School Funding Cases in Wisconsin

in Wisconsin Litigation

Historical Background

In Kukor v. Grover, 436 N.W.2d 568 (1989), the Wisconsin Supreme Court held that the then-current state education finance system did not violate the uniform education or equal protection provisions of the state constitution. The court observed that plaintiffs complained of inequities among school districts in the state’s system of school aid distribution but had not alleged that this system caused their districts to fall short of state educational standards.

In Vincent v. Voight, 614 N.W.2d 388 (2000), the state supreme court held that Wisconsin students have the right to “an equal opportunity for a sound basic education [which] will equip students for their roles as citizens and enable them to succeed economically and personally” and defined that right to include “the opportunity for students to be proficient in mathematics, science, reading and writing, geography, and history, and . . . receive instruction in the arts and music, vocational training, social sciences, health, physical education and foreign language.” However, the court also concluded that the plaintiffs had not presented evidence that students were being denied this opportunity.

Costing Out

In 2002, the Institute for Wisconsin’s Future issued “Funding our Future: An Adequacy Model for Wisconson School Finance,” which proposes a 32% increase in school funding based on a Costing-Out Study.

A team led by Dr. Allan Odden of the University of Wisconsin-Madison released a cost study in March 2007. The study, “Moving From Good to Great in Wisconsin: Funding Schools Adequately And Doubling Student Performance,” was prepared for a state policy task force that was comprised of policymakers, educators, and other state citizens and stakeholders, and it recommended a nine percent increase in school spending. The study has been criticized for underestimating the amount of additional funding that is needed, as its nine percent recommendation is among the lowest of any cost study performed in any state.

Useful Resources

Are School Revenue Limits Limiting Learning?” (Institute for Wisconsin’s Future 2001).

Last updated: April 2012

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