The state’s high schools are struggling with a lack of teachers, a lack to fund scholarships and students graduating from high school too young to be eligible for federal aid, said Scott Kapp, who oversees education for the Wisconsin Association of Public School Directors.
The state, which has the third-highest percentage of students attending public school in the nation, has long been among the poorest states in the country, with fewer than 40 percent of its residents earning more than $75,000 a year.
But Kapp said the state’s graduation rate for the last five years is down sharply from its average of 77 percent over the last decade.
“We’re getting fewer students in the state who are eligible for Title I,” he said.
“This is a big problem because the federal government has set a cap on the amount of aid they’re going to provide.
It’s a problem that’s been going on for a long time.” “
The bottom line is, Wisconsin’s public school students are graduating at a lower rate than they were even five years ago.
It’s a problem that’s been going on for a long time.”
In the last fiscal year, Wisconsin had a 4.7 percent graduation rate, the fourth-lowest in the union.
The district reported a 2.6 percent graduation last year, well below the national average of 5.3 percent.
Kapp is particularly concerned about a drop in student enrollees, the number of students enrolled in a state-funded school, as well as the number who have graduated from high schools.
The drop in students enrolled has been particularly acute in the Milwaukee district, which relies heavily on federal money to pay for most of its school buildings and other services.
But the district’s graduation rates are lower than in the neighboring Madison and Milwaukee schools.
In the district, students enrolled drop by 1.5 percent from the previous year, compared with a 6.5 percentage drop in the surrounding district, Kapp told The Associated Press.
“It’s a real concern for me, because I don’t want to see students graduating with zero or even a low graduation rate,” Kapp added.
Kapps worries that Wisconsin’s students are not graduating as well because of the recession, which is expected to affect state aid next year, as a result of cuts to education spending.
Wisconsin’s average school enrollment is down 1.6 percentage points over the past five years, according to the Wisconsin Assessment Authority, which tracks enrollment.
But it remains the nation’s highest per pupil enrollment, said Kapp.
“There’s not a lot of support in the budget for high school education,” he added.
In Madison, enrollment in the district is down by 1 percent, the state-reported lowest.
Milwaukee Public Schools also reported a 1.7 percentage point drop in enrollment in last year’s year-end survey, the first time that number has dropped since 2007.
That could be due to a drop-off in the number applying for federal loans to pay back state debt, Kapps said.
Milwaukee County Schools, which serves the suburbs and east side of Milwaukee, reported a 3.9 percentage point increase in enrollment from last year.
Milwaukee schools also reported the second-lowst graduation rate since 2007, behind Madison, Kopp said.
In all, Kaps district has a population of nearly 9 million students and enrolls almost half of them in state-supported schools.
Kopp’s group is pushing to get federal funding to supplement state aid for high schools, which he said could help the district raise its graduation rates.
“I think it’s fair to say that Wisconsin is still one of the most underfunded districts in the entire country,” he told the AP.
“When we don’t have enough money in the system to do things like provide scholarships for students and teachers and support their transition to higher education, it’s really hurting our students and our district.”
In Wisconsin, students are awarded federal funds for a number of things, including paying for textbooks, uniforms and supplies, which they use in classrooms and on campus.
KAPP said the district needs more money to do its job.
“They need to provide more financial support to these kids to keep them in school,” he explained.
“And we’ve got to keep this trend going.”
The state-financed Milwaukee Public School district has struggled for years with high graduation rates and underfunding, and Kapp believes that’s partly because the district has been one of a few districts in Wisconsin that relies heavily upon federal aid.
The school district receives about $4.2 billion in federal funds annually, and the state pays about $6.7 billion annually.
That money has helped to support the district since it opened in 2003.
It was designed to offer a comprehensive, high-quality education to students from low-income families, who typically do not have the resources to attend college.
“Wisconsin has a very strong graduation rate because we’re one of only a handful of states that have the highest school readiness,” Kopp told the