Assembly GOP Releases Sweeping Pre-K-12 Funding Plan; Senate GOP Leader Labels Proposal a Non-Starter

In a Capitol news conference yesterday (June 6), state Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester, pictured) and other Assembly GOP leaders unveiled their K-12 funding plan, which was described by Joint Finance Committee (JFC) Co-Chair John Nygren (R-Marinette) as setting forth a bargaining position from which to begin negotiations with the state Senate.

The $580 million plan provides public schools with about $90 million less state funding than Governor Walkers’ $649 million budget proposal and would not meet the governor’s long-stared goal that December 2018 property tax bills on the “hypothetical” median-valued home with the median tax rate in the state are lower than the December 2014 tax bill on the equivalent home.

State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau, pictured) released a statement even before the Assembly GOP news conference began saying his caucus “remains committed fully funding K-12 education as Governor Walker’s proposed” and adding that the Assembly GOP plan “is simply not the direction that this budget is headed.”

Here are details on the Assembly plan:

  • Per Pupil Aid: Increases per pupil categorical aid by $150 next year (2017-18) and by $200 in 2018-19.  (The governor proposed an increase of $200 in 2017-18 and an additional $204 in 2018-19.)  Districts would receive a total of $400 per pupil next year and $600 per pupil the following year. This would be a cut of $42.7 million in the first year (2017-18) and in $48.1 million in the second year (2018-19) compared to the governor’s proposal.  (WASB Opposes this cut in State Aid compared to the Governor’s Proposal.)
  • Deletes provisions in governor’s proposal to require districts, as a condition of receiving increased per pupil aid, to make certifications regarding employee payment of health care costs and to pass-through this funding to school buildings according to number of pupils enrolled in each building.  (WASB Strongly Supports this change.)
  • Low Revenue Adjustment: Increases the low revenue ceiling under revenue limits from the current $9,100 per pupil to $9,800 per pupil in 2018-19 and each year thereafter.  Districts with per pupil revenue authority below this amount could increase their revenue (local levy) up to this $9,800 ceiling without referendum approval. (WASB Supports raising the Low Revenue Ceiling to help historically Low-Spending Districts.  WASB has concerns about the plan’s apparent trade-off between increasing state per pupil categorical aid and allowing/forcing districts to raise local property taxes to obtain needed resources.)
  • General School Aids and School Levy Tax Credit:  Increases general aids by $20 million in the first year (2017-18) compared to the governor’s proposal and provides an additional $10 million (above the governor’s proposal) for a total of $82.8 million in the second year (2018-19).   Cuts $35 million from the governor’s proposed $87 million increase in the credit distribution in the first year, lowering the increase to $52 million. Provides an additional $60 million above the governor’s proposed $87 million increase in the second year, raising the increase to $147 million. (WASB Resolutions Support State Aids paid directly to school districts and Oppose the conversion of State Aid funds into Credits.)

    Although levy credit payments were technically considered “state support” back when the state was required to provide two-thirds funding (1996-2003), these payments do not provide school districts with any additional “spendable” resources  that allow school budgets to increase. Instead, levy credits are simply payments by the state to municipalities that reduce a taxpayer’s gross property tax bill.  Generally speaking, taxpayers in districts with high per pupil property wealth receive a greater share of these credits than taxpayers in districts with low per pupil property wealth. 
     
  • Scheduling of School Referenda: Includes provisions of Assembly Bill 269, which would limit when school district referenda could be held.  Under that bill, school district referenda could only be held concurrently with the Spring Election or November General Election (i.e., only 3 times in a given 2-year period). (WASB  Opposes this item based on WASB Resolution–1.25, Opposing Limits on Scheduling Referenda)
  • Sparsity Aid: Fully funds the existing program under current law, but deletes both the governor’s proposed increase in the per pupil sparsity aid payment from $300 per pupil to $400 per pupil and governor’s proposed expansion of the program to provide $100 per pupil to “sparse” districts with enrollments between 745 and 1,000 pupils. (WASB Opposes this change and Supports the increased Sparsity Aid as proposed by the Governor.   WASB has Strong Concerns about the extent to which the Assembly plan reduces proposed increases in resources to small, rural districts.)
  • Open Enrollment Transfer Amount: Increases the open enrollment transfer amount by roughly $1,400 from the current figure (roughly $6,750 per pupil) to the charter school per pupil payment amount (currently $8,188).  The transfer amount would remain at the current law amount for virtual charter pupils. (WASB has Strong Concerns that this provision would create winners and losers among districts based on whether a district is a net importer or net exporter of students via Open Enrollment.) 
  • Special Education Open Enrollment Transfer Amount: Scraps the existing method for determining this amount and replaces it with a complex set of determinations.  (WASB is still evaluating this proposal but will likely Oppose it.  Because these provisions are complicated, they will be the subject of a separate blog post.)
  • High-Cost Pupil Transportation Aid: Funds the governor’s proposal, including a stopgap provision under which any district that qualified for this aid in one year but did not qualify the following year would receive 50 percent of the aid it was awarded in the prior year.  In addition, the plan expands the program to apply to transportation costs above 145 percent of the statewide average rather than 150 as under current law. (WASB Supports this provision.)
  • Mental Health Program and Bullying Prevention Program: Includes the Governor’s proposals to provide $3 million for districts for social workers and $2.5 million for mental health collaborative grants, beginning in 2018-19, and provides an additional $1 million collaborative grants. (WASB Supports these provisions.)
  • Shared Services Categorical Aid Program:  Creates a new pilot program to provide categorical aid to districts that share certain administrative positions.  The $3.5 million pilot program would begin in 2018-19.Districts could qualify for aid based on a schedule of dollar amounts for sharing certain positions, with no limit to the number of positions that could be shared, as follows: $40,000 for a district administrator; $22,500 for a human resources director, information technology coordinator or business manager; $17,500 for any other non-faculty administrative position, excluding principals and assistant principals.  Each district sharing positions would qualify for 100 percent of these amounts in the first three years the positions are shared, 50 percent in the fourth year and 0 (zero) percent in the fifth year.  If districts participating in position sharing under this program chose to enter into a whole grade sharing agreement before the start of the fourth year of participation, they would continue to receive 100 percent of the funding amount for all five years of the pilot program, in addition to any aid they receive under the whole grade sharing program.If a district employee serves in more than one administrative position and both are included in a shared services plan, the district could only receive aid for one  of the positions.  Although districts can share positions with any unit of government, only school districts could qualify for aid under this program. (WASB is still evaluating this provision in conjunction with the elimination of the proposed increases in Sparsity Aid and the creation of a Whole Grade Sharing Categorical Aid; The combination of these three changes appears intended to drive small, rural districts toward entering into Whole Grade Sharing agreements.)
  • Special Education Transitions Incentive Grant: Includes the Governor’s recommendation with a technical correction to allow DPI to award grants in the 2017-18 school year and thereafter. (WASB Supports this provision.)
  • Special Education Transitions Readiness Grant: Includes the Governor’s recommendation for provide $1.5 million for a new program, beginning in 2018-19. (WASB Supports this provision.)
  • Whole Grade Sharing Categorical Aid: (New Program) Provides $1.5 million, beginning in 2018-19 to provide categorical aid funding to districts that participate in a whole-grade sharing agreement. Districts could receive $150 per pupil enrolled in a grade included in a whole grade sharing agreement in the first year of the agreement and the following three years and 50 percent of the first year’s aid in the fifth year. No monies would be paid in the sixth year of the agreement.  Funding is a sum certain amount, thus DPI would have to prorate payments if eligible districts’ aid entitlements exceed available funding. (WASB Supports this provision but is still evaluating this provision in conjunction with the elimination of the proposed increases in Sparsity Aid and the creation of a Shared Services Categorical Aid program. Those changes appear intended to drive small, rural  districts to enter into whole grade sharing agreements.)
  • Consolidation Categorical Aid: Replaces existing (current law) consolidation aid adjustments with a new sum sufficient appropriation that would provide categorical aid funding for two or more districts that consolidate into one district. Districts could receive $150 per pupil attending school in the consolidated district for each of the first five years after the consolidation. In the sixth year districts would qualify for 50 percent of the amount received in the fifth year.  In the seventh year, districts would qualify for 25 percent of the amount received in fifth year. In the first five years after the consolidation, the consolidated district’s state general school aids would not be less than the sum of the state general school aids received by the consolidating districts in the school year prior to the consolidation. In addition, for the first five years, the consolidated district would receive sparsity aid equal to at least 50 percent of the total sparsity aid, if any, received by the consolidating school districts in the school year prior to the consolidation. (WASB is still evaluating this provision in conjunction with the elimination of the proposed increases in Sparsity Aid; The combination of those two changes appears Intended to drive small, rural districts toward consolidation.) 
  • Personal Electronic Computing Device Grants: Provides roughly $9.2 million annually in a new appropriation for grants to districts for personal electronic computing devices (defined as electronic computing devices that are mobile, assignable to individual pupils to be used solely by that pupil and may be used to access the Internet). School boards, charter school operators, governing bodies of private schools and tribal schools may receive these grants. Grants for school districts would equal $125 per ninth grade pupil based on the district’s ninth grade membership in the prior school year. Grants could be used only for: purchasing personal electronic computing devices or software for such devices; purchasing curriculum, including any related educational content or materials, a portion or all of which may be accessed on a personal electronic computing device; or to train professional staff on hoe to effectively incorporate personal electronic computing devices into a classroom and into a high school curriculum. (WASB is still evaluating this provision.)
  • High-Cost Special Education Aid: Allows school districts to qualify for reimbursement of 90 percent of eligible prior year costs above $30,000 rather than 70 percent as under current law and provide additional funding estimated to fully fund the costs of the program as modified.  (WASB Supports this change;  However we’ve advocated for full (100 Percent) funding of the High-Cost Special Education Aid program.)
  • School Breakfast Program: Provide an additional $880,000 annually for school breakfast aids, an amount estimated to be sufficient to reimburse ten cents per breakfast served in 2017-18 and 2018-19, an increase of three cents per meal over current funding.  (WASB Supports this provision.)
  • Early College Credit Program: Delays creation of the early college credit program and the restoration of the part-time open enrollment program until 2018-19. Specifies that: tuition for a pupil attending a UW college under the program could not exceed 50 percent of the amount that would be charged to a resident undergraduate student per credit; tuition for a pupil attending a private college or university could not exceed one third of the amount charged to a resident undergraduate attending UW-Madison per credit. Specifies that that technical colleges would not be included in the early college credit program and modifies current law governing the youth options program so that it would apply only to technical colleges. Specifies that a pupil attending a private school could participate in the program. The requirements that apply to school districts and school boards would apply to private schools and their governing bodies. (WASB Supports the concept of this provision but has questions about tuition at UW four-year campuses and how low-income students (e.g., FRL-eligible) would treated under the plan.)
  • Rural School Teacher Talent Pilot Program: Provide $500,000 annually to create a rural school teacher talent program.  Funding would provide grants to cooperative educational service agencies (CESAs) to coordinate with universities and colleges to provide practicums, student-teacher placement, and internships for undergraduate college students in rural school districts. Funding could be used for mileage reimbursements and stipends for participating students or to pay costs for CESA coordination and supervision. (WASB Supports this provision.)
  • Statewide Private School Choice Program – Prior Year Attendance Requirements: Adds a criterion that would allow a pupil who applied to attend a private school under the statewide choice (voucher) program in the previous school year but was placed on a waiting list and unable to participate as a result of school district participation limit.  Under the bill an additional criterion would be added that would allow a pupil who attended a school in another state in the prior year to participate in the program. (WASB is still evaluating this provision.)
  • Private School Choice Programs – Income Eligibility:  Specify that if a pupil attended a private school under the Milwaukee, Racine, or statewide choice programs in the prior school year and applies to attend a private school under another choice program in the immediately following school year, the pupil’s family income would not need to be verified a school in another state in the prior year to participate in the program. (The effect of this provisions would be to allow a pupil participating in the Milwaukee or Racine voucher programs with a family income level greater than 185 percent of the federal poverty level to participate in the statewide voucher program if the family moved to another district.) (WASB is still evaluating this provision.)
  • Private School Choice Programs – Position Authority: Funds an education specialist to administer the Milwaukee, Racine and statewide private school programs and the independent charter school program. (WASB is still evaluating this provision.)
  • Special Needs Scholarship Program Payment: Modifies the per pupil payment for the special needs scholarship (voucher) program (currently $12,000 per pupil) to be based on a cost estimate prepared by the child’s school district and the actual costs incurred by the private school to implement the child’s most recent individualized education program (IEP) or services plan, as modified by agreement between the private school and the child’s parent or guardian and related services agreed to by the private school and the child’s parent that are not included in the child’s IEP or services plan. (WASB is still evaluating this provision. Because the changes made by these provisions are complicated, they will be the subject of a separate blog post.)
  • Independent Charter School Program – Summer School Funding: Specify that independent charter school operators would receive payment for summer school pupils in a manner similar to schools in the private school choice programs, beginning with pupils attending summer school in the summer of 2017. (WASB is still evaluating this provision.)
  • Choice, Charter, and Open Enrollment Indexing Mechanism: Excludes appropriations for the special needs scholarship program and independent charter schools authorized by the Office of Educational Opportunity from the indexing mechanism and includes the MPS summer school and Milwaukee performance funding appropriations (as well as other new categorical aids included in the plan) in the indexing mechanism. (WASB is still evaluating this provision.)
  • Eliminate Expiration Dates for Teachers and Administrator Licenses: Modifies the Governor’s recommendation so as to include Milwaukee Public Schools and independent charter schools be required to do background checks on teachers and administrators at least once every five years.  Require DPI to conduct the background checks rather than transferring this responsibility to school districts, MPS and independent charter schools. (WASB supports this provision.)
    Provisional three-year licenses would be granted to new educators, administrators and pupil services professionals (e.g., school counselors, psychologists, social workers and nurses).  A lifetime license could only be granted after the completion of six semesters of successful experience, as certified by a school board.  The license would remain valid unless the individual license holder was not actively employed by a school district for five or more consecutive years.  After five years of inactivity, the individual would be required to obtain a provisional three-year license and complete six semesters of successful experience before receiving another lifetime license.  All provisions that apply to teaching and administrator licenses under the bill would also apply to pupil services professionals. (While this is an improvement over the governor’s proposal, the WASB still has concerns with returning to life licenses as our resolutions state that continuing proof of growth and professional development requirements. We would support flexibilities and streamlining for teachers in licensure renewal and better alignment with the educator effectiveness evaluation system required by state law.)
  • Substitute License for Individual with Associate’s Degree: Requires DPI to grant a substitute teacher permit to an individual with a two-year degree or its equivalent and substitute teacher training. (WASB is still evaluating this provision.)
  • Junior Reserve Officer’s Training Corps Teaching License: Requires DPI to grant a license to an individual to provide instruction to pupils enrolled in Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps if they satisfy certain criteria. (WASB is still evaluating this provision.)
  •  Online Teacher Reciprocity: Provides that an individual who is located in another state but teaches an online course through a virtual charter school or public school district located in Wisconsin, and who holds a license or permit to teach that subject and grade level in the state in which the individual is located, would be appropriately licensed to teach that subject and grade level in Wisconsin. (WASB has concerns with this provision.)
  •  School and School District Accountability Reports: Adds back provisions the governor proposed that were removed as “non-fiscal policy” item relating to adding to the  information required to be included in school and school district accountability reports published annually by DPI.  This would include the following information for school districts and for each high school in the district: (a) the number and percentage of pupils participating in the early college credit program; (b) the number and percentage of pupils participating in a youth apprenticeship; (c) the number of community service hours provided by pupils; (d) the number of advanced placement courses offered and the number of advanced placement credits earned by pupils; and (e) the number of pupils earning industry-recognized credentials through a technical education program established by a school board. (WASB opposes this provision as several of these items are things that school districts are not currently required to track thus creating an unfunded mandate.  WASB believes any benefit obtained solely by reporting this information (that does not factor into report card scores) could be outweighed by the cost to districts in staff resources to collect/compile this information.  We think more discussion should take place regarding whether these are the most accurate and appropriate measures that should be reported. That discussion is most likely to occur in the context of a separate, stand-alone legislation that can have its own hearing and debate.)
  • Civics Assessment Requirement for High School Graduation: Increases the passing score from 60 out of 100 correct answers to 80 out of 100.  (WASB Opposed creating this graduation requirement in the first place and opposes arbitrarily increasing the passing score.)

Read More:  Legislative Fiscal Bureau Memo on Assembly GOP Plan