The public schools enroll 874,000 students: 72% White, 10% African American, and 10% Latino, with 42% living in poverty and 5% learning English. The State spends $11,186 per pupil. (Most recent NCES data)
“The legislature shall provide by law for the establishment of district schools, which shall be as nearly uniform as practicable; and such schools shall be free and without charge for tuition to all children between the ages of 4 and 20 years; and no sectarian instruction shall be allowed therein; but the legislature by law may, for the purpose of religious instruction outside the district schools, authorize the release of students during regular school hours.” Wis. Const. art. X, § 3.
In 1989, in Kukor v. Grover, plaintiffs challenged the constitutionality of the State school funding system on uniformity and equal protection grounds. The Wisconsin Supreme Court held that the funding system did not violate these particular provisions of the constitution but also pointed out that plaintiffs had not brought an “adequacy” claim alleging that the State funding system was insufficient to enable school districts to meet the State’s education standards. Also in Kukor v. Grover, the Court held “…that the equal opportunity for education as defined by art. X, sec. 3, is a fundamental right.”
In 2000, in Vincent v. Voight, plaintiffs again brought an equal protection and uniformity case, choosing not to bring a standards-based adequacy case. The Wisconsin Supreme Court noted that plaintiffs did not claim that “…children lack a basic education in any school district.”
The Court further explained the constitution’s education article by writing: “An equal opportunity for a sound basic education is one that will equip students for their roles as citizens and enable them to succeed economically and personally. [This includes] the opportunity for students to be proficient in mathematics, science, reading and writing, geography, and history, and for them to receive instruction in the arts and music, vocational training, social sciences, health, physical education and foreign language…So long as the legislature is providing sufficient resources so that school districts offer students the equal opportunity for a sound basic education as required by the constitution, the state school finance system will pass constitutional muster."