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AB 835 Clears Assembly Committee 14-1

By John Forester | February 2, 2018

From WisPolitics.com …

The Assembly Education Committee overwhelmingly approved a bill that would increase sparsity aid and low-revenue ceilings for school districts, while leaving the door open to amending the bill in Joint Finance.

The committee voted 14-1 to pass the bill, authored by Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, and championed by Gov. Scott Walker, that would gradually lift the low revenue cap and pump $6.4 million into sparsity aid. Only Rep. Gary Hebl, D-Sun Prairie, voted against it.

The bill is a near replica of an Assembly GOP plan that Walker vetoed out of the budget. But it contains one important change: Nine school districts where voters have rejected a referendum raising revenue limits in the previous three years would not be eligible for the increase.

But Rep. Jeff Mursau, R-Crivitz, today said he was working on an amendment to address that.

“I and a number of people working through these bills are … working with an amendment that the governor would agree with to help those 9 school districts out,” Mursau said. “It’s pretty important to all of us to get that done, but also to get something that the governor would sign.”

He said he would not introduce the amendment until he’s sure Walker would sign off on it, although he said he’s spoken to both JFC co-chairs, who have expressed openness to it. Mursau told WisPolitics he has not yet spoken with Walker.

Other Republicans on the committee, such as Rep. Joel Kitchens, R-Sturgeon Bay, contended that it’s most important the bill be able to pass.

Walker spokeswoman Amy Hasenberg declined to discuss any amendment, but said that Walker supports the bill.

Meanwhile, Republicans on the committee rejected two Dem amendments, including one from Rep. Sondy Pope, D-Mt. Horeb, that sought to address those nine districts by eliminating the provision in the bill that would temporarily bar nine districts from raising their low-revenue caps.

“It punishes districts for doing the right thing and yet not knowing that the unintended consequences … was going to be harmful. I think we’re kind of cheating by doing this,” she said.

The second, offered by Rep. David Bowen, D-Milwaukee, would have altered the sparsity aid formula to allow 52 more school districts to become eligible. Currently, schools are eligible for sparsity aid if they have fewer than 745 students and their enrollment divided by the school district’s total square miles is less than 10. Bowen’s amendment would have eliminated the latter provision.

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