Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools
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Click here for an introduction to WAES in PDF. Print and copy an introduction to WAES.

The Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools (WAES) is a diverse, statewide coalition working for comprehensive school-funding reform.

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 outreach.

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 core principles:

  • 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 study, "Funding 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 those resources."

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 goals:

  • 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 relief.
  • 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 school funding.

  • 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 and Madison.

For more information, contact us.

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