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Underwood named to legislative leaders’ Blue Ribbon Commission on School Funding

December 07, 2017

UW-Madison's Julie Underwood was named to a Blue Ribbon Commission on School Funding that was announced by Wisconsin's legislative leaders on Wednesday, Dec. 6.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau), the leaders of each house of the Wisconsin Legislature, announced the formation of a commission that will be chaired by Sen. Luther Olsen (R-Ripon) and Rep. Joel Kitchens (R-Sturgeon Bay). 

The news release announcing the formation of the group reports that the commission will meet for the first time later in December before traveling around the state in 2018 to conduct public hearings to learn more about school funding issues in Wisconsin. The Blue Ribbon Commission on School Funding will ultimately examine how tax dollars are distributed to schools and make recommendations to legislative leaders about how to better meet the needs of students.

“The Wisconsin school finance formula has not had an overhaul in decades,” says Underwood, the Susan Engeleiter Professor of Education Law, Policy and Practice, and the former dean of the School of Education. “We have had lots of studies, discussions, proposals, tinkering and promises -- but not real change.  Hopefully the commission will provide an opportunity for legislators, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and practicing educators to improve educational opportunities for Wisconsin’s children.  There is no time to waste when working on issues of this magnitude.”

Underwood, a staunch proponent of public education who is deeply committed to ensuring all students have access to quality schools, served as dean of the School of Education from 2005-15. Prior to that, she spent seven years working in Washington, D.C., where her appointment as General Counsel for the National School Boards Association put her at the epicenter of national educational policy debates.

Underwood spoke with the Wisconsin State Journal about the commission, noting that the current state funding system was in need of an overhaul.

“This is a system that was created in the ’70s and we have been adding things to it so that it meets certain needs but it becomes more and more complex and when you think about it, there haven’t been many things that have lasted and been really, really useful for the future that we created in the ’70s,” Underwood tells the State Journal.

The Blue Ribbon Commission on School Funding involves members of the legislature and experts in the field of education. In addition to Underwood, Olsen and Kitchens, members are:

• Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills)

• Sen. Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green)

• Sen. Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma)

• Rep. Cody Horlacher (R-Mukwonago)

• Rep. Romaine Quinn (R-Rice Lake)

• Rep. Sondy Pope (D-Mt. Horeb)

• Rep. Jason Fields (D-Glendale)

• Ted Neitzke, CEO, CESA 6

• Dr. Michelle Langenfeld, Superintendent, Green Bay Area Public Schools

• Dr. Joni Burgin, Superintendent, Grantsburg School District

• Dan Rossmiller, Director of Government Relations, Wisconsin Association of School Boards

• Lori Saqer, Director of Business Operations, Messmer Catholic Schools, Inc.

• Dr. Bill Hughes, Chief Academic Officer, Seton Catholic Schools

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