After the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) wraps up work this evening on the May 23 agenda, its next meeting will be Wednesday, May 29, starting at 10:00 a.m. in Room 412 E. The major topic of discussion and debate on the 29th will be K-12 education. I believe all of the remaining K-12 issues are on the agenda.
Other items on the agenda that day include some proposals for new sales tax exemptions, some of the smaller DHS issues, and the public benefits fund used for low-income weatherization and energy assistance.
A full list of the items being considered can be found here, with links to each of the papers. The outline below includes links to some of the many Legislative Fiscal Bureau papers:
- Sales and Use Tax Exemption for Qualified Research in Biotechnology and Advanced Manufacturing (Paper #295)
- Sales and Use Tax Exemption for Veterinary Services (Paper #296)
- Sales and Use Tax Exemption for Services of Printing and Imprinting Advertising and Promotional Direct Mail (Paper #297)
- Peer-Run Respite Centers (Paper #347)
- Office of Children’s Mental Health (Paper #348)
- Health Care Data Organization Grant (Paper #349)
- Graduate Medical Education Program Grants (Paper #350)
- State Support for K-12 Education and General School Aids Funding Level (Paper #505)
- General Aid Calculation for Consolidated School Districts (Paper #506)
- School Performance Incentive Grants (Paper #510)
- Educator Effectiveness Evaluation System (Paper #511)
- Milwaukee and Racine Parental Choice Programs — Per Pupil Payments (Paper #515)
- Expansion of Parental Choice Program for Eligible School Districts (Paper #516)
- Special Needs Scholarships (Paper #517)
- Pupils Enrolled in Home-Based Private Educational Programs (Paper #524)
Jon Peacock Read more
The Joint Finance Committee (JFC) meets again this week on Thursday, May 23, starting at 10:00 in Room 412 E. Some of the major areas coming up on Thursday are the Department of Justice, DOT, and the UW System. (It appears that the committee will not meet on Friday, May 24.)
A full list of the items on the May 23 agenda can be found here, with links to each of the papers. The outline below includes links to a few of the many Legislative Fiscal Bureau papers:
- Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforce (Paper #392)
- GPS Tracking Grant Program for Individuals Subject to Domestic Abuse or Harassment Restraining Orders or Injunctions (Paper #415)
- Transfer the Office of Justice Assistance (Paper #405)
- DNA Collection at Arrest and the DNA Analysis Surcharge (Paper #410)
- Mass Transit Operating Assistance — Convert Funding to GPR and Mass Transit Funding Level (Paper #640)
- Major Highway Development Funding (Paper #652)
- State Highway Maintenance — Routine Maintenance Funding and Program Restructuring and Traffic Signal and Intelligent Transportation System Installation, Replacement, and Rehabilitation (Paper #657)
- PR Appropriation Balances (Paper #675)
- GPR Funding Increase and Compensation Plans (Paper #676)
- Incentive Grants (Paper #677)
Jon Peacock Read more
The number of Wisconsin children who are from low-income families has climbed for the ninth straight year, according to a new report from the state’s Department of Public Instruction.
In the 2012-13 school year, 42% of Wisconsin children were eligible for free or reduced-price school lunches. In the 2003-04 school year, just 30% of students qualified for free or reduced-price school lunches, as shown in the chart below. The share of students qualifying has climbed every year since then. This video shows how the share of low-income schoolchildren has changed over time in each school district.
The criteria for qualifying for free or reduced-price lunches have stayed the same during the time period shown in the chart above. Students in families earning less than 130% of the federal poverty level qualify for free school lunches. For the 2013-12 school year, students from a family of four earning less than about $30,000 would qualify for free lunches. Read more
In his proposed budget, Governor Walker recommends setting aside a portion of education funding to distribute to schools based on their performance. While this proposal might sound attractive on the surface, it will result in significant funding increases for schools with few low-income students, disabled students, or English language learners. Schools with larger percentages of those students would be allocated a much smaller share of funding.
The Governor is advocating allocating the following amounts for schools over the coming two-year budget period, based on a school report card accountability measure developed by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction:
- $24 million for schools that score in the highest category in DPI’s school report cards;
- $30 million for schools that improve their score on the school report cards by at least three points over the previous year; and
- $10 million for schools that score in the category of “fails to meet expectations,” if the school submits an improvement plan that is approved by DPI.
The prospects for an increase in the funding budgeted for Wisconsin’s public schools look a bit stronger now, after 13 Assembly Republicans released a letter Tuesday expressing their support “for an increase in K-12 funding and an increase in revenue limits.”
Although the Governor’s budget bill does contain an increase in school aid, it’s a very small increase and the revenue cap is frozen – which means that any boost a school gets in general aid has to be offset by reduced property tax revenue. (See our two-page issue brief on the K-12 education budget.)
It’s hard to say how much difference it will make that 13 Republican Representatives are willing to publicly say they support increased school aid and higher revenue limits. There already appeared to be enough support among Republicans in the Senate to achieve at least a small boost for schools. The letter from their colleagues in the Assembly strengthens the bargaining position of the Senate supporters of increased school funding when a deal on K-12 issues is worked out between the two houses. Read more
A new memo from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau explains the direct and indirect ways that the Governor’s proposal to expand school vouchers to at least nine new school districts would affect school financing across the state.
Wisconsin voters approved ballot initiatives in 26 school districts last week, voluntarily raising property taxes in order to fund services or improved infrastructure in their districts.
Referenda that were approved at the ballot box last week include:
- The issuance of $25 million debt by the Horton School District to build a new elementary school, add on to the high school and middle school, and to construct a new transportation facility;
- The issuance of $6.2 million of debt by the Mount Horeb School District to replace the heating system at the high school, repair the high school roof, and replace inefficient windows;
- A $7.8 million, three-year initiative at the Portage Community School District that will be used for operating costs. In the past nine months, the Portage District has closed two elementary schools and a charter school, and has eliminated 11 positions due to budgetary constraints. Passage of the referendum means that the district will not have to make additional structural changes in the near future, according to the Portage Daily Register.
Governing.com Article Raises Questions about Who Should Set Property Tax Rates
Schools in Wisconsin are caught in a very difficult position because their budgets get squeezed by rising costs, cuts or freezes in state aid, and state-imposed revenue caps that are increasingly tightening the state’s grip on local property taxes. Governing.com examines the fiscal challenges of Wisconsin schools in a very good article today.
“A 20-year-old cap on how much property tax revenue Wisconsin public school districts can earn has become a thorn in the sides of local officials as shrinking home values and dwindling state funding have put a squeeze on their budgets. As the provision comes under increased scrutiny in that state in the wake of the Great Recession, larger questions are being raised [about] whether limiting local public education revenue is a sustainable policy for the future.”
I’d like to think that the 2013-15 budget will provide some relief for schools, but I’m not very optimistic. Although I think many legislators in both parties understand the need to loosen the current constraints, I suspect that the general framework of the governor’s budget will make it very challenging to make the changes that are needed. Read more
As part of the fiscal cliff, deep cuts in federal programs are scheduled to go into effect at the end of the year. These cuts, collectively known as the sequester, could cause Wisconsin to shed thousands of jobs and could have very detrimental effects on the health of our communities and the state’s public education system.
The sequester reduces federal spending by $1.2 trillion over the next nine years, with the amount split equally between defense and non-defense programs. Next year, these across-the-board cuts will result in an 8% cut in most affected non-defense spending. A report by the Senate Appropriations Committee Majority Staff warns that the sequester would “have destructive impacts on the whole array of federal activities that promote and protect the middle class in this country – everything from education to job training, medical research, child care, worker safety, food safety, national parks, border security and safe air travel. Read more