Two additional budget vetoes that will impact schools

While a good deal of attention has been paid to the governor’s vetoes pertaining to per pupil aid and supplemental per pupil aid, there are a number of other vetoes that will impact schools that school leaders should be aware of.   Here are two that will have the biggest impact on school districts:

Personal Computing Devices: A partial veto by the governor effectively eliminates funding (roughly $9.2 million annually) for the personal electronic computing devices grant program effective July 1, 2019.

As a result, there is no longer any funding provided for this program in either the 2019-20 school year or the 2020-21 school year, although the statutory language authorizing the program remains on the books.

Background: The 2017-29 biennial budget act (2017 Wisconsin Act 59) created a new matching grant program under which a school board, an operator of an independent charter school, a private school, or a tribal school may apply for a grant to purchase personal electronic computing devices, software for such devices, and curricular materials that may be accessed on such devices, beginning in the 2018-19 school year and ending in the 2022-23 school year. The devices must be mobile, capable of accessing the internet, and assignable to an individual pupil to be used solely by that pupil. Grant monies may also be used to provide certain training to professional staff. The annual amount of the grant for a school district is $125 multiplied by the number of 9th grade pupils included in the school district’s membership in the previous school year.

In the proposed budget he submitted to legislators, Gov. Evers proposed to pay out these grants in 2019-20, but delete this grant program and eliminate its funding, beginning in 2020-21. He also proposed changing how public school students are counted for this program, to be consistent with how students in private schools and independent charter schools are counted for this program.

The Joint Finance Committee (JFC) rejected the governor’s recommendation, thereby restoring/maintaining current law funding (about $9.2 million per year) for both years of the 2019-21 biennium.

The governor partially vetoed the modifications to the bill made by the JFC so as to reduce the appropriation for program, to zero, beginning in 2019-20.

In his veto message the governor stated (in part):

I object to providing funds to districts on a per student basis using a membership calculation that does not match students enrolled in ninth grade. In addition, I believe that districts may choose to invest in technology through flexibility provided by the revenue limit increase and through the existing TEACH program. Further, these funds could more effectively be spent on programs that close achievement gaps. By lining out the amounts under s. 20.255 (2) (aw) and writing in smaller amounts, I am vetoing the part of the bill that funds this provision. I am also requesting the Department of Administration secretary not to allot these funds.

Fabrication Lab (Fab Lab) Funding: A partial veto by the governor deleted newly created non-statutory language requiring the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) to allocate at least $500,000 in each year of the 2019-21 biennium for the purpose of awarding grants under a fabrication laboratory grant program substantially similar to the program originally created under 2015 Wisconsin Act 55.

Background: The 2015-17 state budget (2015 Wisconsin Act 55) created a grant program housed within the WEDC for the purchases of equipment in fabrication laboratories used by elementary or secondary school students. These grants were to be used for the purchase of equipment used for instructional and educational purposes in one or more fabrication laboratories by elementary, middle, junior, or senior high school students. The Act defined a “fabrication laboratory” as a medium-scale, high-technology workshop equipped with computer-controlled additive and subtractive manufacturing components, including 3-dimensional printers, laser engravers, computer numerical control routers, or plasma cutters. Pursuant to Act 55, WEDC was provided $500,000 in 2015-16 to develop and implement this grant program.

The statutes that created the fabrication laboratory grant program were repealed under 2017 Act 59, which instead required that WEDC continue to provide funding of at least $500,000 in 2017-18 and 2018-19 from either its operations and programs GPR appropriation or its economic development fund operations and programs SEG appropriation to implement a program substantially similar to the Act 55 program.

A provision added to  the 2019-21 budget bill by the Joint Finance Committee would have required WEDC to continue the grant program through the 2019-21 biennium and specified that WEDC use money from its economic development fund operations and programs SEG appropriation for this purpose.

The governor used his partial veto to remove this provision; however, the governor’s veto does not prohibit WEDC from allocating monies for the purpose of providing Fab Lab grants if it chooses to do so of its own volition.

In his veto message the governor stated (in part):

I am vetoing this section because I object to the Legislature limiting the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation’s authority. The fabrication laboratories program has been an innovative effort to expand the educational experiences of public school children across the state, but this is a policy more appropriately administered with other educational grant programs. If the corporation wishes to make such an allocation it can choose to do so on its own volition.”