The centerpiece of Governor Walker’s education budget is a significant increase in per pupil categorical aid for school districts.
The governor proposes to increase each school district’s allotment of this aid from the current $250 per pupil by adding $200 in 2017-18 and an additional $204 in 2018-19. Schools would thus receive $450 per pupil in per pupil categorical aid next year and $654 per pupil the following year.
This boost in per pupil aid is estimated to add $509 million in “spendable resources” to school district budgets over the two-year period as it is outside the revenue limits. All of this money will be provided by the state and will not have to be raised locally.
The WASB Legislative Agenda asked for an additional $200 per student in each year of the biennium through increases in per pupil aid or increases in revenue limits coupled with increases in general aid. Thus, the WASB supports the Governor’s proposal although we understand the argument that this funding should be distributed through the equalization aid formula.
There are a couple of “catches” to the proposal, however, that were not announced previously and that you should be aware of:
- In order to receive this additional per pupil aid each school district will have to certify to the DPI that the district is complying with Act 10, defined as follows: the district must certify that employees of the district will be required to pay at least 12 percent of all costs and payments associated with employee health care coverage plans in that school year. The budget proposal further requires the increased per pupil aid to be budgeted by school districts directly to individual schools in direct proportion to each school’s enrollment in the current and two preceding years.
- The proposed increases in per pupil aid are partially funded by anticipated cost savings that may arise due to a switch in state employee’s group health coverage from a private insurance model to a self-insurance model. Should these savings not materialize, the DPI would be required to reduce the per pupil aid payments by $12 per pupil in 2017-18 and by $24 per pupil in 2018-19.
Legislative leaders, including Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau), Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and Joint Finance Committee Co-Chair John Nygren (R-Marinette) have expressed skepticism about whether the state can afford an aid increase for schools as big as what the governor has proposed.
School leaders will have to make a strong case in order to preserve what the governor has proposed. That is one very good reason why you should plan to attend the WASB Day at the Capitol event on March 15.