Legislation in 1995 brought major changes in the funding of the state school finance system. This legislation brought greater reliance on state funding and property tax relief for property owners. The educational needs of Wisconsin children have been slated to go up against demands for lower property taxes by area residents. The unfortunate result of this legislation was that wealthy districts benefited disproportionately, “redistributing over $19 million from districts of moderate and low property wealth to the 35 wealthiest districts in the state.” (Statz 1997).
Additionally, the districts with the highest property values and lowest tax rates received higher amounts per pupil of school levy tax credit than the districts with low property wealth and higher tax rates, again causing the wealthier school districts to be given larger monetary benefits. This legislation caused taxpayers in the majority of Wisconsin school districts (74%) to be worse off than under the old rules, and for what? When Wisconsin property owners received their tax bills, for most there was only a slight reduction.The bottom line is that taxpayers are being penalized for living in the wrong school district, and the lower-income districts, already struggling, have just taken another hit. (Statz 1997). There is a small amount of good news in the state of Wisconsin where education is concerned: The Madison School District, contrary to the remainder of the state of Wisconsin made more progress than “any other urban area in the country in shrinking the racial achievement gap and managed to raise the performance levels of all racial groups over the past decade.” (Wisconsin State 2006).
Madison significantly reduced the gap while maintaining the scores of white students. Madison was able to increase the shares of students of all racial groups who scored at the top levels, and significantly improve graduation rates for students in each racial group. The Leaders of the Madison group have vowed to work at least until 2011 to fight the still-existing ethnic gaps in the educational system. (Wisconsin State 2006).We can only hope that other school districts in the State of Wisconsin will follow Madison’s lead and do their best to create a level educational playing field for all students, regardless of race, religion or economic background. If more schools would make a vow such as that of Madison, perhaps by the year 2011 substantial inroads could be made in solving Michigan’s schooling problems. In the 1970’s the issue of school integration was seriously addressed by both the Legislature and the federal courts.
The U. S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin found that “the Milwaukee School Board had administered the school system with segregative intent and ordered that a desegregation plan be developed. ” (Kava 2005). A settlement agreement was reached and the Milwaukee Public Schools were required to ensure that a minimum of 75% of all students within the district would be enrolled in racially balanced schools—between 25 and 60 percent black enrollment at the middle and elementary school level.(Kava 2005).
Largely because of this case, the integration aid program known as Chapter 220 was enacted in 1975, going into effect in the 1976-77 school years. The stated purpose of Chapter 220 is “to facilitate the transfer of students between schools and school districts to promote cultural and racial integration in education where students and their parents desire such transfer and where schools and school districts determine such transfers serve educational interests.” (Kava 2005).
Rather a lengthy explanation for a fairly simple concept which was to achieve racial balance on a voluntary basis at no cost to the taxpaying citizen. The theory is that the state provides extra funding as an “incentive” for schools to desegregate. The program’s history shows an initial payment of $8.
3 million dollars for the program in 1976-77, and jumped to a high of $84. 3 million in 2000-2001, while payments in 2004-2005 are expected to be approximately $81.6 million. (Kava 2005).In 1984, the Milwaukee Public School Board was once again before the federal courts when they filed a lawsuit against 24 suburban school districts charging these schools were segregated.
A settlement agreement in the case was reached in 1987, and the agreement was dependent upon the Chapter 220 program to both “finance and facilitate increases in the number of voluntary pupil transfers between MPS and suburban Milwaukee school districts. ” (Kava 2005).