Whatever Happened to that Item in the Budget?…

Many changes were made to the 2015-2017 state budget bill between the time Governor Walker introduced it in February and when he signed Act 55 into law on July 12. Unless you watched closely, it was difficult to keep track of what remained in the budget and what was removed.

Below are five items affecting schools that were for a brief time in the state budget, but were subsequently removed by the Legislature. None of the items listed below are in Act 55, although you may have seen references to them as the budget worked its way through the legislative process.

  1. Cuts to Per Pupil Aid

The Joint Finance Committee (JFC) restored the $127 million cut that had been proposed by the Governor; however, there will be no increase in this aid in 2015-16 compared to last year (2014-15). There will be a $100/pupil increase in per pupil aid in 2016-17. This aid goes to all public school districts. (The WASB advocated for restoring this cut and for additional state K-12 funding.)

  1. Certain Teacher Licensure Changes

The JFC scrapped the alternative teacher licensing proposal the governor put forward in his original budget and substituted its own provisions for middle- and high-school teachers that turned out to be highly controversial.   Critics argued the JFC language provided fewer safeguards of teacher quality than what the governor had proposed because it would have abandoned any requirements for applicants to have completed teacher training programs and, in many cases, would have abandoned the concept that a bachelor’s degree is required to hold a teaching permit.

In the end, however, the JFC reversed itself and removed these provisions. (The WASB lobbied for this change.)

The JFC did, however, insert new provisions that require DPI to grant a license based on the individual’s licensure and experience in another state. These new provisions were signed into law as part of the Budget Act (2015 Act 55). Under these provisions, an individual would qualify for an initial teaching or administrator’s license if he or she holds a teaching or administrator’s license granted by another state, is in good standing, and has at least one year of teaching/administrator experience in that state. The individual must have received an offer of employment from a school in Wisconsin prior to applying for such a license, and the application must be completed by both the individual and the employing school/district.)

Repeal of Course Options

The Course Options program allows pupils in any grade to enroll in up to two courses at a time at another educational institution, including a public school in a nonresident school district, the University of Wisconsin System, a technical college, a nonprofit institution of higher education, a tribal college, a charter school, and any nonprofit organization that has been approved by DPI.

At one time the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) adopted language that would have repealed the Course Options Program and restored prior law related to the Part-Time Open Enrollment program. In the end the JFC reversed itself and restored the Course Options program; however, it made a significant change to the program. The change specifies that an institution of higher education, including the University of Wisconsin System, a technical college, a nonprofit institution of higher education, or a tribal college, may charge additional tuition and fees to a pupil, or the parent or guardian of a minor pupil, if that pupil will receive postsecondary credit for the successful completion of a course taken through the course options program. Under this provision only an institution of higher education may charge tuition and fees. The JFC further provided that the school board and the institution of higher education would determine the amount of tuition and fees that would be charged to a pupil for attending a dual enrollment course.  (The WASB lobbied for changes to Course Options, including funding relief, and for bringing Course Options and Youth Options into closer alignment to make administering these programs easier.)

Changes to the Timeline for Teacher and Administrator Contract Renewals

At one time, the JFC adopted language that would have modified the dates by which a school board must give a teacher or administrator written notice of renewal /nonrenewal of his or her contract in odd-numbered years in which the biennial state budget is adopted and would have modified the date for administrators in all years. These provisions were removed in the final version adopted by the full Legislature.

The WASB along with the School Administrators Alliance (SAA)* sent a joint letter to state legislative leaders to request that language in the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) K-12 education omnibus motion relating to changing the timelines for contract renewal/nonrenewal for teachers and administrators be removed. The WASB worked specifically and successfully with Republican leadership in both houses to remove these provisions from the final version. 

Elimination of the Local Government Property Insurance Fund  

The Governor had recommended closing the local government property insurance fund (LGPIF), but the Legislature in the end decided to retain it and rejected the Governor’s recommendation. (The WASB lobbied to retain the LGPIF as an option for school districts, noting that it may serve as the insurer of last resort for some isolated rural schools.)

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For all the key K-12 education-related  provisions in the 2015-17 state budget (2015 Wisconsin Act 55) and how they evolved, please consult the WASB budget chart.