Walker, Burke Sharpen Contrast on Vouchers

By John Forester | September 4, 2014

In a follow-up to yesterday’s voucher announcement  by Walker, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported today that Gov. Scott Walker and Mary Burke on Wednesday sharpened the contrast between them on taxpayer-funded private voucher schools, with the GOP governor proposing a significant expansion and his Democratic challenger saying she would eliminate the new statewide program.

Read more here.

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State May Need A Budget Repair Bill

By John Forester | September 4, 2014

From WisPolitics . . .

The state may need a budget repair bill before the current fiscal year is up unless its finances improve, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

Still, the nonpartisan budget arm of the Legislature noted the Walker administration can rein in spending. The LFB also said a better picture of the state’s finances won’t be available until October, when the administration releases a more comprehensive report on fiscal year 2013-14.

The Department of Revenue reported last week tax collections for 2013-14 were $281.2 million below estimates. The administration is required to introduce a budget repair bill if expenditures exceed collections by more than 0.5 percent and the shortfall can’t be addressed through tools available to DOA. But because of a projected balance of $443.2 million in the general fund for 2013-14, that trigger won’t be hit for the first year of the biennium.

However, current projections show a shortfall of $115.8 million for 2014-15, exceeding the 0.5 percent threshold of $79.2 million.

The Walker administration has said it plans to manage the current shortfall through available tools. If revenues improve over current projections, that could also eliminate the need for a repair bill.

Read the memo here.

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Article on Voucher Schools “Shocks the Conscience”

By John Forester | September 4, 2014

This article from The Progressive was forwarded to me by an SAA member under the subject line “Shocks the Conscience.”  In reading this article, you will find many disturbing items about the physical conditions of the featured private voucher schools, the curriculum, as well as the role of voucher schools as part of a real estate portfolio.

 

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More Analysis of State Revenue Shortfall

By John Forester | September 3, 2014

The Wisconsin Budget Project released an interesting analysis regarding last Thursday’s announced $281 million revenue shortfall for the state of Wisconsin.  And, as I nosed around the Capitol today, there was clear concern that the problems may run deeper than the political spin doctors indicated late last week.  And why do we care?  Deeper state fiscal problems mean even less money available to support children in Wisconsin’s cash-strapped school districts.

I have been very impressed with the work of the Wisconsin Budget Project of late.  We are indeed fortunate to have such a resource in Wisconsin.

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Walker Says He’d Support Lifting Voucher Caps

By John Forester | September 3, 2014

Erin Richards is reporting in a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article that Governor Scott Walker said that he would support lifting the voucher cap statewide if he is reelected.  Walker also ripped his challenger, Democrat Mary Burke, on education issues.

Read more here.

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Dems, GOP Fight It Out Over Revenue Numbers

By John Forester | August 29, 2014

From WisPolitics…

Dems are calling the latest revenue figures a sign the state’s budget is in “crisis,” while Republicans are stressing the state still has a surplus even after revenues fell below expectations by $281 million last year.

Both sides are fighting it out over the latest Department of Revenue numbers. The Legislative Fiscal Bureau had projected revenue growth of 1 percent for 2013-14 even with the Republicans’ tax cuts and withholding table changes factored in. That would have amounted to an increase in revenue of $143.6 million. Instead, revenues came in $137.5 million below collections for the previous year.

The state was projected to end the fiscal year on June 30 with a net balance of $659 million. While the declining revenue numbers will likely drop that, the full picture of the state’s finances won’t be known until this fall. That’s when the Walker administration will add in expenditures to the revenue side.

Without improved revenue collections or spending cuts, the state could face a deficit at the end of the current two-year budget cycle on June 30, 2015.

The Walker administration says a budget repair bill isn’t needed and expects to manage the drop in revenues by reining in expenses and other measures.

See the DOR release here.

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Awareness of Common Core Rises in Wisconsin

By John Forester | August 27, 2014

Erin Richards of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has penned a news article on awareness of the Common Core in Wisconsin:

“More Wisconsinites are aware of a new set of educational standards in K-12 schools this summer compared to last winter, and half of the people who know about them have a favorable opinion of them, according to the results of a new state poll.”

Read more here.

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A Window into the World of High-Dollar Campaign Fundraising

By John Forester | August 25, 2014

I found this article from POLITICO, a non-partisan, Arlington, Virginia-based news organization focusing on government and politics, to be particularly interesting.

This article focuses on the fresh batch of emails that emerged Friday night showing that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was deeply involved in raising money for an ostensibly independent group focused on fending off recall efforts.

I have not been all that interested in the partisan machinations surrounding the John Doe probe.  In fact, I don’t believe I have posted much of anything about it.  But, the following paragraph from the POLITICO article highlights why I find this article not only interesting but worthy of a re-post.

“The filing, coming just months ahead of a tough reelection fight and as the Republican gears up for a likely 2016 run, offers a rare window into the world of high-dollar fundraising and how candidates work to guide donors toward outside groups that can spend unlimited money on their behalf.” (emphasis added)

Read more here.

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School District Fund Balance Info/Talking Points

By John Forester | August 25, 2014

Every June for the last several years, state politicians have had questions about school district fund balances. After watching the UW System, legislators and the Governor deal with fund balance discussions this last year, it appears that school districts should do some communication and school board activities that bring light to the issue and educate everyone as to the purpose and importance of a school district fund balance.

The SAA has put together two documents for your information on the importance of adequate school district fund balance.  The first is a more expansive article.  The second is more succinct and is more in the form of talking points.  The DPI has reviewed these documents with positive response.

We encourage district administrators and business officials to discuss this issue with your boards of education, your local news media, and your public.  Thank you.

School District Fund Balance 2014

What is a School District Fund Balance 2014

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NC Judge Halts Voucher Program

By John Forester | August 22, 2014

I found this editorial from the Raleigh News Observer interesting.  A North Carolina judge has halted that state’s private school voucher program for the second time.  It looks like the state is appealing the ruling.  The News Observer supports the judge’s action.

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