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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.

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

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