Governor Evers supports public schools, educators in his first State Budget Address

Governor Tony Evers Thursday night unveiled a state budget increasing state funding of public K-12 schools by $1.4 billion over the next two years, requiring that teachers receive preparation time as part of their workday, and achieving two-thirds state funding of education without raising property taxes. 

In addition, he made the case for higher educator pay, saying, “Wisconsin pays our public school teachers less than the national average… We need to do our part to make sure our educators know that the work they do is valued and to use these funding increases to do everything they can to keep our talented educators here in Wisconsin.”

“Governor Evers listened to the people and is making public schools a priority,” said Ron Martin, a teacher and president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council. “Through this budget, he reveals the heart of an educator — embracing opportunity for all students, protecting the most vulnerable among us, and respecting the noble profession of teaching.”

Governor Evers’ Biennial Budget

Teacher Quality. There are several initiatives that demonstrate respect for the education professions:

  • A requirement that teachers receive 45 minutes or a single class period each day of preparation time.
  • Repeal of alternative education preparation programs for Wisconsin teacher licensure, such as the American Board of Certified Teachers.
  • Allows districts to rehire retired teachers after 30 days without a contract. That retiree may not participate in the state retirement system, to prevent “double-dipping.”

School Funding. The budget represents a 10 percent increase — $1.4 billion – in state spending for schools:

  • Returns the state to two-thirds funding of public schools in 2020 by transferring high poverty aid into general equalization aid, increasing the low revenue ceiling from the current $9,400 to $9,700 in 2020 and to $10,000 in 2021, and transferring funding from the levy tax credit and first dollar credit.
  • Reforms the state’s broken school funding system to help districts of all sizes, including revenue limit fairness so lower spending districts can catch up and all districts can plan for the future.
  • Eliminates delayed equalized aid payments to districts.

Special Education. Provides $606 million over the biennium in special education funding and categorical aid, increasing the reimbursement rate from 25 percent to 60 percent. (Click here for one-pager) This includes:

  • $7 million over the biennium additional funding for special education transition readiness grants.
  • Repeals actual cost basis payment calculation for special needs students who open enroll.

Student Mental Health and School Safety. Nearly $64 million more for student mental health funding, a tenfold increase. The budget also moves the Office of School Safety to the Department of Public Instruction instead of the Department of Justice.

  • $150,000 for the Youth Risk Behavior Survey
  • $26 million each year for annual school climate surveys
  • Expanded Trauma Sensitive Schools first aid training
  • $22 million in reimbursements for general mental health
  • $7 million each year for mental health collaboration grants

English Language Learners. Several funding options are available to school districts, ensuring students get the help and attention they need.

  • $35.3 million over the biennium for bilingual/bicultural aid
  • $2.5 million in 2021 in new support grants for dual language and ELL support
  • $2.4 million in aid to school districts that do not receive bilingual/bicultural aid, with $100 per learner to provide support
  • $3.4 million in 2021 to provide $100 per learner in schools at lower levels of English proficiency

Rural Schools. Sparsity aid is increased and gaps are closed to help rural schools.

  • Transportation aid is increased by $220,000, upping the reimbursement rate is increased for students traveling over 12 miles

Urban Schools. The budget funds achievement initiatives in Milwaukee, Madison, Kenosha, Green Bay and Racine.

  • $5 million in early childhood grants for 3K
  • $7.2 million to expand summer school grants
  • $1.2 million for district grants for teachers who work in high poverty schools
  • $500,000 for the Wisconsin Urban Leaders Program
  • $2 million for collaborative community partnerships

4-Year-Old Kindergarten. Fully funds 4K and expands it statewide by 2021.

After School Programs. Creates the first funding stream for after-school programs.

Drivers Ed. Creates a categorical aid for drivers education programs, at $200 per pupil who completes a designated program.

Urban Initiatives. The budget eliminates language allowing school takeovers in Milwaukee, to align with the governor’s plan to phase out vouchers and privately run charter schools. Other initiatives include:

  • Grants for MPS and UW-Milwaukee to train, place and support math teachers.
  • Vouchers and Privately Run Charters. Freezing enrollment in private school voucher programs beginning in the 2021-22 school year, suspend the creation of new independent charter schools until 2023 and creating new minimum standards for teacher licensing and school accreditation for private schools. The number of available vouchers would be frozen beginning in 2021. There are currently about 28,000 students using vouchers in Milwaukee and 10,000 in other parts of the state combined. Roughly 600 schools participate in the program, which has been growing. According to the governor’s office, the state’s voucher programs grew 8.7 percent in the 2018-19 school year, while costs grew about 12 percent. The estimated total cost of vouchers in the current school years is roughly $302 million. Accountability and transparency. Requiring annual property tax bills to provide information about how much state aid school districts are losing because of private school vouchers, also called “voucher transparency.”

UW System & Tech Schools. The budget continues a freeze on in-state tuition at University of Wisconsin (UW) System schools that has been in place since 2013, and also:

  • Provides the UW system an additional $150 million
  • Allows Wisconsin residents who entered the country without legal permission to pay in-state tuition rates
  • Requires technical colleges and the UW System to offer early college credit programs at no charge to school districts

Student Loan Refinancing. The governor’s plan would also set aside $50,000 to study the feasibility of creating a refinancing authority to allow Wisconsin students to refinance their college loans.

Grants. A number of new grants and enhancements are included:

  • Tribal language revitalization grants
  • Minority teacher grant program to encourage teachers of color to go into the profession
  • $250,000 per year in robotics grants
  • Recommends using current year freshman enrollment instead of membership base to calculate district computer and school performance improvement grants
  • Eliminates grants for information technology, redirecting the funding to other IT programs
  • Water filtration grants for schools are included, for water bottle refill stations

School Nutrition. The budget fully funds the school breakfast program and expands the facilities that qualify for it, along with fully funding the milk program, and also creates a coordinator position between the departments of public instruction and agriculture.

Libraries. Funding for public libraries is enhanced, including that for Badger Link and services for the blind. Adjustments are made to the Common Schools Fund.

Reading. The budget eliminates former Governor Scott Walker’s “Read to Lead” program (read more here). Instead, Governor Evers funds the Wisconsin Reading Corpsat $700,000 a year. 

Gifted & Talented. Funding is up $762,000 in 2020 and 2021, totaling over $1.5 million.

Referendum. Allows districts to hold over two referendums in a calendar year.

Technical Education. There are shifts in the departments that oversee some grant programs are located, along with a new DPI position to coordinate programs being transitioned, including:

  • Career and Technical Education will be moved to the Department of Workforce Development.
  • Technical Education Equipment will be moved from the DWD to the DPI.
  • Teacher Development Training and Equipment grants are merging and staying at the DWD.

Other state budget proposals:

Workers Rights. Repeal private sector right-to-work-for-less law and reinstate prevailing wage on state projects.

  • The governor called it a beginning to undo the harm that’s been done to organized labor. In an appearance after the budget unveiling, the governor said the state will now work to champion workers, collective bargaining and local control. He also voiced his goal of family supporting jobs that are labor friendly and willing to work with unions.
  • He also proposed to increase minimum wage to $8.25 on Jan. 1, 2020, and to $9 on Jan. 1, 2021, with additional 75-cent annual increases in 2022 and 2023. A task force would study ways to work toward a $15 minimum wage.

Child Welfare. Use tribal gaming revenues to fund a $1 million increase in grants for child welfare services for tribes over the next two years and earmark an additional $640,000 in tribal gaming revenues to prepare architectural plans for a proposed $8 million, 36-bed youth wellness/treatment center to treat opioid addiction for tribal and nontribal members.

Health Care. Provide $28 million for “Healthy Women, Healthy Babies” initiatives aimed at improving women’s access to health exams and addressing racial disparities in maternal and child health.

Juvenile Justice. Indefinitely delaying closing the state’s embattled youth prison, coupled with increasing the age for charging juveniles as adults from 17 to 18, beginning in 2021.Under the governor’s plan, closure of the Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls would be delayed until whenever new, regional facilities are developed to house the inmates. Evers’ plan also includes a roughly $200 million increase in state funding for building new regional youth prisons and expanding an existing facility in Madison. According to the Evers’ administration, Wisconsin is one of a handful of states that allows 17-year-olds to be criminally charged and tried as adults.

BadgerCare.The state could receive additional federal Medicaid funding first made available by the federal Affordable Care Act.According to the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB), the decision by the previous administration not to accept this funding resulted in a cumulative net loss to the state of more than $1 billion in federal funding. Expanding BadgerCare coverage from people who earn up to 100 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) to people who earn up to 133 percent of the FPL would generate roughly $200 million in increased federal funding each year because it would by substantially increase the percentage of costs reimbursed by the federal government from about 58 percent to about 90 percent.

Gas tax. Studies indicate the state’s roads and highways are demonstrably worse shape than those of our neighboring states. Gov. Evers’ nominee to fill the Department of Transportation Secretary position estimates the state needs an additional $360 to $400 million per biennium just to maintain the current condition of the state highway system, not counting the additional funding needed to provide road aids to local governments or rebuild portions of the Interstate system within the state.

59 school referendums totaling nearly $1.2 billion are on April 2 ballot

On April 2, Wisconsin residents will vote on 59 school referendums totaling nearly $1.2 billion. That is on top of more than $2 billion in school referendums approved by voters last year, including $1.37 billion in November.

The largest referendums on the April ballot are $164 million for a new high school in Sun Prairie, $129.6 million for a new middle school and other upgrades in Neenah, $125 million for a new intermediate school and other upgrades in DeForest, and $91.5 million for maintenance and improvement projects in Fond du Lac.

Due to many years of stagnant state support for local schools, districts have increasingly turned to local voters for referendum approvals, and voters have overwhelmingly shown their support for public schools by passing them. Last year, more than 90 percent of 157 referendums passed, including 94 percent of 77 ballot questions in November.

In his state budget plan this week, Governor Tony Evers is proposing a $1.4 billion increase in K-12 education funding over the next two years.

Below is the complete list of school referendums on the April 2 ballot (click here to open):

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Evers to propose freezing voucher and charter school enrollments

Governor Tony Evers is expected to include in his state budget plan this week proposals to freeze the number of students attending private voucher and charter schools, place tougher teacher certification standards on private schools accepting students with special needs, and abolish the law that allows Milwaukee Public Schools to be taken over by private entities.

“This signals a good first step on Wisconsin’s journey to provide all children with opportunity through high-quality, fully funded public schools,” said WEAC President Ron Martin. “For three decades, privatization lobbyists have siphoned funding from public schools into private operations. If we care about all students, Wisconsin should invest in the schools that serve all students. That’s common sense.”

The governor’s plan, which would be accomplished through a phased-in approach:

  • Freezes the number of students who may enroll in private voucher schools;
  • Suspends the creation of new privately run charter schools until 2023;
  • Eliminates the law requiring Milwaukee County officials to turn public schools into charter schools without district officials’ approval;
  • Increases standards for teachers in private voucher schools;
  • Requires tax-funded private schools to be accredited; and
  • Provides taxpayers with information about how much of their taxes are siphoned from public schools to pay private school tuition.

Republican legislative leaders and private school lobbyists have said they will oppose the governor’s plans, despite overwhelming support for public schools demonstrated by voters leading up to last November’s election.

Read more:

Gov. Tony Evers seeks to freeze enrollment in private voucher schools, suspend charter school expansion

Gov.-elect Tony Evers chats with high school students at an event in the Wisconsin Operating Engineers’ training center in Coloma. (Photo11: Molly Beck / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) MADISON – Gov. Tony Evers in his first state budget is seeking to undo expansions of private voucher schools and independent charter schools passed by Republicans over the last decade.

WEAC members continue to provide budget feedback to Governor-Elect Evers

WEAC member Rick Erickson of Bayfield (above) leads a discussion during Monday’s state budget listening session hosted by Governor-Elect Tony Evers. The Superior hearing was one in a series designed for the governor-elect to hear from citizens about what they would like to see in the state budget proposal he will present to the Legislature in January. WEAC members were also well-represented at earlier hearings in Green Bay and Wausau. Other scheduled hearings are today (Tuesday) in La Crosse and Wednesday in Milwaukee, although they have waiting lists.

WEAC has created another opportunity for educators to have their opinions and ideas voiced to the new administration – WEAC’s Feedback Form:

What are your top priorities for the incoming governor?
Click here to complete our online form!

This form will be active throughout the budget and legislative session this winter and spring. WEAC member Amy Traynor serves on the governor-elect’s transition team, and will be sure your thoughts and ideas are brought forward as plans are made for Wisconsin’s new direction.

A new era supportive of public education and educators is about to begin, Evers says in phone call to WEAC members

Governor-Elect Tony Evers personally thanked WEAC members for the critically important role they played in helping him win this month’s “watershed” election that will change the way Wisconsin state government treats public schools and educators.

“The hard work of the campaign is over. The hard work of governing and making sure that we are being supportive of the people who work in the schools begins now in earnest,” Evers said during a Tele-Town Hall conversation with WEAC members throughout the state. All WEAC members were invited to participate in the phone call last week.

“I can’t thank you enough for all the good work you have done to get us this far, to get us through eight years that have been exhausting, exacerbating and frankly demoralizing for the people who work in our schools and work with our kids. Those things are over. The issue of making sure that we value the people who work in our schools, that will never be a problem for me. I did it as State Superintendent and I will do it as governor of the State of Wisconsin.

“Survive we will. Thrive we will,” Evers said.

Evers said his top priority as governor will be “to make sure that educators have the resources they need and have the policies in place” that lead to quality public education. And, he said, it is important that educators have a voice in making decisions. “I give you my pledge,” he said, “that we’ll be working with your leadership and you personally if you want to be involved in any way possible.”

The governor-elect asked educators to keep advocating for public education and to work to support the budget he will be presenting to the Legislature early next year. That budget will include a large increase in public school funding, additional money for programs that serve students with disabilities, and increased funding for after-school, 4-K, mental health and English learner programs.

“It’s going to take your efforts across the state of Wisconsin to get our budget passed,” he said. “I’m looking forward to working with you all. I certainly appreciate your support and guidance in the past. Now we’re in a position where we’re going to govern.”

Listen to Governor-Elect Tony Evers’ message to WEAC members:

Public school supporters call for results at final School Funding Commission hearing

From the Wisconsin Public Education Network

Wisconsin public education supporters united at the Capitol Monday to send a final message to members of the Blue Ribbon Commission on School Funding, which is holding the last of its statewide tour of public hearings in Madison.

“We have attended every single one of these hearings,” said Heather DuBois Bourenane, Executive Director of Wisconsin Public Education Network. “And we have heard superintendents, board members, parents, and teachers say the same thing from one end of the state to the other: Our system of school funding is not working and is not fair.

“We believe every student in every public school in Wisconsin deserves equal access and equal opportunity to receive an equally excellent public education.  The state is not currently meeting this obligation. To do so, our public school districts and community members have made clear their needs for a funding formula that is predictable, sustainable, transparent, and adequate to meet student needs.”

These advocates called on members of the Blue Ribbon Commission to take what they have heard and use it to develop a comprehensive plan — including policy and budget recommendations, and future legislation — to address the funding inequities in the current system.

“We heard so many unique stories around the state,” DuBois Bourenane said, “but clear patterns emerged. We took careful notes and compiled a summary of the main categories of concerns. The bottom line is that the state is not meeting its moral, legal, or constitutional obligation to our children.”

The bulk of public testimony at Blue Ribbon hearings has revealed five main issues of concern for school leaders and community members:

  1. Revenue limits, which vary widely and do not correspond to financial need, are unfair and widen the gaps between “have” and “have not” districts.
  2. The funding formula is broken, overly complicated, and doesn’t do what it’s supposed to. It should be overhauled to adequately meet  the most pressing needs of our students (particularly to address poverty, needs of English language learners and students with special needs, mental health issues, and challenges facing rural schools).
  3. Special education funding is inadequate and must be sufficiently restored. Public schools have a mandate to meet the needs of every child, and local communities should not be responsible for paying the lion’s share of these increasing costs.
  4. Wisconsin’s teacher crisis creates tensions within and between districts, and has resulted in winners and losers as many (and especially rural) districts cannot afford to “compete” with others.
  5. The growing costs of privatization and the lack of taxpayer transparency for publicly funded private schools is problematic and costly for urban and rural schools alike.

Commission member Dr. Julie Underwood, the Susan Engeleiter Prof. of Education Law, Policy & Practice at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, hopes the Commission’s findings will lead to a system where children are treated equitably: “We have heard from the public. We have heard from fiscal experts. We have heard from Wisconsin school administrators. The message is clear; we are falling short on our responsibilities to our children. They deserve better.”

“In the 2011 Budget Repair Bill, schools were cut $1.6 billion.  That cut continues to harm Wisconsin’s children today. The few increases to funding that we have had, have come nowhere near making up for the damage done,” Underwood said.

“In spite of Wisconsin’s history of open and transparent public policy making, school finance is not open and transparent,” Underwood added. “Transparency is threatened by a complexity that makes it difficult — if not impossible — to understand certain programs. For example, the school levy credit looks like a funding path for public education, when in fact it is a program for property tax relief. Another example is when local school districts have to levy additional taxes if they want to make up for the funds which are sent to the private schools under the state’s various voucher programs. We need truth in budgeting.”

“Wisconsin schools are facing dire levels of unmet needs for students with mental health and behavioral health challenges,” said Joanne Juhnke, policy director for Wisconsin Family Ties. “Ten years of frozen special education funding is ten years too many, and our staffing ratios for school social workers and counselors and psychologists are sadly inadequate. Wisconsin will continue to struggle to build the kinds of school-based relationships that lift our children up when the funding is stretched this thin.”

Pecatonica School District Superintendent Jill Underly shared these concerns, and said she worries that rural schools are impacted disproportionately by the current system. “I hope that the Blue Ribbon Commission looks at the innate funding inequities that smaller, rural schools in particular face compared to larger more populated school districts with much higher property values that are able to raise revenue without much taxpayer impact,” Underly said.

“Our students deserve the same quality of instruction, facilities, and programming — the same opportunities — that their peers receive in higher populated areas. On the other end of that, I sympathize a bit with the faster growing districts that cannot fully plan for growth and are cash-strapped. I also empathize with Green Bay and Milwaukee that have a lower value per student member but have higher needs like poverty and English language learners.”

Like many others who have testified at public hearings, Madison teacher Andrew Waity said he worries the combined impact of under-resourcing our public schools while expanding private school tuition subsidies stretches resources to the limit.

“The dysfunctional funding system we have creates inequities across our state and puts unnecessary financial strains on local school budgets and taxpayers,” said Waity, President of Madison Teachers, Inc. “This is compounded by policies and budgets on the state level that have cut funding for schools and diverted substantial amounts of money to non-instrumentality charter schools and private school vouchers.”

“People who understand best the challenges facing our schools have spent the past six months sharing their concerns, and have called on the members of this Commission to produce results. We’re here today to let them know we expect them to deliver,” said DuBois Bourenane. “There is no mystery surrounding what our schools need to succeed; the mystery is why we haven’t provided the resources for them to do so.

Watch the Wisconsin Public Education Network news conference:

See more on the Wisconsin Public Education Network Facebook page.

 

Legislative Update – May 29 – What’s next for the School Funding Commission?

WEAC members for the past half-year spoke up at a series of legislative public hearings about the resources we need to adequately teach our students, and now leaders of the panel holding the forums are talking about what may come next. The final hearing is set Monday, June 4, in Madison.

The co-chairs of the commission say they may address critical issues such as declining enrollment and special education reimbursements. Particularly telling was that Republicans Senator Luther Olsen and Representative Joel Kitchens don’t anticipate they’ll touch school vouchers or open enrollment – both topics they said were in the scope of their work when the commission formed in December.

WEAC President Ron Martin said it was disappointing that the commission may back away from voucher transparency and fixing the damage vouchers cause to neighborhood public schools. Much of the testimony the panel received from public school advocates centered on how private school vouchers take vital funding from neighborhood public schools, without accountability to taxpayers. To make up for lost state aid tied to the voucher system, school districts throughout Wisconsin had to levy an additional $37 million in property taxes in 2017-18, and will have to levy an anticipated $47 million in 2018-19.

The commission also looks like it might not get to the root of adequate school funding so districts can hire and retain qualified educators for the long haul. Instead, one co-chair said we might see bills encouraging retired educators to substitute as a solution to the state’s teacher shortage.

The co-chairs, speaking to Capitol insiders at WisPolitics, said they were looking at changes to the school funding formula but weren’t in agreement what that could look like. Kitchens left the door open to “completely overhauling it,” saying it’s “pretty clear there will be some fundamental changes we will recommend, but the extent of that is up in the air,” while Olsen said he doesn’t see an overhaul on the horizon and instead emphasized the need to provide more funding to declining enrollment districts.

Other items that may be recommended include combined services like grade sharing, more K-8 districts, and consolidation. The governor in 2017 vetoed a provision promoting grade sharing between districts.

Olsen mentioned tweaking components of the equalization aid formula, which most education advocates say doesn’t go far enough. Neither lawmaker embraced going beyond the new plan to boost the revenue ceiling for low-spending districts, saying that was solved with the recent legislation.

While the co-chairs signaled the possibility of recommending an increase in the state’s special education reimbursements, WEAC President Martin noted that a similar proposal did not make it into the last few state budgets and instead only a high-cost special education reimbursement rate received a boost.

It’s uncertain whether recommendations will come forward in the next state budget, as stand-alone bills, or a mixture of both.

Listen to a recording of the interview with Senator Luther Olsen

Listen to a recording of the interview with Representative Joel Kitchens

Next Steps: After the final public hearing June 4, the co-chairs will sit down individually with each of the 16 commission members and representatives from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau to see what legislation they’d like to come out of the body.

Legislative Update – April 19

The Wisconsin Supreme Court will again take up a case about the independent authority of the elected state superintendent. The Court is responding to a lawsuit from the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) over the DPI’s independent rule-making authority. State Superintendent Tony Evers won a case affirming his independent authority in a 5-2 ruling back in 2016, with conservatives in the majority on the bench. “Educators are scratching their heads at this latest move by the far-right to play by different rules than our Constitution calls for,” said WEAC President Ron Martin, a middle school social studies teacher. Read more.

School Funding Commission Public Hearing is Monday in Oshkosh
Details for the next public hearing for a school funding commission created by the Legislature have been announced:

  • Monday, April 23, 2-6 p.m., CESA 6, 2300 Highway 44, Oshkosh. Invited testimony will be heard, and then the public may make comment. The time limit for comments is five minutes each.

Other hearings are set:

  • Monday, May 7 – Tomahawk
  • Monday, May 21 – Turtle Lake
  • Monday, June 4 – Madison

Bills signed into law
The governor has signed a slew of bills, including the child tax rebate and sales tax holiday. Check out the status of the bills we are watching at www.weac.org/bills.

Here’s a list of recently-signed bills:

School board elections. Changes the signature requirement for nomination of candidates to school board in school districts that contain territory lying within a second class city, allowing a reduction in the number of signatures required on nomination papers submitted by school board candidates. Act 321

Supplemental aid. Provides for supplemental aid for school districts with a large area. Act 300

Availability of state practice tests. Requires the Department of Public Instruction to make available, upon request, practice examinations or sample items related to knowledge and concept examinations required to be administered under state law. The bill also would repeal the chapter of the administrative code that DPI promulgated to implement current law. Act 335

Usurp local control on workplace standards. Preempts a local municipality from enacting a local living wage, fair scheduling standard, and a host of other measures that would improve the lives of working people. Act 327

Merit Scholarships. Provides merit scholarships for UW-Stevens Point students. Act 314

College Credit in High School. Excludes certain college credit in high school programs from the Early College Credit Program. Act 307

Career and Tech Ed Grants. Provides career and technical education incentive grants for school districts and completion awards for pupils and makes an appropriation. Act 336

Robotics League Grants. Extends robotics league participation grants to middle schools. Act 315

Funding-Related Bills That Passed This Session
It’s hard to keep track of everything that passed in the long Legislative session that has just concluded. That’s why WEAC is providing a wrap-up of various bills that passed, and didn’t, in various areas impacting public education. Here’s a round-up on funding-related bills:

PASSED

Sparsity Aid. An increase in sparsity aid per student will begin in 2019, raising sparsity aid per pupil amount from $300 to $400 — an increase in sparsity aid appropriation of $6.5 million in 2019. Sparsity aid was vetoed by the governor in the 2017-19 state budget, but he changed course at the end of the Legislative session.

Supplemental aid. Provides for supplemental aid for school districts with a large area. Act 300

DID NOT PASS

Common School Funds. This bill would have eliminated the authority of the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands to make state trust fund loans, broaden the authority of the BCPL to delegate its authority to invest state trust fund moneys, and remove certain restrictions on the use of common school fund income moneys. As educators working in schools with shoestring budgets, we know the Common School Funds are often the only monies available to keep our school libraries running. Voters soundly rejected eliminating the role of state treasurer in the April election, which oversees the Common School Funds for libraries.

Excluding capital improvements from shared cost. This bill would have excluded expenditures from either a school district’s general fund or debt service fund that are authorized by a capital referendum from the school district’s shared cost if the school district is a negative tertiary school district. In other words, a negative tertiary school district would not lose equalization aid for capital expenditures that exceed the tertiary guarantee and are funded by referenda. The bill included protections for some school districts in areas with high property wealth and per-pupil spending from seeing general aid deductions in the school funding formula in cases where voters approved capital projects.

Revenue limit adjustment for workforce development improvements. This would have created a school district revenue limit adjustment for workforce development improvements to support vocational or technical education. Any school board that received a petition and adopts a resolution to initiate workforce development improvements would be allowed to increase its revenue limit by the amount the school district spends on the improvements in a school year, including amounts spent for a 20-year-max debt service on a bond, note, or state trust fund loan used to finance the improvements. The petition would be filed jointly by the president of a local chamber of commerce or a chamber of commerce and a regional workforce development board.

Special Education Funding. This called for state funding of special education at 33 percent.

Assembly passes school safety package and sends it to the governor for his signature

The State Assembly on Thursday passed a package of school safety measures and sent it to Governor Walker for his signature. The measures would establish a new Office of School Safety at the state Department of Justice and give it $100 million to provide one-time grants to school districts for security measures.

The bill also requires public and private schools to conduct annual school violence drills and requires reporting of school violence threats by teachers, school administrators, counselors, other school employees, physicians, and other medical and mental health professionals.

In a separate vote, the Assembly passed a measure to strengthen background checks for sales of long guns such as rifles and shotguns. That measure goes to the Senate, where its fate is uncertain.

The Legislative actions capped a week in which school safety issues took center stage, and educators pushed for broader approaches to addressing school violence.

In testimony submitted Tuesday to the Assembly Education Committee, WEAC President Ron Martin said the solution to school violence is not more guns but proper resources to address issues that include student mental health, school safety improvements, staff training and common sense gun laws. “While the package of bills under consideration appropriates funding for more armed guards, more equipment, more reporting requirements, it is imperative the committee recognizes what is missing,” Martin said. “The package of bills under consideration by the committee contains not one of the recommendations for safe schools forwarded by those of us who work in and with them.”

Also, leaders of Madison Teachers Inc., the Madison school district and Dane County asked Governor Walker and the Legislature to listen to students and our communities and address school safety by focusing on how we can support students and schools.

Legislative Update – March 12 – Governor signs bill increasing sparsity aid

Assembly Bill 835 – which increases the sparsity aid per student – was signed into law Monday by Governor Walker. Beginning in 2019, the bill increases the sparsity aid per pupil amount from $300 to $400. Under the bill, the appropriation for sparsity aid would be increased by $6.5 million in 2019. Sparsity aid increases were vetoed by the governor in the 2017-19 state budget, but he has since changed his position.

The bill will also increase the revenue limit ceiling for school districts to $9,400 in the 2018-19 school year, with the ceiling increasing by $100 each year until it reaches $9,800 in the 2022-23 school year. The current revenue limit ceiling is $9,100.

Read more:

Schools with low budgets, rural locations to get extra funding, under bill signed by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker

MADISON – Wisconsin schools with small budgets or rural locations could get additional funding, under legislation signed by Gov. Scott Walker. The Republican governor also said Monday that he wants the state to provide additional money to improve safety in schools in the same way the federal government helped improve safety in airports.