By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Sep 30, 2010 at 1:36 PM

If the current system for funding Wisconsin public schools does not change, the gap between rich and poor school districts will grow.

That was the consensus among panelists Thursday afternoon at the "4th Street Forum" discussion, moderated by Denise Callaway, titled, "Political Dynamite: Paying for Wisconsin's Schools."

The event -- which included State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers, Common Council president Willie Hines, Public Policy Forum research director Anneliese Dickman and Greendale School District superintendent William Hughes -- will air on MPTV on Oct. 1 and 3.

While there was nothing especially explosive about the civil discussion Thursday, Hughes did point out that one of the main ways to draw a crowd at a school board meeting is to discuss the property tax levy.

But in addition to public opinion and angry taxpayers, school funding change is also thwarted by the fact that the State Supreme Court has ruled that the current formula for funding Wisconsin schools is equitable.

Battling that decision isn't really an option right now, said Hughes, who noted that fight could take years.

"The public is done listening," said Hughes.

"The old ways aren't working," he said, adding that new funding methods need to be met with new ways of allocating resources.

That reinforced Hines' opening remarks, who questioned the idea of funding all children at the same level, regardless of their individual needs. Hines also said that a major issue is not simply the source of funds, but the way those resources are used by districts.

Interestingly, there was not a teacher or teachers' union bash to be heard. In fact, the reverse was true.

Hines said, "teachers are part of the solution and have to feel a part of (the process)."

The teachers' union wants what is best for the children, said Hughes, who also commented on bright spots in Milwaukee.

"There is a lot of excellence going on in MPS," he noted.

When an audience member asked about Race to the Top, Evers noted that while the financial gain to the state from the federal program was zero, the state did benefit from the kind of discusses that took place in preparing Wisconsin's application for those funds.

Among the fairly large crowd were at least two Milwaukee alderman: Ashanti Hamilton and Nik Kovac.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.