In a hopeful sign, Gov. Scott Walker says he’s open to modifying his proposed requirement that districts be “Act 10 compliant” in order to receive additional per-pupil aid. That measure would require each school district to certify that its employees “will be required to pay at least 12 percent of all costs and payments associated with employee health care coverage plans in that year” to receive the increases.
The governor (pictured above with WASB president Terry McCloskey, Three Lakes) made those comments flanked by representatives of the WASB and the Southeast Wisconsin Schools Alliance as well as other school leaders and students at a press conference Monday at Waukesha South High School (see previous post).“Our original intention was just to say, we’re going to put more money into our schools, let’s make sure they’re actually using the reforms that we’ve given our school districts over the years,” Gov. Walker explained.
The governor said he wants to ensure that schools put the overwhelming amount of the new money into the classroom, rather than into overhead.
“And if there’s better ways to tweak that to make sure that that’s clear, I think we can do that,” Walker said.
During the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee’s (JFC) agency briefing on the Department of Administration (DPI) budget last week, State Superintendent Tony Evers told JFC members that he fears a requirement to tie additional funding to whether a district is requiring its staff to pay 12 percent toward health care costs will be arbitrarily applied and affect more than the relatively few districts that actually do not require their staff to meet that threshold. (See Wisconsin State Journal coverage of Evers’ testimony.)
The WASB has asked JFC members to remove the Act 10 compliance provisions from the budget (see previous post). The WASB is also surveying school districts to get a better idea of what potential problems those provisions could cause for districts.
Because those provisions, as proposed, focus solely on employees’ out-of- pocket health care expenses rather than on the many other cost-saving steps districts have taken using the flexibility provided by Act 10, the provisions have been criticized by some as top-down micromanagement that flies in the face of the whole idea of Act 10: providing boards with flexibility.
School leaders who plan to testify at the JFC budget hearings are encouraged to urge the committee to remove the Act 10 compliance language from the budget. In doing so, school leaders should emphasize all the various measures their districts have taken to reduce personnel and overhead costs.