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State Supt. Stanford Taylor emphasizes special education & mental health funding in State of Education Address

State Superintendent Carolyn Stanford Taylor delivered her last State of Education Address today (9/17) virtually as the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) that she oversees prepares its budget request for 2021-23. Stanford Taylor is not running for reelection to her post.

While she trumpeted Wisconsin schools’ successes through unprecedented challenges, she also expressed concern for persistent achievement gaps and working towards educational equity.

The only insights given to the DPI’s upcoming budget request were that it will include increases in special education and mental health funding: (more…)

U.S. Senate GOP “skinny” COVID-19 relief bill rejected; deal before election unlikely

U.S. Senate GOP “skinny” COVID-19 relief bill rejected; deal before election unlikely

A pared down fifth coronavirus relief bill was blocked by Senate Democrats on Sept 10 leading GOP Senators to declare that no deals will be reached before the election on Nov 3.  The GOP relief bill received a 52-47 vote but needed 60 votes to advance a procedural hurdle in the chamber.  All Democrats voted against it in the latest development in negotiations to agree on a price tag for the latest relief bill.  

From The Hill: “Democrats have offered to come down to $2.2 trillion, after House Democrats passed a $3.4 trillion bill in May. Senate Republicans offered an initial $1.1 trillion bill in late July, though (Treasury Secretary) Mnuchin has said they could come up to $1.5 trillion. But Republicans have rejected a request from (House Speaker) Pelosi and (Senate Minority Leader) Schumer that they increase their offer to $2 trillion — something administration officials and GOP senators have dismissed as a non-starter.”

Ed Week also reported that there were GOP school choice provisions inserted in the rejected bill. (more…)

Sec. DeVos quietly drops controversial USED rule routing more vital CARES Act funding to private schools

Sec. DeVos quietly drops controversial USED rule routing more vital CARES Act funding to private schools

A controversial rule championed by United States Education Department (USED) Secretary Betsy DeVos that would have diverted additional CARES Act to private schools has been quietly rescinded after several federal courts ruled against it. This is good news for public schools in that they will be allowed to allocate equitable services to private schools like federal Title 1 funds as planned according to DPI guidance presented to and approved by the legislature’s Joint Finance Committee.

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New report on K-12 spending trends indicates WI is falling behind neighbors, nation

New report on K-12 spending trends indicates WI is falling behind neighbors, nation

The non-partisan Wisconsin Policy Forum today released a new report titled: “K-12 trends offer caution as tough budget choices loom.” Among the key findings is that while spending on public education nationwide from 2008 to 2018 increased by 23%, it grew only 15% in Wisconsin, placing us 38th in the country. This slower growth in spending is partly reflective of the decline in spending on fringe benefits for school staff post Act 10.

The report also notes that without a significant number of school districts having successfully passed referenda to increase educational spending Wisconsin would be ranked even lower.

The report speculates on what if any role these trends will play when policymakers begin state budget negotiations in the midst of a pandemic that has impacted the state’s economy.  You can see the full report here

Some concerning findings from the report: (more…)

Budget impact of COVID not as bad as feared for 2019-20

Budget impact of COVID not as bad as feared for 2019-20

Advocacy & Government Relations ImageThe non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) has provided the much-anticipated look at state tax collections for fiscal year 2019-20, which ended June 30, 2020 (also known as the first year of the current biennial budget).  The LFB memo, released today (8/31), states that tax collections were actually up 1.1% over the previous year but still below earlier estimates by 0.6%. This is welcome news and may lessen the need for a budget repair bill this fall.

The increase in tax collections means the state was also able to make an additional deposit in the state’s rainy day fund of $105.9 million which will be helpful in what still appears to be an even more challenging fiscal year 2020-21.  The second year of the current state budget, which started July 1, 2020, includes the bulk of funding increases for schools and other programs that were provided in the state’s two-year spending plan.

The LFB memo does not include estimates for fiscal year 2020-21 because, as a practice, the LFB does not publish early estimates in election years.

See the LFB memo here. The state Department of Revenue also released numbers here.