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Support Urged for Special Education Reimbursement Bill

PHOTO: Tom Beebe of the Institute for Wisconsin's Future says the system of funding public education in Wisconsin is broken. (Photo provided by IWF)
PHOTO: Tom Beebe of the Institute for Wisconsin's Future says the system of funding public education in Wisconsin is broken. (Photo provided by IWF)
February 7, 2014

MILWAUKEE – Tom Beebe, project director of the Institute for Wisconsin's Future, says state funding for special education programs has been steadily cut, and a newly introduced bill would reverse that trend by using some of the newfound surplus money.

Beebe says in 1975 the state reimbursed local districts for 70 percent of the cost of special education programs, and now it's down to 27 percent.

He says the system of school financing is broken.

"By its very design over the last two decades or more it has steadily paid in state aid less of the cost of that world-class education,” he says. “The surplus is $900 million.

“I maintain that to a great, great extent the surplus we have today was built on the back of public education kids."

Beebe adds the constant shortage of funds for special education programs causes problems for all students.

"It leads to discipline problems in a lot of cases,” he explains. “It leads to them not getting the education they're going to need to succeed once they're out of school.

“It leads to non-diagnoses or not treating the right special needs. It leads to all sorts of things that prohibit children from getting the quality education and the quality programs and services that they deserve."

Beebe maintains funding for public education has become a political football, and decisions made on both sides of the aisle have stripped resources from classrooms.

According to Beebe, the decades of cuts to special education funding have led to cuts in other school programs as well.

"The arts, music, literature classes are cancelled or are no longer held, are no longer offered because the district needs the resources in other areas,” he says. “So what districts are forced to do is to cut educational opportunities for all kids and keep the ones they have, in a lot of cases, by raising property taxes."

Beebe says a small amount of money from the surplus would go a long way toward helping to fix the system of funding public education.


Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI