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The Institute for Wisconsin’s Future (IWF) is a non-profit, non-partisan statewide organization dedicated to tax policy research, community organizing and education policy. IWF believes in maintaining strong, effective and efficient public institutions.

Evers urges MPS parents, students and educators
to fight for urgently needed public school resources

Superintendent Evers and I Love My Public School shirtDepartment of Public Instruction Superintendent Tony Evers was in Milwaukee, Sept. 26, to discuss with educators, students, parents, and community members “what to expect when you’re expecting more budget cuts.”

Evers was ready with an answer. First, he doesn’t expect more budget cuts. Public education is too important, he said, and school resources took deep cuts in the last state budget. Therefore, the State Superintendent said he expects the Governor and the Legislature to begin reinvesting in Wisconsin’s public schools.

He also said he expects community groups like the one he addressed in Milwaukee to take the lead in asking state government for change.

Second, the State Superintendent said his budget would reflect the needs of children all over the state and ask for resources in those areas that make the most difference in teaching and learning. Evers spent most of his time talking about “Fair Funding for Our Future,” his school-funding reform plan that begins correcting over 20 years of funding problems.

The event was sponsored by Parents for Public Schools of Milwaukee, with help from Milwaukee Public Schools Director Larry Miller, the Institute for Wisconsin’s Future, and the Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools. It was attended by about 100 people and was held in the MPS Central Office Auditorium. The entire event will be available on WisconsinEye.

State Superintendent Tony Evers’ PowerPoint presentation

Contact your legislators now to claim
state surplus for kids and their schools

piles of moneyIf you are reading this you are vitally interested in public education and are against the damage done to our schools over the past several years. If you are reading this you are ready to take action and stand up for Wisconsin's children and their public schools.

Well, now you have a chance. We don't have a lot of time, but there is an opportunity to make a difference if you act soon.

Recently, the Legislative Fiscal Bureau reported that state revenues have been higher than expected, and Wisconsin is looking at a $126 million surplus. As a matter of fact, some experts believe that the available surplus in the upcoming budget could approach $1 billion.

Whatever the revenue figures are going to be, we know public education must be the first in line for those resources in order to fix the devastation done in the last state budget.

We must fight for our share for kids and their schools. Contact your legislators today. Tell them schools took more than their share of the cuts when things were bad and now it's time to put some of those course offerings, quality programs, good teachers, and vital services back in the classroom.

The public needs to have serious discussion
about tax fairness and what it really means

Jack NormanIn one way or another, the campaign season in Wisconsin and across the country seems to be boiling down, in part, to a question of tax fairness. The problem is what's fair to one doesn't seem to always be fair to all. We need some definitions we can all agree on.

In a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel opinion piece, Jack Norman, now director of Tax Fairness Wisconsin, does a great job by putting the question in context rather than trying to make it a bumper sticker or a sound bite.

According to Norman, "That's why it would be helpful to push the issue deeper, to force candidates and voters to think harder about economics and morality; the size and scope of government; growing inequalities of income and wealth; what helps and what hinders economic growth."

National report shows Wisconsin
is disinvesting in its public schools

CBPP ChartA report released today by the national Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) puts Wisconsin dangerously close to the bottom of states in cuts to per-student spending─eighth deepest in the nation since the start of the recession. And the bad news doesn’t stop there.  The reduction in our spending per student was the fourth largest nationally when measured in actual dollar terms.

What does this actually mean?  Wisconsin’s investment in K-12 schools is 13.7 percent below 2008 levels, which indicates we’ve made deeper cuts than at least 40 other states. This comes on top of  over 20 years of revenue limits on public schools that have squeezed budgets and dismantled opportunities for Wisconsin students.

All over the country the recession produced a dramatic drop in state revenue. Instead of dealing with budget shortfalls with a balanced approach that includes new revenues, however, Wisconsin relied very heavily on cutting essential state services, especially education. This practice, according to the study, has both “undermined educational reform and … and hindered the ability of school districts to deliver high quality education.” It makes our schools less competitive with other countries at the exact time we are trying to produce workers with the skills to master new technologies and adapt to the complex global economy.

To read more about the state of U.S. schools and how cutting education undermines our future prosperity as a nation see the full report.

Senate Education Committee hears about
negative impact of state budget on schools

Members of the Wisconsin Legislature’s Senate Education Committee met, Aug. 29, to discuss the impact of the 2011-13 state budget on public education and public school children. There were no big surprises in the testimony from a handful of selected speakers.

Democrats, now in control of the Senate and the committee chaired by Sen. John Lehman of Racine, talked about how $1.6 billion in school resources diminished our children’s futures. Republicans, although only Sens. Glen Grothman of West Bend and Frank Lasee of DePere were in attendance, questioned the impact of poverty, the benefits of Act 10, and whether or not resources are really all that important.

What was missing was a coherent and consistent call for solutions. Speakers and legislators talked about two problems: A school-funding system that no longer works for most kids and most districts and a diminished investment in our schools and students. The Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools continues to call on all legislators to do what is obvious: “Fair Funding for Our Future” to fix the system and “A Penny for Kids” to restore the budget cuts and start state schools on a path to success.

One thing did come to the surface, however ─ the problem is getting worse for many, many school districts. After the testimony of its President Todd Berry, the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WTA) issued a press release questioning the future of small, rural, and declining enrollment schools throughout the north and southwestern parts of the state.

According to Berry, “If another couple of years go by (and nothing is done), you are going to have districts that aren’t going to exist. Then you are going to have some hard questions. You are going to be transporting kids very long distances. Some of these districts are ….. bigger than half the counties in the state.”

Berry cited the incomprehensible story of one northern district where the agriculture teacher doubles as the night custodian and, in another, where students spend 90 minutes on the bus just to get to school. In west central Wisconsin there is a district that can’t afford to run a high school and wanted to operate a kindergarten through eighth grade school and contract with other communities for high school.

To see the entire Senate Education Committee hearing, go to gavel-to-gavel coverage on WisconsinEye.

State of working Wisconsin isn’t good,
especially for poor children and families

The Statae of Working WisconsinDespite politics and promises out of the Governor’s Office, Wisconsin’s workers are still waiting for “an economic recovery strong enough to produce jobs, higher family income, and a growing sense of security.”

They might have to wait a long time. According to the biennial report of the Center on Wisconsin Strategy (COWS), called “The State of Working Wisconsin 2012, the Badger  State still faces an enormous jobs deficit, family income fell across the last decade, unemployment remains high, African American unemployment is the worst in the nation, and families with kids in school are in greater financial distress.

The authors of the report say the growing share of children and families experiencing hard economic times is not only a result of declining financial resources but, at the same time, public schools with fewer resources to support increasingly needy student population.

New national poll shows Americans
support more funding for education

Ten years after the largest percent of Americans polled cited discipline as the biggest problem in public schools, by far the most common reaction now is “lack of financial support,” with 35 percent of Americans ─ and 43 percent of public school parents ─ naming it as the single biggest problem for schools.

That was the key finding of the recently released and 44th annual Phi Delta Kappa-Gallup Poll. WAES agrees and offers “Fair Funding for Our Future” and “A Penny for Kids” as great places to start.

Wisconsin’s Fairly Normal School District
faces a rough and extremely uncertain future

Generic schoolWhile some school districts found solace in Act 10─ a state law that allowed them to collect more from staff toward health care benefits and pensions ─ they might want to hold their breath for the rollercoaster ride that lies ahead.

A recent column in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, by Alan Borsuk, talks about the average school district in the state. It’s called the Fairly Normal School District and was the subject of analysis and computer forecast by Bob Borch, a former school district business manager and now senior adviser with PMA Financial. The firm does consulting work with, among other clients, 140 school districts in Wisconsin. Borch is apolitical, knows school spending inside and out and believes that the numbers don’t lie.

According to the column, Fairly Normal faired OK in Year 1 following the passage of Act 10 and the 2011-13 budget that cut school resources by $1.6 billion. It gets worse, however, with fund balances disappearing, bills going unpaid, and huge financial problems on the horizon.

According to Borsuk, “By year five, which would be 2015-16, Fairly Normal is running a big deficit, has used up all its savings and can’t pay all its bills. I’m not exactly sure what we would call that when it happens to a unit of government in Wisconsin, but in other circumstances, I believe it’s called bankruptcy.”

Seriously, What's the Holdup With Early Childhood Education?

two small kids with backpacksIt seems we have another case of politics and penny-pinching overriding common-sense and educational research. High-quality early childhood education for all children is one of the best investments we can make. So why aren't we doing it? Because our elected officials lack the will and the courage to do what is right and help communities find the resources they need to provide all students with access to quality early education opportunities.

If our children are going to learn in school and succeed in life they need opportunities to learn such as quality early childhood educational experiences.


Minimal school aid increase for next year
does nothing to replace lost opportunities

A week or so ago, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction announced the aid estimates for the 2012-13 year for all 424 districts. It’s not a pretty picture. The coming year’s increase is smaller than in the past, and a full two-thirds of the state’s school districts will lose resources. The total increase is only $21.06 million, certainly not enough just to continue programs and services in most districts.

As a matter of fact, if you compare the 2012-13 state aid numbers to the first year of Governor Scott Walker’s budget ─ actually a $792 million cut in school aid ─ most districts will continue to scramble just to make ends meet.

Click here to read the entire article.

How Congressman Paul Ryan’s budget would impact Wisconsin

New IWF study shows loss of $3.3 billion in federal aid and 26,000 jobs in 2013-14

If Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan’s approach to budgeting became U.S. law, Wisconsin would lose about $3.3 billion in federal spending in the next two years, with a resulting loss of about 26,000 full-time jobs.

Medical assistance programs would suffer most under the Ryan budget, with $1.7 billion cut in 2013 and 2014 compared with current law. That’s enough to keep more than 400,000 adults off Wisconsin’s BadgerCare program.

Income security programs—including food stamps, child nutrition and housing assistance—would lose more than half-a-billion dollars in 2013-14. Over 70,000 households would lose food benefits next year.

Those are conclusions from a new IWF analysis of Ryan’s budget: Which path leads to prosperity? The report details both the statewide impact and the effects on each of Wisconsin’s 72 counties.

For details, see the new report
Also available is the press release

Act 10 ‘savings’ simply don’t add up

Don't add upWhen I hear Governor Scott Walker’s claims of savings for school districts thanks to Wisconsin Act 10, two adages come to mind. One is that if something sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. The second is that if one plus one equals anything but two, then chances are it’s wrong.

The governor is simply asking too much of us: To suspend logic and reason and believe that $1.6 billion in revenue cuts to public education is better and certainly no worse for the children, schools and communities of Wisconsin. Sorry, I’m just not buying that.


Who does not pay taxes logo

Billionaire Walker donor’s tax-reduction strategy

Beloit businesswoman prompted “divide and conquer” quote;
Her ABC Supply Co. pays no state income tax, uses her personal tax to reduce tax bill

See company’s comment in Beloit Daily News
See IWF response here
See the latest edition of WhoDoesNotPayTaxes?

Windfall! Rich will get richer from new tax credit

wealthy guyThe Capital Times’ Mike Ivey exposes the huge tax break snuck into the state budget bill at the last minute. IWF’s Jack Norman comments.

Read the article in The Capital Times


New study says little doubt remains
that budget hurts kids and their schools

Wisconsin OTL logoThe evidence keeps piling up – the cuts to public education in the 2011-13 budget are not good for children, their schools, or their communities.

Two of Wisconsin's leading education professionals studied the impact of the budget and published a policy brief entitled, "Making Matters Worse: School Funding, Achievement Gaps and Poverty under Wisconsin Act 32." The findings were startling but not unexpected: Reductions in state aid and revenue limit authority – leaving school districts with $1.6 billion less revenue – are and will be devastating, especially for children from poverty.

James Shaw and Carolyn Kelly wrote the policy brief for the University of Wisconsin-Madison Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis. It examined the impact of the budget on school funding, teacher quality, student learning, and property taxes. Shaw and Kelly are state educators with expertise in school reform and school leadership development.

The pair's key findings are:

In other words, “this study paints a grim picture of funding gaps in Wisconsin public education. … The reductions in state support for public education threaten to increase achievement gaps, and challenge Wisconsin’s constitutional and long-standing commitment to equal education opportunity.”

Read the full working paper.

Gannett papers endorse IWF’s call for better tax enforcementOne billion dollars past due

IWF’s effort to increase the state’s collection of delinquent taxes was featured in a collection of stories by Gannett Wisconsin Media, which publishes ten newspapers in the state.

The stories showed that the state collects only one-third of the one billion dollars owed by tax delinquents and is increasingly cutting deals with tax avoiders. One story focused exclusively on IWF’s Investing in Revenue report, which argued for greater investment in the Department of Revenue’s ability to catch tax cheats. An editorial endorsed IWF’s position.

The Gannett chain publishes the daily newspapers in Appleton, Fond du Lac, Green Bay, Manitowoc, Marshfield, Oshkosh, Sheboygan, Stevens Point, Wausau and Wisconsin Rapids.

For details, see:

The Oshkosh Northwestern Main Story
Story focusing on IWF's report
Editorial endorsing IWF's position

Small investment in the Department of Revenue can generate millions for critical public services

Investing in Revenue coverFeb. 27, 2012 — IWF’s newest report — Investing in Revenue — shows there are more than $900 million in taxes legally owed to the state but not collected. There are also several hundred million more in taxes that should be paid but haven’t been because of either deliberate or accidental misfiling or failures to file a tax return. One simple solution to Wisconsin’s revenue crunch is to invest in staffing needed for the state’s Department of Revenue (DOR) to access this large pool of uncollected tax dollars. Read how an investment of $12.5 million in resources for DOR can generate $100 million in additional revenue during this biennium. This is a net gain of $87.5 million that could be used to prevent more cuts to schools, health care and other programs.

See the full report
Read the press release

Opportunity to Learn Wisconsin kicks off statewide;
Campaign backs new funding system, restoring cuts

Closing panelists

From left to right, Jasmine Alinder, LaShell Drake, and Maria de Jesus Dixon discuss the merits of the State Superintendent's school-funding reform plan.

The verdict is in: 20 years of neglect and a year of devastating cuts have left public school children throughout Wisconsin with fewer opportunities to learn and to succeed in life after school.

Those were the conclusions reached, March 24, 2012 at the kick-off statewide conference of Opportunity to Learn-Wisconsin (OTL-Wisconsin), a network of educators, students, organizations, school districts, and citizens.

More importantly, the 75 advocates gathered at the United Way of Dane County in Madison for the daylong sessions decided it was time to act and how:

Is Gov. Walker to Blame for Wisconsin’s Poor Economy?

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel used an opinion piece written by IWF’s Karen Royster and Jack Norman to frame a debate on that question Sunday, March 11, 2012.

IWF’s statement made the argument: “Walker is indeed to blame for the state’s poor growth.”

Journal Sentinel editorial writers made the opposite argument: Walker can’t be blamed for  state’s sluggish growth.”

[For what it’s worth, twice as many readers have Recommended IWF’s article to Facebook as have similarly praised the editorial writers’ position.]

The slash and burn economic policy is not working for Wisconsin

IWF wants to share with you a new document from the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia showing economic growth across the United States from July 1 to October 1, 2011.  The color code goes from dark green (high growth) to red (lowest growth.) The map summarizes current economic conditions in each state using nonfarm employment, average hours worked in manufacturing, the unemployment rate, and wage and salaries. Guess which state has dropped to the bottom since the budget went into effect on July 1, 2011?

This mapping reinforces the conclusion of IWF's recent report(see story above)on the impact of Governor Walker's economic policies. The IWF report, The Price of Extremism, shows why Wisconsin has lost more jobs than any other state in the country. 

See the press release from the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia

Philadelphia Federal reserve chart