Rumor vs Reality

A small but vocal group of citizens has raised a number of claims against the school district. Most of the claims fall under one of the following rumors. Read on for a reality check on each point. If you’d rather skip the rumors and go straight to Five Facts about Oshkosh Area School District finances, CLICK HERE


Rumor: The school district says Oshkosh Area Schools rank at or near the bottom in almost all measures of spending – but I’ve seen data from another group that says something different. Which is right?

 

Reality: People may try to confuse you with numbers in order to attack the school district’s credibility. The bottom line is Oshkosh is at or near the bottom in almost all measures of funding and spending, no matter what numbers anyone chooses to use.



Rumor: The school district is using figures that support its claim that more funding is needed.

 

Reality: The data used by the Oshkosh Area Schools comes from independent and state sources, and the facts have been affirmed by outside experts unaffiliated with the school district (http://www.thenorthwestern.com/story/news/education/2016/03/14/uwo-professor-oasd/81613296/). One independent financial expert’s conclusion: “OASD needs to exceed revenue limits or significantly cut programming because of reductions in state and local support. A close look at the numbers shows that OASD is not crying wolf.”

 

 

Rumor: The proposed cuts won’t really happen if the referendum is not approved.

 

Reality: A school district cannot spend more than it has. If the referendum is not approved, the School Board has already unanimously approved $3.4 million in cuts for 2016-17 and $4 million for 2017-18 that were identified and recommended by a Budget Advisory Committee. Cuts will continue, until funding is increased. These cuts are on top of more than $17 million in cuts made from 2006 through 2014.

 

Rumor: The school district is trying to hide something.

 

Reality: In addition to participating in more than 60 public referendum presentations, school district staff have had many long discussions with a small group of anti-referendum citizens, provided access to district financials and answered hundreds of questions – including many that don’t even apply to the referendum.

 

The bottom line: revenue is not keeping up with expenses. While individuals can use and manipulate data in whatever way serves their purpose, the school district is responsible and accountable to its taxpayers and must adopt a balanced budget each year – so using accurate data is of critical importance. The facts remain: state funding has remained flat, costs and mandates continue to increase, and Oshkosh Schools will have cuts if a local revenue increase is not approved.

 



Five Facts about Oshkosh Area School District finances


Rather than deal in rumors, here are Five Facts about Oshkosh Area School District finances:

1. In almost all measures of spending, Oshkosh ranks at or near the bottom (including per student spending, administrative costs, teacher salaries, employee benefits). There is a lot of data out there – some of it being used by others to mislead voters and question our credibility – but the bottom line is always the same: Oshkosh receives less funding and spends less money than its peers. While we can be proud of being fiscally conservative, we must also recognize that being on the bottom limits our ability to provide the kind of education Oshkosh students deserve.

2. State school funding has remained flat or decreased in the last several years. Meanwhile, the costs of running a school district—classroom supplies, staff salaries, utilities, etc—increase every year with inflation, just as a household budget does. Inadequate funding and increased state mandates make it difficult to maintain—much less expand—effective classroom programs for students. Last year the state gave school districts funding – but mandated that it be given to taxpayers as property tax relief and not be used for school district operations. That’s not an increase, that’s using school districts as a pass-through to taxpayers.

3. Housing values rise and fall with school quality. Reams of research show that the quality of local schools directly affect a community’s vitality and home resale values. The more attractive a community is, the more likely people are to live, work and shop there. The second most often cited reason for a business selecting a particular location is the quality of the schools.

4. Without additional revenue, we will need to cut $3.4 million in 2016-17 and $4 million in 2017-18. These won’t be painless cuts – they impact programs, class offerings, participation fees and school closings, among other things. These cuts are on top of the more than $17 million that was cut from 2006 through 2014.

5. The State allows local school districts to exceed the state imposed revenue limit with voter approval, giving local communities the ability to determine what funding support they want to provide for their own schools. While we would prefer the state provide adequate funding for all school districts, at least it offers us the option of asking our community for more funding. We are one of many Wisconsin school districts asking voters to consider exceeding the revenue limit this spring.

Still have questions? Email referendum@oshkosh.k12.wi.us or call 920-966-0343.

 

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