The state legislature’s Joint Finance Committee (JFC), controlled by the GOP legislative majorities in both houses, approved its version of the state education budget today (5/27). The committee leaned heavily on the large influx of one-time federal dollars to greatly reduce increases to state funding for public schools in Wisconsin.
The K-12 funding plan adopted by the JFC today proposes to spend only about $128 million more on K-12 education over the next two years. This amount is roughly one-quarter of the investment the Legislature made in schools in the last state budget and is less than one-tenth of the amount that Gov. Evers had proposed.
Extremely concerning is that the very limited proposed increases in state funding in the JFC plan could jeopardize the very federal funding—$1.5 billion or more—on which the proposal depends to maintain K-12 spending. A condition of receiving this federal funding is that states must preserve the proportion of state spending allocated to K-12 education. The JFC plan appears to fall more than $200 million dollars short of this mark.
Below is what the JFC approved in regards to the WASB top budget priorities and the comparable proposals in the governor’s budget:
WASB Priority: Secure an increase in spendable resources for school districts that, at a minimum, equals or is greater than the rate of inflation in each year of the two-year state budget.
- Provides an additional $612.8 million in state general aid to school districts over the biennium, the largest increase since the 2005-07 biennium.
- Allows a $200 per pupil adjustment (increase) in school district revenue limits in 2021-22 and $204 per pupil in 2022-23.
- Increases the low revenue ceiling from $10,000 per pupil to $10,250 in 2021-22 and $10,500 in 2022-23 to provide greater revenue limit equity for low-spending school districts. This increase could help raise per pupil spending in an estimated 140 low-spending districts.
- Provides no increase to state general aid to school districts over the biennium.
- Allows no per pupil adjustment (increase) in school district revenue limits in 2021-22 and 2022-23.
- No increase to the low revenue ceiling.
WASB Priority: Secure a significant increase in special education categorial aid.
- Provides an additional $709 million in special education categorical aid over the biennium.
- Increases special education aid by $296.7 million in 2021-22 and by $412.9 million in 2022-23 to reimburse eligible special education costs at 45% and 50% in those fiscal years, respectively.
- The governor’s proposed budget would also convert special education aid from a sum certain appropriation to a sum sufficient appropriation, to ensure that aid will not be prorated and will actually meet the promised percentage level of support.
- Provides an additional $86 million in special education categorical aid over the biennium.
- Increases special education aid by $17.8 million in 2021-22 and by $67.6 million in 2022-23 to reimburse eligible special education costs at the current level of 28.2% and 30% in those fiscal years, respectively.
- Does not convert special education aid from a sum certain appropriation to a sum sufficient appropriation to ensure that aid will not be prorated.
WASB Priority: Secure a significant increase in resources for school-based mental health services to students (and staff).
- Provides an increase of $22.5 million in 2021-22 and $24 million in 2022-23 for school mental health categorical aid.
- In addition, expands the school mental health categorical aid program to support all pupil service professional staff expenditures and provide a roughly 10 percent reimbursement of such expenditures in each year of the biennium. (Pupil service professionals include school counselors, psychologists, social workers, and nurses.)
- Increases funding for school-based mental health collaboration grants by $3.5 million in each year of the biennium and expands the definition of mental health providers to allow more rural school districts and qualified organizations to access these grants by partnering with independent providers or other organizations.
- Provides an increase of $6 million in each year of the biennium for school mental health categorical aid for social workers only.
- Increases funding for school-based mental health collaboration grants by $3.5 million in each year of the biennium.
WASB Priority: Secure provisions that mitigate the effects of the drop in student membership counts (which affect both revenue limit calculations and per pupil aid allocations) caused by the pandemic.
- The Governor recommends allowing school districts to use the greater of 2019 and 2020 pupil counts for both summer and fall (third Friday) in the calculation of revenue limits to adjust for distortions in pupil counts due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- No provision.
Other Notable Provisions Approved by the JFC:
- Transfers $350 million to the state’s budget stabilization fund (rainy day fund) for K-12 or other purposes. There is no guarantee this money will be spent on K-12 education.
- Provides $3.1 million in 2021-22 and $3.2 million in 2022-23 for sparsity aid and creates additional tier of $100 per pupil for districts with enrollment between 745 and 1,000 and population density of less than 10 pupils per square mile.
- Provides $6.4 million in each year for high-cost pupil transportation and reduces the threshold for qualifying for this aid from 145% of statewide average per pupil transportation costs to 140% of statewide average per pupil transportation costs.