The Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools (WAES) is a
diverse, statewide coalition working for comprehensive school-funding
Its work is based on the Adequacy model—reform that
connects revenue to the needs of children, no matter where
they live, and the opportunity to reach academic success.
WAES, which now includes many individuals and over 70 organizations
as partners, is waging the battle for reform on many fronts,
including lobbying, community organizing, and educational
The coalition grew out of a 1999 meeting in Madison, hosted
by the Institute
for Wisconsin's Future (IWF), to discuss the impact of
revenue limits on the state's 426 school districts. Many of
the organizations that attended the daylong session decided
to continue to meet to discuss the problem and look for solutions.
After several meetings, those attending decided to formalize
their involvement in the school-funding reform effort and
took the name Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools. Staff
and technical support for the coalition is provided by IWF.
Early efforts of WAES were aimed at improving the existing
school-funding system. Attempts to change the plan, however,
met with limited success because it was too complicated for
adjustments and repairs.
On August 16, 2002, the partners in WAES finally decided
it was futile to tinker with the state's school-finance system.
They found it not only complex but unfair and inadequate.
Instead, the coalition concentrated its efforts on a new plan.
The partners agreed that the new plan…and partnership
in WAES…should be based on four
- The need for more revenue
- A student based system
- Decreased reliance on the property tax
- Local control and accountability
WAES based its work on those four principles and the IWF
Our Future: An Adequacy Model for Wisconsin School Finance."
According to this report, "Adequacy asks what resources
are necessary for children to attain the high standards set
by parents and taxpayers, and it ensures all schools can provide
The IWF study goes on to say, "Adequacy recognizes that
children face different challenges, and it meets those diverse
needs. Adequacy is our best investment in Wisconsin's future."
Coalition partners formalized the Adequacy theory in the
Wisconsin Adequacy Plan. (A newly revised version
of the plan will be available Fall 2007.) The plan has four
- All districts receive adequate
revenue to cover the cost of an education that provides
children with an equal opportunity to succeed.
- All districts have the funding needed
to meet the needs of students and schools with special needs.
- Property taxpayers receive substantial
- Local districts retain control of key
educational operational decisions.
In addition to writing a reform plan, WAES is building a
strong statewide, grassroots, broad-based coalition that can
mobilize support for Adequacy and work with state government
for adoption of a new system.
The coalition works in three areas—legislative, organization
building, and community outreach:
In the legislative arena, WAES is working to have the
Wisconsin Adequacy Plan introduced as a bill or for some
other proposal that is based on the principles
of adequate funding. Partners meet with legislators
and other policymakers to explain the adequacy theory
and ask their support for reform.
WAES understands that the strength of the coalition—and
the best chance for statewide reform—is working
with organizations and individuals around the state. The
coalition solicits new partners
and offers training in leadership, public speaking, and
Finally, WAES provides community
outreach through a wide range of events that increase
public awareness of the present school-finance system
and, at the same time, build support for reform based
on Adequacy. These activities include rural school district
conferences, presentations to community organizations,
teacher and parent conventions, the release of reports
and studies, and policy briefings.
In addition to lobbying and outreach activities, WAES partners
meet as needed to conduct the business of school-funding reform.
Aside from several teleconference meetings per year, the full
group meets approximately once ever three or four months.
In order to involve as many people as possible, two meetings
are held, one north of Wausau and the other between Milwaukee
For more information, contact us.