Wisconsin’s commitment to high-quality education and our ability to field a well-educated workforce.