Public Policy Forum Blog

Public Schooling in Southeast Wisconsin 2012-2013

Public Schooling in Southeast Wisconsin 2012-2013 is the 27th in a series of Public Policy Forum annual reports on K-12 education policy, funding, academic achievement, and demographics in the southeast Wisconsin region (Milwaukee, Waukesha, Ozaukee, Washington, Racine, Kenosha and Walworth counties). This latest report reveals that dozens of high-performing districts exist within our region, yet the region as a whole remains challenged to overcome low proficiency rates, and differential educational outcomes associated with race, economic disadvantage, and geography. 

The vast majority of school districts in our seven-county area are high-performing. District report cards, new this year, rate fifty-nine of the region’s ninety-two districts (64%) as “exceeding” or “significantly exceeding” expectations. However a significant proportion of our region’s students attend schools in low-performing districts. Milwaukee Public Schools is the only district that was rated “fails to meet expectations” in the region and represents nearly one-third of our 304,000 students; another 10% of students attend the Racine Unified School District which received a rating of “meets few expectations.”

This is virtually unchanged from what we found in 2005 when we reported that “45% of the region’s K-12 students attend schools in the largely underperforming districts of Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha.” As we highlighted in both that report and here, these less-than-optimal ratings almost certainly reflect the fact that these districts struggle to educate the majority of the region’s most disadvantaged students.

Our continued struggle to fashion a successful system to address the education needs of public school students affects not only the life chances of individuals but the trajectory of the regional economy as a whole. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the region shed nearly 15,000 jobs between 2005 and 2013. The role that primary and high school education plays in the vibrancy of our economy is multi-faceted. Good public education systems drive the growth of local businesses, the location decisions of companies looking for a new home, and the quality of life for all in the region. 

Virginia Carlson