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State and Local Government. Chapter 8: School Districts. Background. Public education touches the lives of many people, even those not involved in education Children, parents, teachers, taxpayers, decision-makers

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state and local government

State and Local Government

Chapter 8:

School Districts

  • Public education touches the lives of many people, even those not involved in education
  • Children, parents, teachers, taxpayers, decision-makers
  • Education is the single most expensive service provided by state and local governments
  • Since WI became a state, the constitution has required that the legislature create district schools throughout the state to provide free elementary and secondary education for all children
  • Largely paid for by an annual school text levied in each district
  • For each student, one year of public school averages around $10,700!
state supervision
State Supervision
  • The state constitution directs the state superintendent of public instruction to supervise all public schools. S/he is elected for a four-year term in a nonpartisan election.
  • Actual day-to-day operations of public schools is left to local school authorities but the state is responsible for maintaining and enforcing minimum standards (i.e. every school must be in session at least 180 days per school year)
  • State also provides money (State School Aids) to operate most local schools which generally supports instruction and operating costs but can also be applied to transportation, special education, and other specific programs in schools
  • Power of the purse- state can withhold money if the requirements set by the state are not met
  • There are now 426 school districts in the state of WI

State school aids have three objectives:

    • To provide reasonably equal educational opportunities
    • To encourage local districts to improve their educational programs
    • To keep the property tax rates as equitable as possible

There are also 12 regional organizations called CESAs (cooperative educational service agencies) which coordinates special services within a school district such as school psychologists, occupational therapists, and professional development for teachers, also can handling buying supplies wholesale

Representatives from the school boards in the area form the governing body of each CESA.

types of elementary and high school districts
Types of Elementary and High School Districts
  • The school district in which your school is located is a special unit of government
  • It has only one purpose—to provide education
  • 426 districts currently
  • Two types: common and unified
  • City of Milwaukee has special designation
  • Most districts operate full programs, from preschool to 12th grade education
  • Sometimes elementary and secondary education are split into two districts in the same area
  • Districts may vary in their type of organization and who has the most control

Common and union high school districts operate much the same but union districts operate only grades 9-12

  • Each is governed by a school board and holds an annual school meeting
  • This meeting gives voters a chance to voice their opinion in such matters as how many school taxes should be levied and whether or not schools should acquire or sell property
  • Unified school districts have a board elected by voters and there are no annual meetings
  • Milwaukee is different-- a nine-membered school board is elected at-large which directs school operations and adopts the budget after a public hearing
  • Each district has either a district administrator or superintendent of schools who oversees the operations of the entire district
financing schools
Financing Schools
  • School budget is created to estimate how much money will be spent on school operations for the coming year
  • Also lists sources of income, including state aid, that the district expects to receive
  • See 114 and 115 for a breakdown of expenditures and income
  • Two main sources of income are state aid and property taxes which are collected by towns, villages and cities and then are turned over to the district for school uses
  • 1997: 2/3 of state and local school revenues must come from state aids and property tax credits
  • This law was repealed in 2003 but many officials still remain committed to 2/3 funding for schools
  • A district is permitted to borrow money for certain projects, such as building new buildings…often voters have to pass a referendum authorizing the borrowing
alternatives to public schools
Alternatives to Public Schools
  • Private schools are operated by both nonprofit and for-profit groups
  • Nearly 13% of the state’s student attend private schools
  • Many, but not all, private schools have religious affiliations
  • State law also provides for home schooling- about 2% of the state’s students
  • School choice: started in 1989 in Milwaukee, allowed low-income parents to send their children to private schools at public expense. Now includes religious schools
  • Vouchers are available for 22,500 students at 125 schools in Milwaukee
  • Charter schools are also an alternative to traditional public schools
  • It is a publicly sponsored school that is exempt from many rules and regulations on public education
  • Meant to provide new opportunities, encourage innovation in education, and organize in a new way
  • Charter schools are free, public, and nonreligious but other than that, they are free to so as they wish within reasonable limits
  • There are currently 183 charter schools in the state, often offering nontraditional curricula and teaching methods
wisconsin technical college system
Wisconsin Technical College System
  • In addition to school districts, the state is divided into 16 technical college districts
  • These districts are obviously larger, if there are only 16, most cover several counties
  • WI was one of the first states to have vocational education, establishing its own system for it in 1911
  • Students may earn associates degrees or pursue interests in various technical and artistic fields
  • WI’s tech colleges offer more than 300 programs with various diplomas and degrees
  • Each district has a nine-member board chosen by representatives within the district
  • The board has general control over finances, facilities, programs, and employees
  • The WI Technical College System Board operates on the state level as a supervising agent
  • Such a board is unique to WI out of the entire nation- most states do not review technical colleges separately