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The Return to Separate and Unequal

By Michael Barndt and Joel McNally

Under the Wisconsin constitution, the state is responsible for providing public education. Schools in the state are funded primarily through local property taxes and state monies, including what are known as state equalization funds.

The rhetoric of the state's equalization plan is that it is intended to eliminate differences among districts' ability to raise funds, while still allowing local communities to spend more on education if residents choose to do so. The equalization plan, however, fails to do so.

The equalization formula provides Milwaukee with more funds than any of its suburbs. But it also permits the growing gap between the amount spent on each city student and each suburban student.

Only by adjusting the equalization formula to account for the vast differences in property valuation between city and suburb can the state accomplish its announced goals for equalization funds - to "eliminate differences in ability to spend" between districts and to assure "that districts that spend at the same level will tax at the same rate."

THE RACIAL BACKDROP

For the students of color in MPS, attending schools that are inadequately funded and in far worse physical condition than the schools of their white counterparts is merely a continuation of the long history of racial discrimination and segregation in Milwaukee.

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