School funding was the hot topic at a recent gathering between Rep. Garey Bies (R-Sister Bay) and superintendents from three of the Door County school districts that regularly get the short end of the stick when it comes to state funding.
Sevastopol's Linda Underwood, Gibraltar's Tina Van Meer and Washington Island's Tim Raymond were on hand Friday at Sevastopol School as Bies received a "Friend of Education" award from the Fair Aid Coalition, a group that represents low-aid districts in Wisconsin.
Underwood says the four also had a very "thoughtful and productive" conversation about how Wisconsin's school funding formula falls short when it comes to districts with high property values and low enrollments.
Bies tells DoorCountyDailyNews.com he'll be introducing legislation that would require the state to provide a minimum amount of support to low-aid districts so every child is covered. He's proposing a $1,000 per student figure, although he says he's not married to that amount.
Bies says one of the challenges will be selling the idea to fellow lawmakers, some of whom he says have a skewed perception of Door County.
Underwood calls Bies' measure "a good start" and says there are "dozens and dozens" of ways the current funding formula could be modified to help out districts like Sevastopol, Gibraltar and Washington Island.
"I do believe that as we slowly climb out of our economic slump and that more and more people really learn and understand how school funding and finance works that cooler heads will prevail and that school districts will start to see a more equitable distribution of state money," says Underwood.
Raymond says it's an issue the Legislature needs to address.
"What Representative Bies understands is that we may have high wealth in the Door County area -- especially Northern Door and Washington Island," says Raymond. "But we also have high property values and low income at the same time so it's not as if the formula truly represents and provides an equal opportunity for students in high property value school districts."
Underwood says in the last round of state funding Sevastopol received less than $100 per student, Gibraltar received around $14 per student and Washington Island was between those two amounts.