Wisconsin school districts

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K-12 Education in Wisconsin
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Education facts
State Superintendent: Tony Evers
Number of students: 871,105[1]
Number of teachers: 56,245
Teacher/pupil ratio: 1:15.5
Number of school districts: 462
Number of schools: 2,243
Graduation rate: 88%[2]
Per-pupil spending: $11,774[3]
See also
Wisconsin Department of Public InstructionList of school districts in WisconsinWisconsinSchool boards portal
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Education policy project
Public education in the United States
Public education in Wisconsin
Glossary of education terms
Note: The statistics on this page are mainly from government sources, including the U.S. Census Bureau and the National Center for Education Statistics. Figures given are the most recent as of June 2014, with school years noted in the text or footnotes.

Wisconsin is home to 462 school districts, 2,243 schools and 871,105 K-12 students.[4]

Quick facts

State school administrators

  • State Superintendent of Public Instruction: Tony Evers[5]
  • Deputy State Superintendent: Michael Thompson
  • Assistant State Superintendent, Academic Excellence: Sheila Briggs
  • Assistant State Superintendent, Finance and Management: Brian Pahnke
  • Assistant State Superintendent, Learning Support: Carolyn Stanford Taylor
  • Assistant State Superintendent, Libraries and Technology: Kurt Kiefer
  • Assistant State Superintendent, Student and School Success: Lynette Russell
  • Chief of Staff: Jessica Justman
  • Chief Legal Counsel: Janet Jenkins
  • Communications Director: John Johnson
  • Senior Policy Adviser: Jeff Pertl


The following table displays the state's top 10 school districts by total student enrollment and overall accountability score on the state's annual report card for the 2012-2013 school year.[6][7]

Enrollment, 2011-2012 Overall accountability score, 2012-2013
1.) Milwaukee Public Schools 1.) Norway J7 School District
2.) Madison Metropolitan School District 2.) Mequon-Thiensville School District
3.) Kenosha Unified School District 3.) Swallow School District
4.) Racine Unified School District 4.) North Lake School District
5.) Green Bay Area Public School District 5.) Fox Point J2 School District
6.) Appleton Area School District 6.) Merton Community School District
7.) Waukesha School District 7.) Richmond School District
8.) Eau Claire Area School District 8.) Richfield J1 School District
9.) Janesville School District 9.) Hamilton School District
10.) Sheboygan Area School District 10.) Cedarburg School District


See also: Demographic information for all students in all 50 states

The following table displays the ethnic distribution of students in Wisconsin as reported in the National Center for Education Statistics Common Core of Data for 2011-2012.[8]

Demographic Information for Wisconsin's K-12 Public School System
Ethnicity Students State Percentage United States Percentage**
American Indian 11,277 1.29% 1.10%
Asian 30,742 3.53% 4.68%
African American 85,495 9.81% 15.68%
Hawaiian Nat./Pacific Isl. Students 665 0.08% 0.42%
Hispanic 84,561 9.71% 24.37%
White 642,176 73.72% 51.21%
Two or More 16,189 1.86% 2.54%
**Note: This is the percentage of all students in the United States that are reported to be of this ethnicity.

In the news

Districts opt out of federal nutrition program

Several Wisconsin districts opted out of the National School Lunch Program in spring 2014 due to disagreements over changes in school nutrition guidelines. The program, run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, recently adopted new guidelines for school lunches that reduce salt, fat and sugar content. These guidelines were created by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 and supported by first lady Michelle Obama, who has advocated for improved nutritional programs. The federal lunch program requires adherence to nutritional guidelines to receive financial assistance.[9]

District administrators in Muskego-Norway School District and Waterford Graded School District withdrew from the National School Lunch Program as a reaction to the new guidelines. A district working outside of the program must pay for free or reduced-fee lunches, but superintendents in the withdrawn districts believe they will be in better financial positions. Waterford Grade Superintendent Christopher Joch argued that the costs associated with free lunches will be recovered by raising lunch prices by a dime and eliminating wasted food that meets stricter nutritional standards. Muskego-Norway school board member Rick Petfalski also suggested that districts want greater local control over nutritional programs.[9]

Lawsuit over teachers' contract in Kenosha

In November 2013, the Kenosha Board of Education agreed to a new contract with the Kenosha Education Association (KEA) by a 4-3 vote. This agreement with the teachers' union drew attention because collective bargaining over public employee salaries is limited by state law under Act 10. This 2011 law also prohibits employers from withdrawing involuntary contributions to public employee unions from wages. The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL), a conservative legal aid organization, and Kristi Lacroix attempted to block the contract in court after the board vote. The WILL argued that the contract exceeded salary increase limits in Act 10. District officials countered that teachers were given one-time bonuses rather than salary increases under the agreement.[10]

A 4-3 vote by the board during a June 5, 2014 meeting settled the lawsuit with WILL by paying $10,500 in legal fees. This settlement also nullified the 2013 agreement with the KEA.[11]

State law

Common Core

Common Core, or the Common Core State Standards Initiative, is an American education initiative that outlines quantifiable benchmarks in English and mathematics at each grade level from kindergarten through high school. The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction adopted these standards on June 2, 2010. The standards will be fully implemented during the 2014-2015 school year.[12]

School board composition

Wisconsin school board members are generally elected by residents of the school district, although some school board members are appointed to fill vacancies until the next election for the seat is held. Wisconsin school board elections typically follow one of these two methods, or a mixture thereof:[13]

  • At-large: All voters residing in the school district may vote for any candidates running, regardless of geographic location.
  • Trustee area: Only voters residing in a specific geographic area within the school district may vote on certain candidates, who must also reside in that specific geographic area.

School boards consists of three, five, seven or nine members. Board members serve terms of three or four years.[13]

District types

Wisconsin contains multiple types of school districts described below:[13]

  • Common school district: A district operating schools in a city with less than 150,000 residents. Common school districts are required by state law to host an annual board meeting on the fourth Monday in July.
  • First-class city district: A district operating schools in a city with 150,000 or more residents. As of July 2014, Milwaukee is the only first-class city in Wisconsin.[14]
  • Joint school district: A district serving K-12 students from two or more municipalities.
  • Unified school district: A district operating schools in a city or group of cities with less than 150,000 residents. Unlike common school districts, unified school districts are not required to host annual board meetings.
  • Union high school district: A district serving high school students from two or more municipalities. Union high school districts are required by state law to host an annual board meeting on the third Monday in July.

Term limits

Wisconsin does not impose statewide term limits on school board members. However, terms limits on school board members can still be imposed on the local level.[13]

School board elections

Upcoming elections

See also: Wisconsin school board elections, 2014

A total of 11 Wisconsin school districts among America's largest school districts by enrollment held elections in 2014 for 30 seats. Each district held elections on April 1, 2014.

Here are several quick facts about Wisconsin's school board elections in 2014:

The districts listed below served 169,027 K-12 students during the 2010-2011 school year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.[15] Click on the district names for more information on the district and its school board elections.

2014 Wisconsin School Board Elections
District Date Seats up for election Total board seats Student enrollment
Appleton Area School District 4/1/2014 3 7 15,194
Eau Claire Area School District 4/1/2014 2 7 10,914
Green Bay Area Public School District 4/1/2014 2 7 20,376
Janesville School District 4/1/2014 3 9 10,339
Kenosha Unified School District 4/1/2014 2 7 22,986
Madison Metropolitan School District 4/1/2014 2 7 24,806
Oshkosh Area School District 4/1/2014 3 7 10,111
Racine Unified School District 4/1/2014 4 9 21,100
Sheboygan Area School District 4/1/2014 3 9 10,124
Waukesha School District 4/1/2014 3 9 13,796
West Allis-West Milwaukee School District 4/1/2014 3 9 9,281

Path to the ballot

To qualify for the ballot as a school board candidate in Wisconsin, a person must be:[16]

  • 18 years of age or older
  • A resident of the district for at least 10 days before the election

Each candidate submits a Campaign Registration Statement and a Declaration of Candidate to the school district clerk. State law also requires a minimum number of signatures from district residents to qualify candidates for the ballot. The signature threshold is divided into three categories:[16]

  • First-class cities: 400-800 valid signatures
  • Second-class cities: 100-200 valid signatures
  • Other cities with no overlap with first-class or second-class cities: 20-100 valid signatures

Campaign finance

State law allows candidates to claim exempt status from campaign finance reporting if contributions and expenditures do not exceed $1,000 during a calendar year. Campaign finance reports and exemption claims are submitted to the school district clerk.[17]

See also

External links

Suggest a link


  1. National Center for Education Statistics, "Table 2. Number of operating public schools and districts, state enrollment, teacher and pupil/teacher ratio by state: School year 2011–12," accessed March 18, 2014
  2. ED Data Express, "State Tables Report," accessed March 17, 2014 The site includes this disclaimer: "States converted to an adjusted cohort graduation rate [starting in the 2010-2011 school year], which may or may not be the same as the calculation they used in prior years. Due to the potential differences, caution should be used when comparing graduation rates across states."
  3. United States Census Bureau, "Public Education Finances: 2011," accessed March 18, 2014
  4. United States Department of Education, "2012 EDFacts State Profile," accessed August 8, 2013
  5. Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, "State Superintendent's Cabinet," accessed June 13, 2014
  6. National Center for Education Statistics, "ELSI Table Generator," accessed July 11, 2014
  7. Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, "Report Cards," accessed July 11, 2014
  8. United States Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, "Common Core of Data (CCD), State Nonfiscal Public Elementary/Secondary Education Survey, 2011-2012," accessed May 7, 2014
  9. 9.0 9.1 Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, "Some districts balk at latest serving of school lunch rules," July 1, 2014
  10. Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, "Kenosha schools, teachers union at odds over deducting union dues," February 11, 2014
  11. Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, "Kenosha School Board settles lawsuit over Act 10 dispute," June 6, 2014
  12. Common Core State Standards Initiative, "Core Standards in your State," accessed July 12, 2014
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 Wisconsin State Legislature, "Chapter 120: School District Government," July 1, 2014
  14. Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau, "Counties, Cities, Villages, Towns: Forms of Local Government and Their Functions," accessed July 10, 2014
  15. National Center for Education Statistics, "Elementary/Secondary Information System," accessed March 21, 2014
  16. 16.0 16.1 Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "Ballot Access Checklist," accessed January 24, 2014
  17. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "Campaign Finance Overview: Local Candidates," May 2010