The state Assembly is poised to vote today on a plan that adjusts how public schools recoup their losses when students who reside in a district begin participating in the statewide voucher program.
The statewide voucher program subsidizes tuition at participating private schools. Under language in the 2015-17 state budget, the state funds the subsidies (vouchers) by reducing state aid to districts where those students reside in the same amount as the voucher payments to private schools.
Affected districts, however, were allowed by the budget language to compensate for the lost aid by raising property taxes in the amount of each district’s per pupil revenue limit amount for each resident pupil attending a voucher school. This allowed (but did not require) districts to raise up to around $10,000, on average, for each voucher student, while the amount of aid they lost would vary based on the voucher amount, which is about $7,300 for pupils in grades K-8 and $8,000 for pupils in high school.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) took issue with districts being able to pocket the difference, potentially through higher property taxes. His initial proposed change to the formula would have cost school districts in which voucher pupils reside collectively about $22.1 million in revenue authority in the first year. Speaker Vos later offered a second proposal that would have reduced revenue authority in the 142 affected districts by about $14.2 million.
Under a compromise reached among Republican lawmakers, school districts in which pupils attend private voucher schools through the statewide or Racine voucher programs would retain revenue limit authority equal to the amount of aid they lose to private school vouchers. The compromise will be taken up as Assembly Amendment 1 to Senate Bill 615, a companion bill to Assembly Bill 751, relating to special needs vouchers.
Under the compromise, school districts impacted by the loss of aid to voucher schools will lose revenue limit authority compared to current law but would lose less funding authority (about $5.3 million in the first year) than they would have under either of the two plans initially proposed by Assembly leaders.