« | Home | »

Budget Committee Approves $128 Million In State Tax Dollars for K-12

By John Forester | May 27, 2021

From WisPolitics.com…

Wisconsin schools would get $128 million in general purpose revenue over the next two years, a fraction of what Dem Gov. Tony Evers originally proposed, under a motion the GOP-controlled Joint Finance Committee approved today.

The GOP motion, approved 11-4 along party lines, also would transfer $350 million to the state’s budget stabilization fund that could be tapped later for K-12 education as well as other purposes.

Republicans argued the state funds couldn’t be viewed in a vacuum, pointing to the $2.4 billion in federal funds set to flow into Wisconsin schools over three federal COVID-19 packages approved over the past year.

Rep. Jessie Rodriguez, R-Oak Creek, noted when Evers built his budget, the guv wasn’t aware of the third round of federal funding that was approved weeks later. That package includes $1.5 billion of the $2.4 billion

“It is hard to talk about how we’re going to fund our schools and ignore the fact that we have so much federal funding coming into the state. It is part of the conversation,” Rodriguez said.

But Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, argued the GOP package threatened $2.2 billion of the federal money Wisconsin schools are slated to receive.

That money was included in the last two federal stimulus packages, which require states to maintain the same proportion of spending allocated to K-12 and higher education in 2021-22 and 2022-23 as their average allocation for 2016-17 through 2018-19.

According to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, the state would have to spend almost 35.3 percent of all GPR on K-12 in each year of the 2021-23 budget to meet the requirement.

That amounts to $387 million more for K-12 education compared to current spending, though that price tag would go up if the Legislature decided to spend additional GPR in other areas of the budget. The cost would go down if lawmakers cut spending compared to current levels.

“The 1.5 billion for K-12 education you’re counting on will not happen,” Erpenbach said.

But Co-chair Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, said he believed that risk was “manageable.” He said guidance from the federal government on how states must use the federal money has evolved regularly, and he expected the same to happen with the maintenance of effort requirement to qualify for the education funding.

“I fully believe the folks in Washington are going to hear the cries from every corner of this country regarding the challenges that are coming up. I think it was an unintended consequence quite honestly,” he said.

The GOP package includes $128.3 million in GPR for K-12 education, along with $10.8 million in program revenue and $12.9 million in segregated funds.

Evers’ budget originally called for $1.5 billion in additional GPR with another $41.7 million in program revenue and segregated funds.

The GOP plan includes:

*$89.3 million in GPR for special education, including money for high cost special ed;
*$19 in GPR million for school mental health services;
*$12.7 million in GPR for high-cost transportation aid. It also would lower the threshold for districts to qualify for the money. Under the provision, districts at 140 percent of the statewide average for transportation costs would qualify rather than the current 145 percent;
*$6.3 million in GPR for sparsity aid that goes to small, rural districts. The motion also would make additional districts eligible for the aid;
*plus $6.4 million in segregated funds for school libraries and $6.5 million for public libraries.

The motion includes no new state money for the general school aids, the largest pot of money for districts. It accounts for $4.9 billion in state aid to schools in the current school year.

Tapping the $350 million Republicans want to transfer to the state’s rainy day fund would require agreement between the GOP-controlled Legislature and Evers.

Sen. Duey Stroebel, R-Saukville, argued the move was prudent considering education is “flush” with cash because of the federal funding.

“That’s just smart budgeting,” Stroebel said. “You set money aside when you have it.”

Sen. LaTonya Johnson, D-Milwaukee, said Stroebel’s argument that the money would be “safe” in the budget stabilization fund was laughable because Republicans would never agree to spend it on education.

She also knocked her GOP colleagues for relying on federal money to fund schools over the next two years considering many of them signed onto a letter urging the state’s congressional delegation not to approve it.

“The next time that you send a letter asking your colleagues to not accept federal funding, I suggest you not find ways to spend it,” Johnson said.

The first round of federal COVID relief for schools has to be disbursed by Sept. 30, 2022. The second round must be used by one year later and the latest pot of funds Sept. 30, 2024.

Read the motion.

Topics: Legislative Action, SAA Capitol Reports, SAA Capitol Reports with Email Notifications, SAA Latest Update | No Comments »

Comments are closed.