State Senator Duey Stroebel penned a column in response to a recent article in the Washington County Daily News where the Kewaskum Schools were whining about not getting as much state aid as they wanted. While Stroebel uses Kewaskum as the example, he brings up some important points that are applicable across Wisconsin.
From a common-sense standpoint, state and local funding for schools is also on a per-student basis. Dollars are tied to how many students a district educates. Kewaskum enrollment has fallen 236 students from a high of 2,050 students in 2008-09 to 1,814 students in 2018-19. Clearly a 12.5 percent,
or oneeighth, reduction in enrollment should impact finances. According to documents on the Kewaskum School Board website, the 2016-17 school year had a general fund budget of $19.62 million, with an enrollment of 1,844.
The recently finished 2018-19 school year had a general fund budget of $20.78 million with 1,814 students. That is an increase in spending of 5.9 percent over two years while enrollment fell 1.6 percent.
Given current demographics, we can expect flat to declining enrollment to continue throughout Wisconsin. It is up to local school boards, and those they employ, to scale costs and ensure a quality product. Nothing we do at the state level can force a school district to prudently control costs or invest funding in the most critical areas. Every community must ask if each budget item improves educational performance and graduation rates.
Last, but not least, communities can go to referendum. The same cost and education-result questions should be asked on those occasions.