Selected highlights of Gov. Evers’ K-12 education budget

Gov. Evers’ proposed 2019-21 state budget has been introduced as 2019 Senate Bill 59 (and as 2019 Assembly Bill 56).

Key selected highlights of the governor’s K-12 education budget include the following:

School Funding Reform Provisions

  • Implements the “Fair Funding for Our Future” proposal, beginning in 2020-21.
  • Transfers state funding from two existing property tax credit programs—the school levy tax credit and first dollar tax credit—into general equalization aids beginning in 2020-21.
  • Transfers high poverty aid into general equalization aid, beginning in 2020-21.
  • Creates a sum sufficient hold harmless aid program to ensure no school district receives less overall state support because of school finance reforms.
  • Restores the requirement that the state provide at least two-thirds funding of partial school revenues. (As proposed, the Governor’s budget would achieve this level of state funding in both years of the biennium.)
  • Fully funds four-year-old kindergarten (4K) by increasing the general equalization aid and revenue limit membership calculations for full-day 4K programs to 1.0 FTE, beginning in 2020-21.
  • Indexes per pupil payment adjustments for all voucher programs, including the special needs voucher program, independent charters, as well as for open enrollment and whole grade sharing aid to positive revenue limit adjustments and increases in per pupil aid payments.

Revenue Limits

  • Provides a revenue limit adjustment of $200 per pupil in 2019-20 and $204 per pupil in 2020-21,
  • Indexes revenue limit adjustments to changes in the consumer price index (CPI), beginning in 2021-22.
  • Increases the low revenue ceiling to $9,700 in fiscal year 2019-20 and $10,000 in fiscal year 2020-21. This would give additional revenue limit authority to an estimated 125 districts that are among the lowest spending districts in the state.

State School Aid – General Aid

  • Provides $619 million in additional state general aid over the 2019-21 biennium.
  • Guarantees each school district a minimum amount of state aid of $3,000 per pupil, beginning in 2020-21.
  • Incorporates a poverty factor into the calculation of general aid payments (would add 0.2 FTE per economically disadvantaged student into the determination of property value per member).
  • Raises the secondary cost ceiling from 90 percent to 100 percent of the statewide average shared costs per member, which reduces the aid penalty faced by 110 districts with above-average property values.
  • Increases special adjustment aid from 85 percent of prior year general aid to 90 percent of prior year general aid. (Had this change been in effect in 2018-19, it would have increased state aid for at least 56 districts.)

State School Aid – Categorical Aid

Per Pupil Aid

  • Provides that per pupil aid will continue at $654 per pupil for future school years.  (Under current law, per pupil aid decreases to $630 per pupil for 2019-20 and each year therafter.)

Special Education 

  • Increases special education aid by $75 million in 2019-20 and $531 million in 2020-21 to reimburse eligible special education costs at 30 percent in 2019-20 and 60 percent in 2020-21.
  • Increases the reimbursement rate for high-cost special education (costs over $30,000 per student) from 90 percent to 100 percent and converts high-cost special education aid from a sum certain to a sum sufficient appropriation (to ensure this aid will not be prorated).
  • Increases funding for special education transition readiness grants by $3.5 million in each year.

Student Mental Health

  • Increases funding by more than $63 million to boost access to mental health services for school-age youth as follows:
    • $22 million in each year to expand the mental health categorical aid program to include reimbursement for expenditures for any school-based pupil services in schools;
    • $7 million in each year to increase the number of school-based mental health collaboration grants provided; and
    • $2.6 million in each year to expand training for school personnel in various mental health interventions.

English Language Learners

  • Provides $8.5 million in 2019-20 and $26.8 million in 2020-21 in bilingual-bicultural aid to increase reimbursement of bilingual-bicultural program costs from the current 8 percent to 15 percent in 2019-20 and 30 percent in 2020-21. (This increase will aid districts educating over 26,000 English Learner students throughout the state.)
  • Provides $100 per English Learner to smaller and rural districts that are not eligible to receive bilingual-bicultural categorical aid because they have too few students who are English Learners. (Current state law affirms that there is an obligation to serve all pupils who are English Learners, but no specific funding is provided for this purpose outside of bilingual-bicultural aid. This per pupil funding will aid school districts throughout the state that currently educate over 23,000 English Learners but receive no state aid for this purpose.)
  • Provides $3.4 million in 2020-21 to create a targeted aid program for English Learner students who are classified at levels 1, 2 or 3 on a scale of 1 to 6 on the annual English Learner Proficiency Assessment. (These students typically have the lowest achievement scores among any pupil subgroup. Approximately 34,000 students who are English Learners could receive more learning support through this program.)
  • Provides $2.5 million in 2020-21 in discretionary grants to encourage school districts to support and expand educational programming for students who are English Learners and/or bilingual-bicultural education opportunities in schools

School Meal and Community Partnership Programs

  • Provides $2.8 million in 2019-20 and $2.9 million in 2020-21 to fully fund reimbursements to school districts under the school breakfast program at $0.15 for each breakfast as required by current law.
  • Provides $382,900 GPR in each year to fully fund the Wisconsin school day milk program.
  • Provides $1 million in each year to support community partner collaborations that help school districts begin to address student needs related to health, housing, transportation and more that impact student achievement.

Rural Schools

  • Increases funding by $9.8 million for sparsity aid payments to small, rural school districts and creates a second tier of sparsity aid with payments of $100 per pupil for districts with 746 pupils or more who have sparse student populations, beginning in 2020-21.
  • Provides $2.7 million to fully fund eligible high-cost pupil transportation aid expenditures in 2020-21 and eliminates the $200,000 funding cap on total stopgap payments (so stopgap payments will reflect fully 50 percent of the aid a district received in the prior year, not a pro-rated amount).

 Urban Schools

  • Provides $3.6 million in each year for summer school grants in the five largest school districts in the state (Green Bay, Kenosha, Madison, Milwaukee and Racine) to Increase instructional time and reduce summer “learning loss.”
  • Provides $5 million in 2020-21 to support the expansion and creation of early childhood education programs in the five largest school districts in the state.
  • Provides $250,000 in each year to the Wisconsin Urban Leadership Institute to train, coach and support urban district principals.
  • Provides $10 million in 2020-21 to support a partnership between Milwaukee Public Schools and the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee to select, train, place and support a mathematics teacher leader in each school building.

Additional Learning Opportunities

  • Provides $10 million annually to create a new afterschool and out-of-school time grant program to address unmet needs for high-quality programming in underserved communities.
  • Provides $2 million in 2020-21 to encourage local education agencies (school districts and CESAs) to expand access to drivers’ education courses for students who face barriers to taking such courses.
  • Increases funding for gifted and talented programming by additional $762,800 each year; provides districts the flexibility to use grant funds to provide professional development for gifted and talented teachers; and ensures the program is focused on serving historically underrepresented students including economically disadvantaged students, students of color, English Learners and students with disabilities.
  • Provides $250,000 in each year to fully fund anticipated demand for robotics league participation grants.

Teacher Shortage and Teacher Licensure Provisions

  • Authorizes school districts to rehire a retired annuitant teacher if:
    — at least 30 days have passed since the teacher left employment with a district;
    — at the time of retirement, the teacher does not have an agreement with any school      district to return to employment; and
    — upon returning to work the teacher elects to not become a participating employee        and continue receiving their annuity.
  • Repeals the alternative education preparation licensure pathway through which teachers can become licensed without in-classroom teaching time.
  • Provides $571,200 in 2019-20 and $652,900 in fiscal year 2020-21 to help recruit and retain high quality master educator and national board-certified teachers in high poverty schools. (This funding would triple the size of continuing grants to qualified teachers in high poverty urban schools and double the size of the continuing grant for teachers at high poverty schools elsewhere in (i.e.,  throughout) the state, and would incentivize an estimated 130 or more highly qualified teachers to continue teaching in schools with high levels of poverty.)
  • Requires teachers at private schools participating in a private school choice (voucher) program to be licensed as of July 1, 2022. (This item also appears below under voucher programs.)

Vouchers and Independent Charter Schools

Voucher programs

  • Freezes the total number of slots available in the Milwaukee parental choice (voucher) program, which are almost entirely state funded, starting in 2020-21 and thereafter, based on fiscal year 2019-20 pupil headcount.* (As students graduate high school or choose to return to public schools, slots in the program will open.)  This freeze would result in an estimated $3 million savings to the state in 2020-21.
  • Freezes the number of slots available in the Wisconsin and Racine parental choice (voucher) programs, starting in 2020-21 and thereafter, based on fiscal year 2019-20 pupil headcount.* (New students may join these programs as current students graduate or choose to return to public schools.) Under current law, new students in these programs are funded through general aid reductions, which a school district may recoup through property taxes. This enrollment freeze would reduce property taxes statewide by an estimated $24.9 million in 2020-21.

*The use of 2019-20 pupil headcounts would allow private schools participating in the Milwaukee, Statewide (Wisconsin) and Racine parental choice (voucher) programs to count their full-time 4K students as 1.0 FTE.

  • Prohibits new students from participating in the special needs scholarships (special needs voucher) program beginning in 2020-21. Current law allows participating private schools to receive 90 percent reimbursement of costs, which is much higher than the 25 percent reimbursement public schools receive.
    Editors’ NoteThis change is explained in the “Budget In Brief” document published by the state Department of Administration as follows: “With an increase in the reimbursement rate of eligible special education expenditures the need for an unequally funded program with unaudited costs is reduced. Additionally, private schools are not required to provide special education services under federal law, and there are no state or federal standards regarding any special education services a private school may provide. Phasing out this program, which was created without the opportunity for a public hearing, is estimated to reduce property taxes by $4.6 million in fiscal year 2020-21 compared to current law.”
  • Requires teachers at private schools participating in a private school choice (voucher) program to be licensed as of July 1, 2022.
  • Requires participating private voucher schools to be fully accredited, rather than pre-accredited, beginning in 2021-22.
  • increases the accountability of participating special needs scholarship (special needs voucher) program schools and improve student protections within the program as follows:
    — repeals the actual cost basis by which a school can request an unverified sum for          reimbursement and reinstate a per pupil aid payment;
    — require new schools that begin participating in fiscal year 2020-21 and thereafter to     participate in another parental choice program through which they are accredited;
    — requires that a school participating in the program may not charge tuition to a
    student whose income does not exceed 220 percent of the federal poverty line to
    provide consistency with the parental choice programs; and
    — requires that schools participating in the program must allow students to opt out
    of the religious activity upon written request to protect the rights of students.

Voucher funding transparency

  • Provides property tax transparency by including information about the gross state general aid deducted from a school district for private choice programs, which a district may choose to increase property taxes to replace, on an individual’s property tax bill.

Independent Charter Schools

  • Precludes independent charter school authorizers from authorizing new schools from enactment of the budget through July 1, 2023, unless the school submitted an intent to participate to the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) by February 1, 2019. (Independent charter schools with existing contracts may continue to add students and grades.)

Miscellaneous

  • Consolidates numerous programs that impact school districts into the Department of Public Instruction (DPI), including:
    —  Moving Office of School Safety from the Department of Justice;
    —  Moving Career and technical education incentive grants from the Department of
    Workforce Development;
    —  Moving Career and technical education completion awards from the Department
    of Workforce Development;
    —  Moving technical education equipment grants from the Department of Workforce
    Development;
    —  Moving Teacher development program grants and grants for teacher training and
    recruitment from the Department of Workforce Development (to be merged into a
    single appropriation); and
    —  Establishing a new minority teacher grant program to recruit teachers of color.