Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Alumni on the air: Vander Meer, Chapman

Anne Chapman; John Vander Meer Anne Chapman; John Vander Meer

Two La Follette School alumni recently shared their expertise with public radio listeners. John Vander Meer (MPA ’06) discussed the difficulties facing skilled nursing facilities in Wisconsin, and Anne Chapman (MPA ’12) addressed education funding in the state.

Vander Meer, president and CEO of the Wisconsin Health Care Association since January 2016, told The Morning Show that the state’s nearly 400 skilled nursing facilities are facing closures or financial loss due to a shortage of workers and the low Medicaid reimbursement rate.

Nearly 30 skilled nursing facilities in Wisconsin have closed since 2016; nine facilities have closed or announced their closure. A 2018 report also identified about 16,500 unfilled caregiver jobs in skilled nursing and assisted living facilities in Wisconsin.

“It’s a complicated situation when you’re trying to maintain staffing in a building,” Vander Meer said. “Seventy percent of our reimbursement is determined by Medicaid in nursing homes, and nearly 80 percent of our costs are determined by labor. If we’re not in a position to cover our costs from the Medicaid perspective, we can’t be in a position to advance wages.”

On WUWM, Chapman discussed the Wisconsin Policy Forum’s recent report Special Education Funding in Wisconsin: How it Works and Why It Matters. Chapman, a senior researcher, joined the Policy Forum shortly after graduating from the La Follette School.

The Policy Forum report noted that K-12 public schools are constitutionally and federally mandated to provide services for students with disabilities; however, the main state support for special education covers only about a quarter of school districts’ costs.

It also pointed out that the largest sources of school revenue are general state aids and local property taxes, which together are capped under the state-imposed revenue limit.

“Local school districts’ revenue is capped at their revenue limit, so it’s a finite amount of money,” Chapman said. “If they have to pull from that general fund to help offset special education costs, that basically lowers the resources that can be used for all the rest of the students.”

On March 4, Chapman also discussed potential impacts of the 2019-21 state budget and other issues on K-12 education during WPR’s show The West Side.