You can blame several factors for the stress school boards and district administrators will likely face in the coming months. The Green Bay Press-Gazette reported earlier this week that inflation, lagging state funding, declining enrollment, and the expiration of federal dollars through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund will contribute to the Green Bay Area School District facing a $36 million budget deficit in two years and Milwaukee Public School over $70 million. Some school districts used the ESSER funding to hire additional staff to help students that suffered setbacks in their education due to virtual learning challenges catch up. Luxemburg-Casco School District, for example, hired six instructional staff members on two one-year contracts to address concerns. Last December, former Superintendent Glenn Schlender said those positions would exist as long as the dollars were available. He also remarked that time under their roof would allow the district to get a closer look at the teachers for future vacancies. Other school districts like Sturgeon Bay did not go that route. District Superintendent Dan Tjernagel says they looked at hiring additional people as being unsustainable, instead taking the state legislature’s advice to use those federal funds to address the inflationary costs they were experiencing.
Depending on what the Wisconsin Legislature and the Governor’s office decide to do with education funding in the next budget, school districts will likely have to rely on voter-approved operational referenda or cut programs to make their numbers work.