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Evers Says Budget Veto On Table Over GOP’s ‘Paltry’ K-12 Investment

By John Forester | June 1, 2021

From WisPolitics.com…

Gov. Tony Evers today called Republicans’ proposed state investment in K-12 education “paltry” and said vetoing the entire document is on the table unless they add more money.

Evers’ call came days after the federal government warned the K-12 package the GOP-controlled Joint Finance Committee approved would not meet the maintenance of effort requirements to qualify for federal stimulus money under COVID-19 packages.

Evers told reporters today it was too soon to say whether he would veto the entire budget unless lawmakers put additional state aid into schools, though the option is on the table.

“Of course I’m asking them to invest more,” Evers told reporters. “What they invested was paltry and an insult to the kids of our state.”

JFC last week approved $128 million in additional general purpose revenue for K-12 schools while adding another $22 million in other state funds. Evers had proposed $1.5 billion in GPR with another $41.7 million in program revenue and segregated funds.

The GOP-controlled committee also approved transferring $350 million in GPR to the budget stabilization fund, arguing it could be used for educational purposes down the road, though lawmakers acknowledged it could go to other expenses as well.

On Friday, the U.S. Department of Education sent state Superintendent Carolyn Stanford Taylor a letter warning the $350 million transfer would not count toward the maintenance of effort requirement to qualify for federal funds.

In a memo last week, the Legislative Fiscal Bureau laid out requirements to qualify for federal funds under the American Rescue Plan Act President Biden signed this spring and the Consolidated Appropriations Act President Trump signed in December.

According to LFB, the state would have to spend almost 35.3 percent of all GPR on K-12 in each year of the 2021-23 budget and nearly 8.9 percent on higher ed to meet the requirement for $1.5 billion in K-12 funding under the ARPA. For $686.1 million under the CAA, the state would have to meet those marks for only the 2021-22 fiscal year.

For the overall biennium, that amounts to $387 million more for K-12 education compared to current spending and $41.2 million more for higher ed. The price tag would go up if the Legislature decided to spend additional GPR in other areas of the budget or drop if lawmakers cut spending compared to current levels.

Last week, JFC Co-chair Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, downplayed the chance the state would miss out on the federal funding for K-12 saying he was confident the federal government would soften the maintenance of effort requirement after hearing from states. His office declined comment on Evers’ remarks.

The office of fellow Co-chair Mark Born, R-Beaver Dam, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Republicans last week argued the state funds for K-12 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.

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