By John Forester | March 20, 2017
With the Legislative Fiscal Bureau’s (LFB) summary of the governor’s budget recommendations having been released, the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) will soon begin its deliberations on the 2017-19 State Budget Bill. The JFC will conduct state agency briefings the week of March 27 (DPI is scheduled for March 30) and hold a total of six public hearings on the budget bill during the weeks beginning April 3 and April 17 (see SAA March 17 post). We will follow up with a separate post on coordinating SAA member testimony at the JFC budget hearings.
I would like to thank all those SAA members that have already begun conversations with their legislators regarding the governor’s budget recommendations. For those that have yet to communicate with their legislators, it’s time to do so. To be successful on this state budget, all SAA members must contact their legislators repeatedly throughout the long budget process.
I call on each district administrator to assemble your leadership team, collaborate on your district message and craft your plan for influencing your parents, your staff, your community, your media and your lawmakers — and then coordinate the delivery of that message. This budget is vitally important for your school district and the children you serve. Never has it been more important for you to reach out to your legislators and your community.
In your communications, please cover the following:
- Invite your legislators to your school(s). Use the opportunity to show them some of the great educational opportunities afforded to the children in your district. Show them what learning looks like today in your district.
- Express our strong support for the governor’s proposal to increase each district’s per pupil categorical aid from the current $250 per pupil by adding $200 per pupil in 2017-18 and an additional $204 in 2018-19. Explain the importance of these increases in per pupil revenues in both fiscal and human terms. In particular, emphasize the impact on educational opportunities for the kids you serve.
- Express our strong opposition to the budget provision which makes a district’s receipt of the new per pupil aid contingent upon the district certifying to DPI that district employees pay at least 12% of all costs and payments associated with employee health care plans in that school year. Clearly, this provision interferes with district efforts to recruit and retain qualified staff. It also diminishes the innovative ways districts have used the flexibility afforded under Act 10 to reduce costs and operate more efficiently. Share with your legislators the steps you have taken under Act 10, and urge them to support removing this provision from the budget bill.
- Express our strong opposition to the budget provision requiring districts to distribute new per pupil aid equitably to each school in the district based on enrollment. Assembly Speaker Vos has recognized that this provision is “irrelevant” because each district could easily work around it making this provision a meaningless paper exercise.
- Express our strong support for the governor’s proposed increases in sparsity aid and high-cost transportation.
- Express our strong support for the governor’s school mental health initiatives.
- Tell your district’s story. They need to hear it.
- Encourage your legislators to stand up for the children you serve.
- Thank them for listening and for serving the citizens of Wisconsin.
Please send a letter (phone calls work too) using the information discussed above to the members of the Joint Finance Committee and your legislators as soon as possible. I know many of you have already discussed these issues with your legislators, and I thank you. I also ask that you contact them again. For your convenience, I have provided links to the Senate Directory, the Assembly Directory and Who Are My Legislators. Please copy your letter to the SAA.
Make no mistake about it. We have to fight and fight hard for the governor’s proposed aid increases for public school children. Many legislators are pushing back against the proposed increases to K-12 education. Some want to use the money for transportation. A conservative block in the Senate has even told Senate GOP leadership that schools don’t need any increase!! Some legislative leaders want to work from the 2016-17 base budget and not the governor’s budget bill. That’s a difference of starting at $0 or at a $649 million increase for K-12 education. In my estimation, starting from the base budget would simply make it easier politically to reduce the increased school aid the governor has proposed.
So, let’s stand up and fight for the governor’s proposed school aid increases.
Thanks for listening, and for all your efforts on behalf of Wisconsin school children.
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