Voucher Funding Shift Faces Tough Sell In Senate

By John Forester | February 16, 2016

Check out the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel news article on the voucher funding shift in AB 751 as amended.

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Legislative Alert: Your Response Needed

By John Forester | February 15, 2016

This Is A Priority Legislative Alert!

The State Assembly has scheduled a floor vote for tomorrow, Tuesday, February 16th, on Assembly Bill 751  as modified by Assembly Amendment 3.  The SAA is issuing this legislative alert because it is extremely important to our efforts at stopping this bill that Assembly Representatives feel very uncomfortable over this vote.  Therefore, I’m asking you to contact your Assembly Representatives one more time on this issue.

Once again, here is the bottom line on AB 751 as amended: if your district has resident students in the statewide or Racine voucher programs, under this amendment, you will lose revenue limit authority and you will likely have to pay for your voucher students by reducing educational opportunities for the children that remain in your district.

As we reported earlier, the Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) issued a memo detailing the fiscal impact of Assembly Amendment 3 to AB 751 on the 142 school districts impacted by the Racine and Wisconsin Parental Choice Programs.  The LFB estimates the loss under the amendment to be $14.2 million spread across the 142 districts.

And this penalty is being imposed at a time when school revenue limits have been frozen for both years of the current budget cycle and when 57% of the respondents to the Marquette University Law School Poll say local schools are receiving too little funding from the state!

You have probably heard Assembly Republicans making the argument that Assembly Bill 751 as amended makes school districts whole on the revenue cap 3 years after new voucher students enroll in the voucher program.  I would like to make three points in response:

  1. By making this argument, proponents are acknowledging that there is a significant first-year problem for affected school districts. Again, the Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) pegs the first-year loss in revenue cap authority under AA 3 at $14.2 million spread across the 142 affected school districts.
  2. Their argument is based on the LFB analysis of one cohort of voucher students. But, a new and likely larger cohort of voucher students enrolls in the voucher program in 2016-17; another and likely larger group in 2017-18; and so on.  The bottom line is affected school districts will likely face a significant first-year problem year after year.
  3. Finally, during the 2015-17 state budget process, Republican leaders pledged that they would dramatically increase the use of private school vouchers without adversely impacting educational opportunities for public school children. Given the on-going first year impact of AB 751 as amended by AA 3, you have to ask, “Are they planning to break their word?”

I get the sense that some legislators are trying to mislead taxpayers into believing you can add thousands of private school students to a publicly-funded system (with vouchers) without having to pay for them.  There are only three ways you can pay for the additional voucher students: 1) additional state resources; 2) local tax increases; or 3) cuts to educational opportunities for public school students.  Clearly, the latter is the preferred option for some in the Legislature.

Please use the information above and your own arguments in your communications with your Assembly Representative. Also, please copy your State Senator on your communication as well.  For your convenience in doing so, we have provided links to the Assembly Directory, the Senate Directory and to Who Are My Legislators.

Remember, the Assembly floor vote is scheduled for tomorrow (Tuesday), so we have no time to waste.  Let’s keep the pressure on . . . once more with feeling!

Thank you and stay tuned.

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Lasee Announces Run for Congress

By John Forester | February 15, 2016

From WisPolitics:

GOP state Sen. Frank Lasee announced he is running for Reid Ribble’s 8th CD seat, saying he has never been afraid to take on the establishment and has a record of cutting taxes.

“Big government’s greedy hand is robbing people of their liberty, looting the public treasury, rigging the system in favor of Washington politicians and lobbyists, and destroying the American Dream,” Lasee said. “I want to downsize Washington, so we supersize freedom — and restore the dream to live, work and prosper in the America we love.”

As part of his formal announcement yesterday, the DePere Republican backed what he is calling a “liberty and prosperity plan.” It includes: shrinking the size of government, balancing the budget, cutting spending, promoting market-driven healthcare solutions, securing the board, defeating terrorists and reining in “rogue government agencies like the IRS and EPA.”

Other Republicans looking at the race include: Michael Gallagher, who was a foreign affairs adviser to Gov. Scott Walker’s presidential bid; state Reps. John Nygren, of Marinette, and David Steffen, of Green Bay; and former state Rep. Chad Weininger, who now works for Brown County as the director of administration.

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News Coverage on Voucher Revenue Cap Issue

By John Forester | February 11, 2016

Check out the news coverage on the Voucher Revenue Cap issue (AB 751 as amended) below:

Wisconsin State Journal: School Funding Proposal Faces Uncertain Future

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Schools Entering Statewide Voucher Program Swells by 67%

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Committee Advances Measure on Voucher School Funding

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Superintendents Speak Out Against Referendum Bill

By John Forester | February 11, 2016

In this news piece by Wisconsin Public Radio, Rhinelander Superintendent Kelli Jacobi and Superior Superintendent Janna Stevens speak out against the referendum bill.  Nice job Kelli and Janna!

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Assembly Education Committee Passes Amended AB 751

By John Forester | February 10, 2016

This afternoon, at the Assembly Education Committee Executive Session, Committee members adopted Assembly Amendment 3 to Assembly Bill 751 on a 9-5 vote.  The Committee then passed AB 751 as amended on a party line vote with Republicans voting to pass the bill.

While this is disappointing for the SAA and for all supporters of public schools and public school children, the result was not unexpected.  The bill will now likely move on for an Assembly floor vote next Tuesday, February 16th.  The SAA and others will now focus on trying to kill the bill in the Senate.

Many thanks to all SAA members who contacted legislators in opposition to AA 3.  The SAA will keep the membership informed of further developments on this important legislation.

Stay tuned.

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Are Republican Leaders Planning to Break Their Word?

By John Forester | February 10, 2016

You have probably heard Assembly Republicans making the argument that Assembly Amendment 3 to Assembly Bill 751 makes school districts whole on the revenue cap 3 years after new voucher students enroll in the voucher program.  I would like to make three points in response:

  1. By making this argument, proponents are acknowledging that there is a significant first-year problem for affected school districts. In fact, the Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) estimates the first-year loss in revenue cap authority under AA 3 would be $14.2 million spread across the 142 affected school districts.  And this penalty is being imposed at a time when school revenue limits have been frozen for both years of the current state budget.
  1. Their argument is based on the LFB analysis of one cohort of voucher students. But, a new and likely larger cohort of voucher students enrolls in the voucher program in 2016-17; another and likely larger group in 2017-18; and so on.  The bottom line is affected school districts will likely face a significant first year problem year after year.
  1. Finally, during the 2015-17 state budget process, Republican leaders pledged that they would dramatically increase the use of private school vouchers without adversely impacting educational opportunities for public school children. Given the on-going first year impact of AA 3, if adopted, you have to ask, “Are they planning to break their word?”

Stay tuned.

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LFB Memo on New Amendment: $14.2 Million Cut to 142 Districts

By John Forester | February 9, 2016

Late this afternoon, the Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) issued a memo detailing the fiscal impact of Assembly Amendment 3 (the new amendment) to AB 751 on the 142 school districts impacted by the Racine and Wisconsin Parental Choice Programs.  The LFB estimates the loss under the amendment to be $14.2 million spread across the 142 districts.

We believe that the Assembly Education Committee plans to adopt AA 3 and pass the amended AB 751 tomorrow in executive session.  Assembly leadership will likely have the amended bill on the Assembly floor for a vote on Thursday.

Once again, here is the bottom line on Assembly Amendment 3: if your district has resident students in the statewide or Racine voucher programs, under this amendment, you will lose revenue limit authority and you will likely have to pay for your voucher students by reducing educational opportunities for the children that remain in your district.  We strongly oppose these efforts and urge you to keep the pressure on state lawmakers.

Stay tuned.

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Committee to Vote Tomorrow on Voucher Revenue Cap Issue

By John Forester | February 9, 2016

The Assembly Education Committee has officially noticed an executive session (vote) on a new amendment to Assembly Bill 751 tomorrow afternoon at 1:30pm.

This new amendment from Speaker Vos is similar to Assembly Amendment 2 (AA 2) to Assembly Bill (AB) 751 in that it would change the revenue limit calculation for new voucher pupils, beginning in 2016-17, to no longer provide an adjustment that counts a new voucher pupil as a full 1.0 pupil for revenue limit purposes.

Under both AA 2 and the new amendment, new voucher pupils who reside within a district would be counted in a manner similar to the way open enrollment pupils are counted for revenue limit purposes (i.e., ramping the count up by 1/3 pupil each year to a full pupil over 3 years).

The new amendment differs from AA 2 in that it attempts to address negative consequences to declining enrollment districts that would occur as a result of the switch to a new calculation method. It tries to accomplish this by excluding new voucher pupils from membership (enrollment) for purposes of calculating declining enrollment adjustments for three years.

The SAA remains opposed to either amendment.  Here is the bottom line: if your district has resident students in the statewide or Racine voucher programs, under either amendment, you will lose revenue limit authority and you will likely have to pay for your voucher students by reducing educational opportunities for the children that remain in your district.  We strongly oppose these efforts and urge you to keep the pressure on state lawmakers.

The Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) has been asked to prepare a memo detailing the fiscal impact of this new amendment on each of the affected districts.  We hope this memo will be available soon.  Of course, we will forward it to you as soon as it is available.

The SAA will keep you informed of any additional analysis or new developments on this important legislation.

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Green Bay Responds To Assembly Amendment 2

By John Forester | February 9, 2016

Check out the letter that Green Bay Area Public Schools sent to legislators last week regarding Assembly Amendment 2 to AB 751.

The district does an excellent job of explaining that districts should be allowed to levy to the maximum revenue limit for each voucher student because districts are still responsible for busing eligible voucher students and for administering services for English Language Learners and special education.

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