News Media, WPF Confirm SAA’s Assessment of GOP K-12 Funding Plan

By John Forester | June 21, 2021

Check out this news story which ran in the Racine Journal Times.  The author agrees with the SAA’s assessment that the GOP “investment” in education adopted by the GOP-controlled Joint Finance Committee last Thursday was actually “school funding in name only”.  Researchers from the Wisconsin Policy Forum, quoted in the story, also agreed with the SAA’s assessment.

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SAA News Release

By John Forester | June 18, 2021

The SAA has issued a news release on last night’s Joint Finance Committee action affecting K-12 education.

061821saa.pdf (thewheelerreport.com)

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JFC MOE Compliance Omnibus Motion

By John Forester | June 17, 2021

Here is the JFC Omnibus Motion on MOE Compliance and Other considerations.  Items 11, 12 and 13 deal with K-12 education.  mtn2001 (wheelerbilltracking.com)

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JFC to Support “School Funding in Name Only”

By John Forester | June 17, 2021

The Joint Finance Committee (JFC) continues to work through its Executive Session agenda.  We anticipate they will take up items impacting K-12 education near the end of their deliberations tonight.  Although all of the pieces of the GOP K-12 package have yet to be unveiled, we are pretty sure of what is likely the biggest piece.

It is our understanding that the GOP plans to commit more than $400 million to general state school aids to satisfy the federal maintenance of effort (MOE) requirement.  However, by committing these dollars to general state school aids with no corresponding increase in revenue limits it becomes “school funding in name only”.  It simply flows to taxpayers as property tax relief and schools cannot spend one dime of it on the educational needs of their students.

Stay tuned.  We will forward the GOP K-12 motion when it becomes available.

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Big 5 Superintendents Release Guest Column

By John Forester | June 16, 2021

The leaders of the five largest school districts in Wisconsin — Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay, Racine and Kenosha — issued a guest column today in response to the Joint Finance Committee’s recent state budget action on K-12 education.  Many thanks to our “Big 5” superintendents.

See Guest Column Release_BIG5_Op-Ed_06-16-2021 (thewheelerreport.com)

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“Big 5” Superintendents Send Letter to State Legislature

By John Forester | June 15, 2021

The leaders of the five largest school districts in Wisconsin – Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay, Racine and Kenosha – sent a letter to the state legislature today in response to the recent K-12 state budget action by the Joint Finance Committee.  Hats off to our “Big 5” superintendents!

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Virtual Press Conference in a Box

By John Forester | June 15, 2021

Dear SAA Members:

As we emerge from the pandemic, the legislature’s biennial budget is more important than ever for the future of our schools. As you know, the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) has approved K-12 education funding that is far below what our schools and our children need. If adopted, it will adversely affect the educational opportunities provided to Wisconsin school children in the 2021-23 biennium and for years to come.

To date, members from across the state have contacted their legislators to tell their district’s story and to explain the consequences of the JFC action for the students they serve. However, considering the seriousness of this budget and our need to further advocate for our children and our public schools, I urge your consideration of another tactic. 

We urge groups of school leaders from across the state to come together to hold brief media or “press conferences” with your local media to stress the importance of this state budget and the implications of the JFC budget action, if it were to pass. We suggest that these media conferences be held virtually and that you use the “record” feature that is part of whichever virtual platform you are using. 

If you are concerned about how to hold a virtual news conference or worry about creating the materials for the media conference, we have you covered. We have created a  “Virtual Press Conference in a Box”  which includes a step-by-step plan, corresponding templates, and other resources to save you time and make this process easier. 

Please note, participants are encouraged to modify the sample resources to meet their needs.  Also, be mindful that the budget situation is fluid which may require some modification in the talking points and templates as we move forward in the next couple weeks. 

Please contact the SAA if you have questions or if we can provide support.

To get started,  >>>CLICK HERE<<<  to access the resources. 

Thank you for your attention and, as always, thank you for all your efforts on behalf of the students you serve.

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WPF: A Golden Opportunity for Wisconsin

By John Forester | June 11, 2021

In a publication released today highlighting the tremendous opportunities afforded to Wisconsin policymakers by the unprecedented revenue windfall announced earlier this week, the Wisconsin Policy Forum said regarding K-12 education:

“For years, efforts to overhaul the state’s school funding formula have appeared out of reach given the amount of money needed to ensure most districts do not lose funding. The potential state surplus makes it possible to rewrite the formula to account for factors such as student poverty and English Learner status. Such an update might help close achievement gaps and also could be used to cut school property taxes. Other priorities might include boosting students’ college and career readiness and the diversity of Wisconsin teachers, other issues WPF has highlighted.”

Check it out here.

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State Budget Alert – JFC Wraps Up Work on the Budget Next Week!

By John Forester | June 11, 2021

That’s right, friends.  I am issuing another member alert on the 2021-23 State Budget.  Since their K-12 budget action on May 27th, the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) has continued to work through its Executive Sessions (voting) on the various pieces of the State Budget.  The JFC plans to complete its work on the budget bill next week Thursday, June 17thTherefore, SAA members, we have a narrow, 4 or 5-day window to advocate hard for greater K-12 support in the JFC budget bill.

I would like to thank all those SAA members that contacted their legislators immediately prior to and after the JFC K-12 budget action.  My Capitol sources indicate our advocacy efforts “lit up” GOP offices.  We need to build on those efforts, and time is of the essence.

Here are some key developments from the past two weeks:

As I did in my May 18 State Budget Alert, I’m asking you to focus on your legislators.  Ask them to stand up in their caucus meetings and support your schools and the children you serve.  Given the narrow window of opportunity, I am also emphasizing phone communications (especially those of you that have cell phone privileges with your legislators).  However, if you and your legislators have a history of effective email communications, use what works.

In your communications, please cover the following:

  1. It is critical that you share with your legislators the consequences of the JFC K-12 budget action in two areas.  First, explain the impact of not being able to use the federal funds to address your students’ post-pandemic recovery needs.  Second, also explain the impact that the JFC’s underfunding of K-12 education will have on your district’s fiscal condition and the educational opportunities afforded to your students in the next biennium.  Finally, make sure to explain that one-time federal aid is designed for COVID relief and recovery.  Resources to support continuing educational opportunities for your students must come from the state budget process.
  2. Express your strong support for the Governor’s proposal to increase the level of special education aid to reimburse 50 percent of aidable costs by the end of the 2021-23 biennium.  First and foremost, this proposal will help us meet the ongoing needs of our most vulnerable students.  The JFC advanced an $86 million increase in Special education aid, a number that is far less than what is needed to support our most vulnerable learners.  This aid increase is just a fraction of the $1.15 billion that Wisconsin school districts collectively transfer from their general funds to cover the funding gap between required special education costs and current state funding.  While other states step up to their moral obligation and fund 100 percent of the costs of special needs services, Wisconsin struggles mightily to support just 30 percent.
  3. Express your strong support for at least a $200 per pupil general revenue increase in each year of the biennium.  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.
  4. Express your strong support for comprehensive pupil count mitigation including: 1) Allowing districts to use the greater of the 2019-20 or 2020-21 pupil count for revenue limit calculations; 2) Increasing special adjustment aid from 85 percent to 90 percent of prior year general aid in each year of the biennium; and 3) Treating the non-recurring declining enrollment exemption and base revenue hold harmless as recurring adjustments for one year only.  Be sure to explain your district’s projected fiscal impact of the pupil count decline and what that could mean for educational opportunities for the kids you serve.
  5. Express your strong support for a significant increase in the low revenue ceiling (LRC) in each year of the biennium.  A steadily improving LRC policy is an important part of ensuring equitable resources for all children no matter where they live.
  6. Express your strong support for further expansion of the High-Cost Transportation program. The JFC budget action added $12.7 million to the program over the biennium, lowering the aid threshold in the program from 145% to 140 % of the statewide average per pupil transportation cost. A further expansion of the program would benefit more districts currently impacted by high pupil transportation costs.

Please forward your communications using the information discussed above to your legislators as soon as possible.  For your convenience, I have provided links to the Senate Directory, the Assembly Directory and Who Are My Legislators.

Special Note for Action:

This is a time to engage with significant education stakeholders in your community and region with whom you have strong relationships. This might be municipal elected leaders, individual business leaders, your Chamber of Commerce or a Regional Economic Development entity. Share the same story you are sharing with legislators about the significant impact on the district and ultimately the community that results from the actions of the JFC – how that will affect them. Ask them to contact their legislators as well to ask for support to meet the needs of the local district. You must act within your own boundaries on this and communicate in a way that best preserves your relationship. You will be the best judge of that.

Thanks for your attention, and thanks for fighting for the kids you serve.

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LFB Memo Indicates $2.3 Billion in Federal School Funds At Risk

By John Forester | June 10, 2021

Previous news reports have suggested that Wisconsin could lose $1.5 billion in federal money for schools if it runs afoul of the maintenance of effort (MOE) requirements in the latest federal COVID-19 relief legislation.  According to a June 9, 2021 memo from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) however, when you factor in the MOE requirements for ESSER II, GEER II and EANS funds (private schools), the figure at risk rises to $2.3 billion.  Check it out here.

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