The state budget signed into law today (Sept. 21) significantly invests in our public school students and districts, one of the best investments we can make as a state. The substantial increases in per-pupil aid and other categorical aids are welcome and vitally important to our public school districts that serve the vast majority of students in Wisconsin and are tasked with preparing all of them for college and/or careers.
I also applaud the mental health-related supports for students and school districts included in the state budget. These needs have been overlooked for too long.
I am disappointed that neither revenue limit relief for low-spending districts nor an increase/expansion of sparsity aid were included in the final budget. Both are targeted to school districts that have special challenges and this was a lost opportunity. I am also disappointed with the further expansions of private school vouchers and special needs vouchers which continue to take us down the path of funding dual education systems when we have not been able to maintain even inflationary increases for our constitutionally mandated public school system. In addition, several policy items were included in the budget (e.g. teacher and administrator licensure changes, scheduling of referendum restrictions and restrictions for energy savings projects) that will impact the efficient operations of school districts.
Ultimately, I understand that a budget comes down to making hard choices with available resources and there will be provisions that school board members statewide both support and oppose. On behalf of all 422 locally elected school boards in Wisconsin, I want to thank the governor and members of the Legislature for their public service and for the positive items included for public schools. I also look forward to continuing to work with both the governor and lawmakers for the remainder of this legislative session.
Read: WASB Summary of Key 2017-19 State Budget Provisions for Public Schools
The WASB thanks the Joint Finance Committee for voting to approve significant investments in public schools, including fully funding Governor Walker’s proposal to increase per-pupil aid. We strongly support removing the “strings” of the healthcare cost shift mandate to allow school districts to receive the proposed increases in per-pupil aid and are pleased JFC members made this change. We also want to thank the committee members for allowing historically low-spending districts to catch up with their peers by including a long overdue adjustment to the low-revenue ceiling.
The WASB also appreciates that JFC members support providing schools with the resources to address the mental health needs of their students. These items were important priorities on our legislative agenda.
There are items in this package that our members have concerns with and we hope to work with lawmakers as the budget moves through the Assembly and Senate to improve the overall K-12 package.
The Assembly Republican school funding plan includes provisions we support and it is a positive sign that Assembly GOP legislators recognize the need to increase state aid for school districts. We appreciate and strongly support removing the “strings” of the healthcare cost shift mandate and how funding needs to be budgeted per school building to receive the proposed increases in per-pupil aid. The WASB also supports raising the low-revenue ceiling to help historically low-spending districts and increased funding for high cost special education aid. There are a wide range of other provisions included in the proposal that we are still reviewing.
However, we are concerned that this plan backs away from the governor’s proposed per-pupil categorical aid investments. The WASB does do not support reducing the governor’s proposed increase by $50 per pupil in 2017-18. The governor’s original proposal, for the first time in several budgets, provides nearly an inflationary increase in state aid to almost all school districts in the state.
Overall, we hope legislators will support the governor’s investments in per-pupil aid at the $200 and $204 per pupil level while also supporting local control and incorporating the positive proposals from the Assembly GOP on the low- revenue ceiling.
-John H. Ashley is Executive Director of the Wisconsin Association of School Boards
Yesterday (April 20), the Assembly Education Committee held a public hearing on a bill (Assembly Bill 233) that would prohibit the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) from submitting the state plan required under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to the U.S. Department of Education without first responding to any objections submitted to DPI by the Assembly Committee on Education and the Senate Committee on Education.
The bill illustrates one of the tensions in implementing the new federal law. Continue reading Lawmakers Debate Degree of Stakeholder Input Needed on State’s ESSA Accountability Plan
Governor Walker announced rural school budget initiatives at several stops around the state today. The plan would boost sparsity aid and transportation aid, invest in rural broadband, include provisions relating to teacher recruitment/retention and sharing of services between districts, and continue Fab Lab grants. Several of the proposals are straight out of the WASB Legislative Agenda and supported by our membership via Delegate Assembly Resolutions.
In response, WASB Executive Director John Ashley released the following statement:
I want to thank Governor Walker for recognizing the needs of rural schools and following through with these proposed investments. The WASB and school board members have advocated for many of these proposals with the Governor’s office and state legislators. In fact, several were included in our legislative agenda and are supported by our members via resolutions.
It is important to note that some of these initiatives, in particular the UW Flex Option for recruiting and retaining teachers, would be helpful for all of our districts as urban/suburban schools are dealing with these issues as well.
Public schools are the bedrock of our communities and I look forward to continuing to work with the Governor and State Legislature on investing in all of Wisconsin’s public schools throughout this state budget process. Continue reading Governor Walker Proposes Rural Schools Initiatives; WASB Reaction
State Superintendent Tony Evers has scheduled listening sessions to gather input on implementation of the new federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), and is inviting stakeholders from across the public and private education spectrum to participate.
Continue reading State Supt. Evers Schedules ESSA Listening Sessions, Appoints Equity Council