Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Budget Action by Joint Finance Committee

On Monday, I shared with you the decisions that the Wisconsin Association of School Boards’ Joint Finance Committee made that will affect school districts.  Last week, State Superintendent Tony Evers spoke about these significant changes.  I have included an excerpt from the DPI ConnectEd Newsletter that addresses his thoughts.

Last week, the Joint Committee on Finance passed significant education changes as part of their revisions of the 2015-17 state budget.

State Superintendent Tony Evers said that, after polling and local hearings showed Wisconsin citizens overwhelmingly supported public schools and increased funding in this budget, “I am troubled that the Joint Finance Committee spent its time and effort designing a plan that erodes the basic foundation of Wisconsin’s public school system.”

The budget as now written:

  • For the first time ever, does not increase state imposed revenue limits over the next two school years, while voucher and independent charter school payments are increased in each year.
  • Cuts general equalization aid to the districts in the first year to pay for voucher expansion and increased independent charter school payments, leaving public schools with less state general aid than in 2010.
  • Continues the freeze on state special education aid for what will be the eighth consecutive year, while creating a new voucher program that drains funds from public schools.
  • Essentially eliminates teacher licensing standards by allowing public and private schools to hire anyone to teach, even those without a bachelor’s degree, planting Wisconsin at the bottom nationally, below states with the lowest student achievement levels.
  • Imposes a new state test on today’s 10th-graders that they must pass to graduate in two years.
  • Allows home school and private school students to participate in local public schools’ athletic and extracurricular activities.

Earlier this month, the committee also deleted from the Wisconsin Educational Communications Board the mission of creating and disseminating educational media for K-12 schools.

“If we want all students to achieve, we cannot continue to ask our public schools to do more with less,”  Evers said.  “The eventual outcome of that exercise would be two systems of public schools: those in local communities that can afford to provide a quality education through referendum and those that cannot.”

“At a time when other states are reinvesting in public education, we are dropping in how we financially support our public school students compared to other states.  I fear the direction we are headed takes us away from Wisconsin’s history of academic success.”

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