Wisconsin’s formula is neither primarily student-based nor primarily resource-based; it is heavily driven by spending for specific programs. The state does not use a base amount.
Services for certain low-income students, students in bilingual education programs, students with disabilities, students identified as gifted, students enrolled in career and technical education programs, and students in sparsely populated districts are funded through program-specific allocations.
The state of Wisconsin uses a program-based funding formula and does not use a base per-student amount as the basis for its funding.
However, in addition to its program-driven allocations, the state provides a flat amount of per-pupil aid to each district. This aid was set at $150 per student for FY2016 and $250 per student for FY2017.
|Expected Local Share||
Wisconsin expects school districts to contribute revenue to the funding of public schools. The amount each district is expected to raise for its education costs is based on its property values, in accordance with a multi-step calculation.
For each district, the state imposes a revenue limit, which limit is largely driven by the number of pupils residing in the district, though it is also adjusted for other factors. Within the revenue limit, the state provides aid in an amount based on a district’s actual prior year expenditures from general aid and property taxes and relative property wealth per member. The state aid amount functions as a cost reimbursement: For each district, “shared costs,” defined as the amount a district expended in the prior year on general educational expenditures that were supported with either property tax revenue or state general aid, are calculated. Once the state calculates the district’s shared costs, it determines the expected local proportion at three tiers of shared costs.
The responsibility for the first $1000 per resident pupil of shared costs is split between the district and the state in proportion to the district per-pupil property valuation as a percentage of the district's primary per-member “guaranteed valuation.” That primary per-pupil guaranteed valuation varies by the type of district (in FY16, it was $1,930,000 for unified school districts, $5,790,000 for high school districts, and $2,895,000 for elementary districts). If the district has a valuation per member that equals or exceeds the primary guarantee, it will receive no state equalization aid (but it may be eligible for special adjustment aid). The responsibility for the second tier of the district’s shared costs, between $1000 per resident pupil and an amount equal to 90% of the statewide average shared cost per resident pupil ($9,400 in FY16), is split between the district and the state in proportion to the district’s per-pupil property valuation as a percentage of the secondary per-member guaranteed valuation. That secondary per-member guaranteed valuation varies by the type of district (in FY16, it was $1,101,448 for unified school districts, $3,304,344 for high school districts, and $1,652,172 for elementary districts). The responsibility for any spending above 90% of the statewide average per-pupil cost, is split between the district and the state in proportion to the district’s per-pupil property valuation as a percentage of the tertiary per-member guaranteed valuation, which also varies by the type of district (in FY16, it was $546,173 for unified school districts, $1,638,519 for high school districts, and $819,259 for elementary districts). If a district's valuation per pupil exceeds the secondary or tertiary guarantee, its state aid allocation is reduced.
Wisconsin does not differentiate funding based on students’ grade levels.
Wisconsin provides additional resources for English language learners (ELLs). It does so through a reimbursement system, in which districts are partially reimbursed for the cost of providing bilingual and bicultural education.
Districts receive a proportional share of the total amount of state money appropriated for this purpose ($8.6 million for each year of the 2015-17 biennium) in accordance with the amount they spend on bilingual and bicultural education programs. In 2014-15, this state aid appropriation provided for an 8.3 percent reimbursement. In order to qualify for reimbursement, a district must have at least 10 ELL students in grades K-3, 20 ELL students in grades 4-8, or 20 ELL students in grade 9-12. Districts who meet the enrollment criteria in more than one school have the option to submit a written plan of services. Salaries, materials, equipment, and other approved expenses are eligible for partial reimbursement.
However, before reimbursements are made, there is a small set-aside taken from the total state aid appropriation that is allocated to districts with concentration of English learners of 15 percent or greater. Additionally, the state budget includes an allocation of $222,800 each year of the biennium for Tribal language grants.
Wisconsin provides increased funding for certain students from low-income households: those enrolled in grades K-3 in districts participating in a class-size reduction program. It does so in the form of a flat allocation for each such student. This allocation may not exceed $2,250, but may be lower depending on the number of eligible students and the amount of funds available.
Students in grades K-3 are eligible for this supplemental funding if they qualify for free or reduced-price lunch (FRL) under the National School Lunch Program. The exact per-student allocation is determined by dividing the total amount appropriated for this purpose by the number of eligible students.
In order to receive this funding, schools must meet class size requirements of no more than 18 students for one classroom teacher or 30 students for two classroom teachers. Additional requirements for schools receiving this supplemental funding include that they be open before and after school hours; collaborate with community organizations to provide school district residents with social services and educational and recreational opportunities; make curricular changes that ensure rigor; provide common planning time for school employees; create and review staff development plans for each teacher and administrator; and develop transition plans for new employees. In FY15, 204 of the state’s 424 districts participated in this class-size reduction program.
Wisconsin funds special education using a partial reimbursement system, in which districts report their special education expenses to the state and receive reimbursement for a portion of those expenses.
Districts may request reimbursement for staff costs, transportation, and a few other specific costs related to the education of students with disabilities. The state also reimburses the costs of health treatment related to particular disabilities, such as physical or orthopedic disabilities, hearing impairment, and emotional disturbance. While all of these costs are technically eligible for full reimbursement, the reimbursement rate is limited by the amount appropriated for this purpose. The estimated proration rate for 2015-16 is 26.37%, which is similar to the rate in other recent years.
There are three additional streams of state funding available for special education in the state: a partial reimbursement for when a high-cost student’s education costs exceed $30,000; supplemental aid for districts with below-average education revenue available, fewer than 2,000 pupils, and special education costs exceeding 16% of expenditures; and tuition support for students living in children’s, foster, or group homes and other out-of-district residential arrangements. Three additional programs were created in 2015 and will go into effect in the 2016-17 school year: payments of $12,000 to districts receiving a disabled student who resides outside their borders through the state’s open enrollment system; private-school vouchers for disabled students who have had open enrollment applications to nonresident districts rejected in the past; and $1,000 per-student incentive payments to districts based on the postsecondary education and employment outcomes of their graduates with disabilities.
Wisconsin provides additional resources for gifted and talented students. It does so in the form of a grant.
The state awards grants to school districts, nonprofit organizations, and institutions within the University of Wisconsin system for the purpose of providing special services and activities to gifted and talented students.
The grants are awarded by application. In FY2016, the total amount appropriated for this purpose was $237,200, and individual awards were limited to $30,000.
|Career and Technical Education||
Wisconsin provides specific funding for career and technical education (CTE) programs. It does so through a per-student allocation distributed based on the number of students that earned industry-recognized certifications in the prior year.
The total amount of money designated for this purpose was $3 million in FY2015 and FY2016. The per-student allocation is limited to $1000, regardless of the number of certifications earned by the student. The funding for this allocation is part of the budget for the Wisconsin Fast Forward program, housed in the state’s Department of Workforce Development.
Wisconsin provides increased funding to certain districts based on the concentrations of students from low-income households that they serve. It does so in the form of supplemental per-pupil funding for districts whose populations are at least 50% eligible for free- or reduced-price lunch (FRL) under the National School Lunch Program.
In FY2016, the state provided $66.17 per student in such districts. This supplemental funding is provided for all enrolled students, regardless of their FRL eligibility.
|Sparsity and/or Small Size||
Wisconsin provides increased funding for sparse school districts by distributing a per-student grant of $300 per student in these districts. The state also provides additional assistance with transportation costs for certain sparse districts.
School districts eligible for the per-student grants are those with fewer than 10 students were square mile and 725 or fewer students in total. School districts eligible for the additional transportation funding are those with 50 or fewer students per square mile and a per-pupil transportation cost at least 50% higher than the state average.
Funded: State Policy Analysis
A Detailed Look at Each State's Funding Policies
Below, see summaries of the state’s education funding policy in each issue area. Click the Expand icon next to any summary to see more detail, if available, about that state’s policy regarding that issue area. Click the Citation iconnext to any summary to see the sources of the information regarding that issue area.