Racine Unified may sue over state cuts to school funding

CREATED Jun. 17, 2011

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RACINE - The state budget passed by the legislature and awaiting Governor Walker's signature cuts public school funding by $800 million dollars over two years. School officials in Racine say those cuts will hit the district especially hard and officials are considering legal action to rectify things.

The Superintendent of the Racine Unified School District, Dr. James Shaw, has written previous blog entries about the cuts his district would face if the budget proposal were to be passed. He indicated he thought his district would be hit hard because it is "property poor" compared to other districts of similar size and population. He cited examples like Madison, Green Bay, Kenosha, and Appleton. The blog post continued on in part to say:

"The Racine community has provided strong financial support for many years through local property taxes. The state also has a responsibility to provide financial support for the Racine Unified School District so that Racine children are provided a quality education comparable to other Wisconsin school districts."

Shaw was not reachable for comment today. A district spokeswoman tells Newsradio 620 WTMJ that officials will meet with legal counsel this afternoon. School board members will be briefed about the possibility of suing over school finances Monday. The spokeswoman called the discussions, "preliminary".

Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools executive Director Tom Beebe tells Newsradio 620 WTMJ he is surprised district's haven't tried suing in the past, "...about all they're (districts) left with is saying to the people of Wisconsin, to the judicial system, to the courts, is you know the state isn't doing what it needs to do, we need help, therefor we're suing the state to fulfill its piece of the bargain."

Beebe continued on about a potential legal battle to say, "I don't think it be easy, but I think it only makes sense if we want children to be highly qualified and educated."

The school board agenda for Monday in Racine lists the following item: "Discussion of possible legal action against the State of Wisconsin regarding inequitable funding for the Racine Unified School District."

Beebe says he is not aware of any school district in Wisconsin suing the state in the past.