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Relief for public schools after two years of funding cuts

LA CROSSE, Wis. - Wisconsin public schools have seen close to $800-million of state funding cut from their budgets over the past two years.

But in the next state budget, some schools could be looking forward to seeing some of the money coming back.

Now that Wisconsin has a surplus instead of a deficit, Governor Scott Walker is looking for ways to help the state's schools with some extra funding.

In his State of the State address last week he mentioned providing funding incentives for schools that rank high or show rapid improvement on their school report cards.


But some superintendents in the La Crosse area are questioning if that's really the best way to help and motivate schools to improve.

Relief may be on the way for Wisconsin public schools who have spent the last two years compensating for the largest state funding cuts in Wisconsin's history.

"There will probably be some kind of foundational base increase overall for all of our schools with funding. What level that's at is still something we're looking at," said Gov. Scott Walker.

During a stop in La Crosse last week, Walker gave a glimpse into the next state budget.

He's proposing a plan to reward schools that perform well.

"There would be a pot of money that each year you'd set aside for schools where they'd get it as an incentive in two categories; either for high attaining or for rapid growth," said Walker.

But West Salem School District Superintendent Troy Gunderson says extra money does not always equal extra effort from schools.

''I think we're mistaken if we continually focus in on teachers, educators and schools in general being driven by, 'hey, if I do a little bit more I'll make a little bit more, we'll get a little bit more,' it just doesn't work that way. The motivators are all driven by seeing success," said Gunderson.

Walker is also considering one-time grants for low ranking schools who have a good plan for improvement.

It's an idea La Crosse School District Superintendent Randy Nelson says may not lead to long-term solutions.

"It takes people when we're working with students. So one time grants tend to not be able to sustain something that you might try to do unless what you're going to do with a one time grant is use it to purchase supplies or programs, that might make a difference," said Nelson.

Gunderson says that grant money could be used more effectively in helping high performing schools share what they're doing and what works for them with lower ranking schools.

He says one fault of his profession is that schools just don't have a lot of opportunity to share what they've found to be successful with each other.

Walker will unveil his state budget proposal next month.    

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