Money Matters

By Ron Unz

The Wisconsin legislature last year approved a new law that prohibits public schools from starting classes before Sept. 1. Currently, many schools begin in mid to late August, with sports programs beginning even sooner.

The state’s four major tourism groups spent 780 hours lobbying for the change, according to an analysis by the Associated Press. Overall, about half of the groups’ $125,247 lobbying bill went to the legislation on schools’ start date.

The only way districts can opt-out of the Sept. 1 start date is to hold a public hearing and pass a resolution – but only after July 1.


Bruce Thompson, president of the Milwaukee School Board, believes that it is “dysfunctional” to ask for more resources for the city’s public schools.

In a presentation Feb. 17 at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Thompson said that the Milwaukee Public Schools have to move beyond the “dysfunctional position” of asking for more money. “I don’t think it’s productive to just go and ask for more funds,” he said. “My emphasis as a school board member is to make sure the funds are being used in the most productive areas. … That’s part of living in a society with limits.”

The Milwaukee Public Schools, which are about 80% minority, receive several thousands of dollars less per pupil than many surrounding suburbs. At the same time, 81% of MPS elementary school children qualify for free or reduced lunch and the needs of the district are much higher.

Preliminary figures indicate the district will have a $32.2 million budget deficit next year. The administration has said it intends to submit a balanced budget to the board in April, but h as not yet indicated where it will cut the $32.2 million.


Over the 13 years a student spends in K-12 education, state revenue limits allow Wisconsin districts to spend vastly different amounts of money on the children. In the affluent River Hills area north of Milwaukee, for example, the revenue limits permit a 13-year investment of more than $157,800 in the education of a child. In nearby Milwaukee, the figure is $89,400 – or about $68,400 less.

By law, Wisconsin school districts are subject to “revenue limits,” which cap the amount districts can spend on education. The state’s financing system has been sued by the Association for Equity in Funding, a coalition of predominantly urban and rural districts. The case is currently before the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Figures on the disparities come from the Association for Equity in Funding.


Ann Cameron is the author of a well-known children’s book about an African-American family, More Stories Julian Tells. She granted permission for the Illinois third-grade reading test to use a passage from the book because she thought that “the best way to test children’s reading is to give them good and interesting passages to be tested on.”

Cameron was appalled to later find out that when the passage showed up on the Illinois test, it was illustrated with white characters, not the original drawings of African-American characters.


At least 11 states are considering bills that would require or allow posting of the Ten Commandments in public schools. In addition, Republican presidential candidates “have been embracing what is being called ‘Hang 10’ during campaign speeches and debates, according to a recent article in the School Board News.


“Today, our national policies of ethnic separatism – the so-called multiculturalism of the left, of which Spanish-only instruction is an important-element – loom enormous in our universities and the media. … No national leader, Democrat or Republican, has yet had the courage to step forth and burst this ideological balloon. If Mr. McCain now does so, he may gain both the presidency and the gratitude of millions of immigrant families.” -Ron Unz, who sponsored California’s anti-bilingual education initiative, in a Feb. 24 Wall Street Journal opinion advising John McCain on how to win the Republican nomination.