Wisconsin Budget

Northern Wisconsin’s Decline in Children

In last five years, number of children dropped 3.2% statewide, but more than 10% in many northern counties.

By , Wisconsin Budget Project - Oct 23rd, 2016 07:38 pm
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Most counties in Wisconsin have fewer children than they did five years ago, with some of the biggest declines occurring in counties in northern Wisconsin, according to new population figures released by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. The decrease in the number of children has led to declining enrollment in many rural school districts, presenting those districts with a host of financial challenges that stem from trying to pay for fixed costs with diminished resources.

Between 2010 and 2015, the number of children in Wisconsin declined by about 42,000, from 1.34 million to 1.30 million, for a decline of 3.2%.

The decline was most severe in the northern part of the state, with virtually every county in the north experiencing a drop in the number of children. The counties with the largest declines in percentage terms between 2010 and 2015 included:

  • Adams County, -16.0%;
  • Iron County, -15.5%;
  • Lincoln County, -14.1%;
  • Bayfield County, -13.3%; and
  • Rusk County, -11.9%.

Nearly all counties had fewer children in 2015 than in 2010, but a few counties – mostly in the southern or western part of the state – experienced increases in the number of children. Counties with the largest increases in their child populations between 2010 and 2015 included:

Most Wisconsin counties have fewer children than they did five years ago.

Most Wisconsin counties have fewer children than they did five years ago.

A decline in the number of children in an area can pose financial hardships for the school districts there. To a large extent, student enrollment determines the amount of state support a school district receives as well as the amount of money the school district is allowed to raise from property taxes. If student enrollment goes down, so too does the school district’s budget.

The problem is that some school district costs are fixed and don’t go down when student enrollment goes down. For example, school districts face the same heating bill regardless of how many students occupy a building. Likewise, a school district may have to run the same bus routes, have the same costs for insuring its buildings, and pay the same amount to have its parking lot plowed regardless of the number of students inside the building.

School districts with declining enrollment may consider consolidation with a bordering school district, but that’s no cure-all: transportation costs and bus ride times for students may increase after consolidation. Closing a school can also be a devastating blow for a small community.

State lawmakers have taken some steps to address the challenges faced by school districts with declining enrollment and rural districts. The state limits the drop in general aid that a school district can have from one year to the next, and provides extra resources for school districts that have students spread out over large geographic areas. In addition, Wisconsin State Superintendent Tony Evers has said he will ask Governor Walker to approve new resources in the next budget to help rural school districts retain their teachers.

Despite the steps taken so far, areas with declining child populations will continue to face challenges educating their children as well as ensuring that their communities remain vibrant, with good employment opportunities. We should make it a priority to ensure that northern and rural Wisconsin gets what it needs to thrive.

18 thoughts on “Wisconsin Budget: Northern Wisconsin’s Decline in Children”

  1. wisconsin conservative digest says:

    This is major problem in state.
    In Florence county they do not have enough kids to have a school. In 12 districts it is “National Disaster”, cause despite a tenfold increase in funding for 50% fewer kids the Left has wrecked those schools.
    MPS is terrible. .In 3rd grade only 15% of kids can read.
    In the poorest countries in the world with 1/10th the money they can teach kids.

  2. Vincent Hanna says:

    What in the hell does MPS have to do with Florence County? Did MPS wreck the schools up there? How did they manage that? For a man who has never taught a day in his life it’s remarkable what an expert on effective teaching you are.

  3. Casey says:

    Ha yes…..Florence county…one of the most politically conservative counties in Wisconsin. Has it ever occurred to WCD that perhaps poverty (Florence is also pretty poor hence families leaving) has more of an effect on education than political ideology?

  4. wisconsin conservative digest says:

    The GOP in Wisconsin has been the leader in education for decades. It was Knowles that for us out of one room schools. Knowles that put 300 million more into school in 1969, Lucey screwed half the districts with his budget. Tommy was the one that raised aid to 67% of the school aides and covered every district, plus was actually supported by the educrats. It was Doyle that cut UW system 250 million and wrecked the budget forcing Scott do Act 10.
    It was the JFC controlled by GOP that added 400 million to school aides last year and they have pledged bro this year.
    Schools, up north, need help and they are planning that. Dems have screwed them. Demi have done nothing in the last 50 years.
    we need to clean out the excess of non teaching personnel in the schools.

  5. Vincent Hanna says:

    So we should raise aid and spend more on schools? You are praising that and decrying cuts to education? And you do realize that poverty is far more of an issue than ideology when it comes to student performance? I’d love some evidence to support your claim that a political ideology ruined schools up north. I’m not holding my breath though.

  6. Big Al says:

    WCD, then I look forward to hearing about the GOP’s wonderful plan to address this important issue, since they are the leading party for education and have been in charge of the state for the almost 6 years now. Just like the Dems can’t blame Bush for everything, your team has had plenty of time to fix what you claim Doyle screwed up. Interesting you’re still blaming Gov. Lucey, who left office in 1977 – time to let that one go.

  7. Jason says:

    Are not these the brightest of all. We are told that teachers need to be paid at the rate of Doctors and lawyers yet there not smart enough to teach two or three different subjects. Why do you need ten teachers for fifty kids. In the real world you let five teachers go. Then your school budget looks more in the black than in the red.

  8. Tom says:

    Once again Jason is ripping teachers’ pay and intelligence, without being able to write a grammatically correct sentence. Typical teacher basher in Walker’s Wisconsin.

    A little advice for Jason: If you’re going to rip teachers for “not being smart enough to teach two or three different subjects”, perhaps YOU should pay more attention to writing your usual hateful, anti-teacher comments using correct grammer. The correct grammer would be “yet THEY ARE not smart enough to teach two or three different subjects”.

    As someone who portrays himself as the expert on everything educational, I challenge Jason to go out and hire that expert teacher who can effectively teach high school physics, mathematics, and german, so that we can fire the current teaching staff.

  9. Jason says:

    Tom, what do you suggest? How is this a state issue? How does the state legislature give more money to a school that has a 10: 1 ratio per class versus MPS having a 20:1 ratio. Small towns should merge with other small towns or except higher local taxes.

  10. Jake formerly of the LP says:

    “except” higher local taxes? YIKES! No wonder why you bash teachers, Jason. You clearly sucked at school.

    But you’re kind of right, as ALEC-GOP education policies are likely to cause small rural schools to close and merge. Which will cause strife and less community in these small towns (which have nothing to hold together with other than the schools) and a lot of long bus rides for the kids. But hey, why should those guys get the same opportunities the rich kids in the 262 suburbs get, right?

    You don’t have a clue on the importance of quality of life, do you?

  11. wisconsin conservative digest says:

    My wife is teacher, good one, for third grade.
    Our problem is that spending has grown tenfold, since 1970, for 50% fewer kids yet the ACT, SAT scores are down plus in the 12 or so bad districts, kids cannot read.
    At MPS only 15% can read after third grade. The schools have porked up on non teaching staffs, and given them fat paychecks.
    Educrats have to pay into pensions and health like the res of us.

  12. Tom says:

    “My wife is teacher, good one, for third grade”. says WCD who is constantly bashing teachers at every possible opportunity.

    So glad to see the many young Wisconsin teachers fleeing the open hatred in Walker’s Wisconsin for any other state in the Midwest where teachers are not bashed 24/7 by the likes of functional illiterates like WCD & Jason.

    WCD & Jason’s posts will be added to the mountain of evidence showing young teachers that they have absolutely NO future pursuing a teaching career in Walker’s Wisconsin.

  13. Casey says:

    Tom…..I dont support either WCD or Jason’s ideas but your comment it just plain idiotic and is just as bad as they are. Wisconsin bashers can all please just go somewhere else.

  14. wisconsin conservative digest says:

    I never bash teachers, it is the non teaching personnel, the Educrats, over paid, not needed ancillary, administrators that have failed the kids in Wisconsin, in many areas.
    The white, male, liberal, racists that control Milwaukee have done nothing, to fix the schools. Tommy has tried, so did Alberta and Kooyenga. Lefties do nothing.
    The teachers union cause more trouble than help.
    In the last 50 years we have increased spending on schools, tenfold for 50% fewer kids, yet scores are down?? Why?? MPS was called a “national disaster” yet no one has done a damn thing. It is leadership at fault here, not the workers.

  15. Jason says:

    A school board finds an increase in kids for education and more state money is needed. I understand that. Only in government though is it also the opposite. Were losing kids in are district so give us more state money.

  16. Tom says:

    I am one of those whose life and career has been directly impacted by the hatred directed towards teachers in Walker’s Wisconsin by the majority of residents. Within two years, I will join the thousands of teachers in the prime of their careers that have already left the hatred that IS Walker’s Wisconsin. In addition to the exodus of experienced teachers fleeing this state, we are seeing many of the milleanial generation joining us in fleeing for the promise of a much better future.

    Estimated out-migration of college graduates has soared to nearly 20,000 per year since Walker’s election. When college juniors and seniors learn the truth of life and a career in Walker’s Wisconsin after graduation, many begin their plans to exit Walker’s Wisconsin for states where the economy hasn’t crashed and where public education hasn’t been destroyed. States bordering Walker’s Wisconsin are certainly benefitting from this out-migration of talented new citizens.

  17. wisconsin conservative digest says:

    Why has this happened.
    When I was kid, taught by nuns, then went to public school. Liked both. Nuns we’re better.
    My wife taught for years but did not like the Leftward trend of the union and the way thing were done. She just liked kids as I believe most teachers do.
    The whole thing, poisonous union and porkbarreled administration has cost teachers, schools a lot of support.

  18. PMD says:

    Do people stop supporting cops when police unions are poisonous? Police unions support bad cops all the time, because their job is to represent them and work on their behalf. Do you also loathe police unions WCD?

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