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Legislative Update

WSJ: Feds warn WI lawmakers about deficient state funding for K-12 education

by | Jun 1, 2021 | Federal Issue, Legislative Update Blog, State Budget | 0 comments

From Wisconsin State Journal, “The U.S. Department of Education on Friday warned Wisconsin that Republicans’ proposed $350 million for the state’s rainy day fund won’t help qualify it for $1.5 billion in federal stimulus funds for education the GOP budget already puts the state at risk of losing out on.

“Republican members of the Legislature’s budget committee on Thursday voted to advance a K-12 education plan that would fund just 10%, or $128 million, of the $1.6 billion sought by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers. They also voted to put $350 million into the state’s budget stabilization fund to “maintain education funding stability in the future,” although that fund can be tapped for any purpose so there’s no guarantee those dollars would end up going to schools.

“The $128 million increase alone likely isn’t enough for the state to qualify for all of the $1.5 billion in education funding included in the latest federal coronavirus relief package.

“In order to receive the more than $1.5 billion in education funding included in the latest federal package, the state needs to spend at least the average K-12 allocation made from fiscal years 2016-17 through 2017-18, the Fiscal Bureau said. The bureau notes that the state needs to increase education spending by $387 million over the two-year period in order to reach the threshold needed to get the federal funds.

“Now, the U.S. Department of Education, in a letter to the state Department of Public Instruction and Gov. Tony Evers on Friday, said the $350 million allocated to the state’s budget stabilization, or “rainy day” fund, likely won’t count toward the minimum threshold unless the money is spent on K-12 education.

“On Friday, budget committee co-chairpersons Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, and Mark Born, R-Beaver Dam, dismissed the warning.

““My position remains the same as it was yesterday,” Marklein said in a statement. “We will continue to consider the potential impact of the (minimum state funding thresholds) for the future, but we will not paralyze our state budget process.”

“In another statement, Born called the amount of federal funding schools are slated to receive (if requirements are met) “obscene,” and questioned whether it was legal for Evers to have accepted such federal funds given that the federal government has imposed additional requirements on the Republican Legislature during the budget process.”

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