WASB Day at the Capitol was held this past Wednesday, March 15. Over 250 school board members, administrators and others made their way to Madison to take our message to the Capitol. Thank you to all who took time out of their schedules to make the trip!
The morning program began with WASB President Capt. Terry McCloskey, USN Retired, of the Three Lakes School Board welcoming attendees and introducing Secretary Scott Neitzel of the Wisconsin Dept. of Administration (the agency that puts together the governor’s budget) who provided an overview of Governor Walker’s budget proposal. At the close of his presentation, Sec. Neitzel warned attendees about efforts in the Legislature to operate off base spending rather than the governor’s proposal. WASB shares this concern because Gov. Walker has proposed about $650 million in additional investments in K-12 public education. “Think of it as going from a $650 million increase to zero,” said Neitzel. Working off of the base essentially means working off current spending levels with the Legislature having to vote to add back in any spending increases.
Chris Kulow then moderated a Legislative Panel featuring state Sen. Luther Olsen (R-Ripon), Sen. Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse), Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester), and Rep. Eric Genrich (D-Green Bay). They had a very respectful and insightful discussion on a number of issues including:
Per Pupil Funding – Speaker Vos defended “working off the base” as something Assembly Republicans were interested in as a way for the Legislature to reassert their role as a co-equal branch of government and not being followers of the Executive Branch (governor). He would not commit to the governor’s proposed increases and stressed that smaller and steadier increases are more resistant to fluctuations in the national and state economies. Sen. Olsen disagreed with his GOP colleague and supported the governor’s proposed increases to schools and working off the governor’s budget proposal rather than base budgeting because that would give those increases the best chance of being approved. Sen. Shilling and Rep. Genrich also supported increased funding to schools but questioned whether doing it through Per Pupil Aid rather than the equalization formula was sustainable and equitable.
Energy Efficiency Revenue Limit Exemption – All panelists agreed that they disagree with the governor’s proposal to eliminate this exemption. Speaker Vos spoke about how he was involved in creating the exemption and, while he mentioned there may have to be some changes like shorter payback periods, the exemption would not be eliminated.
School Start Date – Senator Shilling was the only panelist to support returning the school start date to local control. Sen. Olsen mentioned that he was opposed to changes to the start date law because he didn’t think there were any legitimate education reasons to start school earlier and that this was “primarily about football.” He also mentioned how he represents the Wisconsin Dells, which fears it would be harmed if schools started earlier in August. Speaker Vos agreed with Sen. Olsen and simply stated a repeal of the Sept 1 start date mandate “was not going to happen”.
Dan Rossmiller then went over the three main priorities that members talked about in their Capitol meetings:
- Preserve the increases to Per Pupil Aid and remove the “strings”;
- Support the investments in rural schools; and
- Repeal the school start date mandate.
The candidates for State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Evers and Lowell Holtz, participated in a forum moderated by Chris Kulow during the lunch hour. See media coverage of the forum:
- Superintendent Candidates Make Their Cases At Madison Forum (WPR)
- Lowell Holtz blames teacher shortage on Tony Evers and the ‘bureaucratic bunch that he manages’ (Capital Times)
- Public Schools express concern for increase in private school vouchers (WSAW-TV)
Following the candidate forum, members went to the Capitol to meet with their legislators and staff. They then provided feedback on those meetings to the WASB.
If you attended the event, please fill out our survey. We would like to know what you thought was good and any areas we can improve upon moving forward.
Thanks again to all those who attended to advocate for their school districts and the children you serve!