Wisconsin's 2011 Act 10: Analysis of Impacts to K-12 Public Education
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Our research investigates the differential impacts of Wisconsin’s 2011 Act 10 and Act 32 on K-12 public school districts throughout the state. The 2011 biennial state budget (Act 32), the reallocation of state aid and decrease in revenue limits, coupled with the reforms of Act 10 impacted public education in a profound way. Our research concentrated on sifting through the various impacts, both positives and negatives, in order to determine how, or whether, the policies within Act 10 and Act 32 address the prevailing issues in Wisconsin’s public education system. In order to assess and evaluate the ramifications of Act 10 and Act 32, we used a mixed methodology, combining both qualitative and qualitative data analysis. We distributed surveys to superintends and WEAC representatives to gain insight on their opinions and perceptions, while also conducting interviews with legislators in order to get the perspective of policy experts. Through our research we were able to determine the adverse effects that teachers felt in the wake of these acts and the rationale of political actors involved in the passing of this legislation. Republican lawmakers believed that tax breaks for residents would provide incentive enough to eliminate the influence of teachers, while Democrats saw Act 10 as an assault against public education. Through our data analysis we found that Act 10 and Act 32 disproportionately, and adversely, target rural schools and students of color. While Act 10’s reforms balanced the budget and provided superintendents’ with greater flexibility in managing their budgets, the costs of the legislation outweigh the benefits. The reallocation of state aid and decrease in revenue limits particularly harms districts with high levels of poverty and declining enrollment, while rewarding affluent, successful districts. The funding model enacted through Act 32 perpetuates inequality between school districts and between students of differing demographic backgrounds, further exacerbating the achievement gap and codifying “winners and losers” amongst schools. Our recommendations to address these prevailing issues are for the state to adopt an equitable school funding model, incentivize the pursuit of a career in education, address the needs of high cost districts, and to further integrate social and educational services.