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Study Committee on Shared School Services to meet Wednesday

The Joint Legislative Council Study Committee on Shared School District Services will meet Wednesday, November 30, 2022, at 10:00 am in Room 300 Northeast, State Capitol.  The meeting agenda can be found here.

The study committee will discuss its assignment as well as the following proposals which have been distributed to committee members and are available online:

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Senator Darling announces retirement, signaling new Senate Education Committee chair

Republican state Sen. Alberta Darling announced this morning that she will retire effective Dec. 1., ending a 32-year career in the state Legislature.  The resignation means that Senate Republicans will not begin the January 2023 legislative with a “veto-proof” two-thirds supermajority in the State Senate and likely will not hold such a super majority until a special election is held to fill Darling’s seat, which leans heavily Republican. 

A former teacher, Darling, 78, was a long-time member of the Senate Education Committee and chaired the committee for the past two years.  She previously serving as the vice-chair of the committee in the 2015-16, 2017-18 and 2019-20 sessions.  She also served as a member of the Blue Ribbon Commission on School Funding.  Her departure means a new chairperson will take over the Senate Education Committee.  
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State’s potential budget surplus projected to be nearly $6.6 billion

In a statutorily required report, the state Department of Administration (DOA) today said the state’s fiscal condition is in the best position it has ever been, and it expects a nearly $6.6 billion budget surplus to end the current fiscal year on June 30, 2023.  That figure is well above previous expectations that the surplus would total roughly $5 billion. 

In addition, the DOA report issued today anticipates growth in state revenues will add another $1.5 billion to the state’s coffers over the two-year period beginning on July 1, 2023.

The report provides the first look at how the 2023-25 (biennial or two-year) state budget shapes up and the outlook is encouraging. The report finds state agencies have requested a total combined spending increase of $3.6 billion in new general purpose revenue (GPR) over the 2023-25 biennium. (General purpose revenue (GPR) is used to fund state aid to schools, among other things, and is derived mainly from state income and sales taxes.)  

Comparing the projected GPR surplus in the current biennium and the expected GPR revenue growth in the next biennium with state agencies’ budget requests, the report indicates the state could fund every single agency request and still have $4.4 billion left over in the general fund.  (Typically, the Governor’s recommended budget will contain modifications or additions to state agencies’ budget requests, even when the fiscal news is not as positive as it is this year.) 

The report also reiterates that the balance in the state’s Budget Stabilization Fund (a/k/a “Rainy Day Fund”) is slightly more than $1.73 billion.

The takeaway is that there should be plenty of money available in state coffers to both increase public school funding and cut state taxes, which could satisfy both Governor Evers’ goals and the goals of some legislative leaders, particularly leaders in the state Senate. (more…)

Record $52M in Library Aid to go to public school libraries next year

Wisconsin’s public school libraries will receive a record $52 million from the state’s Common School Fund for the 2022-23 school year. This amount is not only the largest-ever annual Library Aid distribution but represents a 27% increase from the 2021-22 distribution.

The money to be distributed comes from the investment proceeds of Wisconsin’s Common School Fund, established 174 years ago when Wisconsin became a state. Back in 1848, the framers of the state Constitution established what is now known as the Common School Fund and required proceeds to be distributed to public schools.  

The initial deposits into the Fund came from sales of lands granted to the state by the federal government. Since 2019, the Fund has distributed nearly $160 million to public schools to help defray the costs of maintaining school libraries and to help buy books and technology. For many school libraires, the Common School Fund and the Library Aid it generates is the is the primary, and often only, dedicated source of support. (more…)

Despite inflation, recession worries, support for school referendums remains strong

Voters on Nov. 8 approved 64 of the 81 school district referendum questions placed before them, reflecting a 79 percent overall passage rate. That is generally in line with the passage rate for all types of school referenda on the ballot earlier this year.  Prior to Nov. 8, voters had approved 69 of 85 school referenda, reflecting an 81.2 percent overall passage rate. (more…)

GOP legislative majorities elect leaders

The state Senate and state Assembly Republican legislators met to elect their leaders for the 2023-24 Legislative Session that begins in January. Legislative Democrats are expected to hold their leadership elections next week.

The results of the GOP leadership elections are below with the biggest changes in top leadership positions in the Assembly where former Majority Leader Jim Steineke did not run for reelection. (pictured: Sen. LeMahieu, Speaker Vos) (more…)