The non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) recently released its annual memo estimating state support for K-12 education in the previous school year. The memo provides information on the estimated level of state support provided for K-12 education statewide and to individual school districts in the 2016-17 school year.
In calculating the percentage of state support, the LFB memo relies on a method that dates back to the period from 1996-97 through 2002-03 when state law required the state to support two-thirds of statewide school costs, technically referred to as “partial school revenues.”
Generally speaking, the concept of partial school revenues includes only revenues received by school districts from state general and categorical aid and the property tax levy. It does not take into account, for example, federal aid to schools or non-property tax revenues that are collected locally.
Using this method, the LFB memo found the state’s share of partial school revenues equaled 63.58 percent in 2016-17, up from 62.74 percent the previous year (2015-16). These figures include over $1 billion in state property tax credits, such as the School Levy Tax Credit and the First Dollar Credit, that reduce property owners’ tax bills but do not increase school budgets, which are largely controlled by revenue limits.
The level of state support for individual public school districts ranged from a low of 20 percent to a high of nearly 88 percent, according to the LFB memo, which noted the level of state support received by a given school district may be higher or lower than the statewide percentage depending on the district’s per pupil aidable costs and equalized value, as well as the amount of funding the district received through categorical aids and the levy credit.
Overall, including the money the state paid out as property tax credits, the LFB memo finds the state provided nearly $6.46 billion in support for schools in 2016-17 out of the nearly $10.16 billion in non-federal funds spent for K-12 education in Wisconsin last year.