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education funding

Spending per pupil in Wisconsin was down $1,038 from 2008 for the school year just ended.

Wisconsin has had the second deepest slash in per-student spending in the nation since 2008 — second only to Alabama — according to a study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Spending per pupil in Wisconsin was down $1,038 from 2008 for the school year just ended. Alabama cut per-pupil spending by $1,242.

Alabama and Wisconsin led the list of at least 35 states providing less funding per student than they did before the recession hit.

Wisconsin spending per pupil is 15.3 percent lower than in 2008, making it among 14 states where per-pupil spending remains at least 10 percent lower than before the economic recession.

The state cuts to education leave local school districts forced to cut services, raise taxes or both, notes the study. The cuts also hamper economic recovery by reducing the number of teaching jobs and school district workers’ buying power, the authors say.

And cuts also make it harder improve academic achievement by students, the study says.

And how, says John Matthews, executive director of Madison Teachers Inc. “The loss in revenue has caused numerous high impact problems in the schools,” he said.

Matthews says some of those problems include larger classes; reduced hours for educational assistants, meaning teachers have less time for the students who need it the most; delayed or canceled purchase of textbooks and other teaching materials; cuts to programs to assist students who are behind in reading; less teacher planning time; even shortages of copy paper.

State Rep. Sondy Pope, D-Cross Plains, who sits on the Assembly Education Committee, says the continued cuts are proof that Gov. Scott Walker wants to sell public education to private for-profit schools.

“I can’t imagine how in a time of talking about returning money to the taxpayers we can afford to ignore critical needs of public education in Wisconsin,” she said.

A report earlier this year on the harsh impact of cuts in state aid on rural school districts had even Republican legislators wanting to do something, Pope said. “But with this administration, it’s not going to happen,” she said.