SAA, K-12 Groups Issue News Release on $4.4 Billion in New Revenue

By John Forester | June 9, 2021

The SAA joined WASB, SWSA and WiRSA in a news release urging greater financial support for K-12 public schools.  Check it out here.

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Senator Darling Supports Additional K-12 Funding

By John Forester | June 9, 2021

In a statement released late yesterday, Senator Alberta Darling, Chairperson of the Senate Education Committee, said the unexpected budget surplus announced yesterday should move the Legislature to invest more resources in K-12 education.  Check it out here.

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LFB: State Now Expects $4.4 Billion More in Available Revenues

By John Forester | June 8, 2021

From WisPolitics.com …

Thanks to “unprecedented” general fund tax collections in 2021, the state is now expected to take in $4.4 billion more through mid-2023 than was anticipated just four months ago, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

The net impact of the eye-popping numbers mean lawmakers will have nearly $3.8 billion more to play with in the 2021-23 budget than they had anticipated following actions by the Joint Finance Committee through last week.

That’s even after the state transfers more than $800 million of the additional revenue growth to Wisconsin’s rainy-day fund.

LFB now projects the state will finish the current fiscal year June 30 with a surplus of $2.6 billion, $816.1 million more than previously estimated.

That higher-than-expected revenue growth will result in a deposit to the budget stabilization fund of $807.9 million that will push its bottom line to nearly $1.6 billion, according to LFB. That doesn’t include the $350 million that the Joint Finance Committee last month moved to transfer to the fund as part of the 2021-23 budget.

Under the committee’s actions through last week, the state was looking at a gross balance in the general fund at the end of the 2021-23 biennium of nearly $2.1 billion. That will now climb to an estimated $5.8 billion, according to the memo.

LFB regularly updates revenue projections after the tax filing deadline to give lawmakers new numbers as they complete work on the state budget. Two years ago, the LFB projected revenue growth would be $753 million higher than expected, and it was considered a jolt of good financial news for the state. Today’s estimates are nearly six times that.

Read the memo here.

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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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Evers Says Vetoing State Budget ‘On the Table’ Following JFC K-12 Action

By John Forester | June 1, 2021

Check out the news story from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

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Summary of JFC K-12 Motion

By John Forester | June 1, 2021

Check out this DPI summary of the K-12 state budget motion adopted by the Joint Finance Committee last Thursday.

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USDOE: WI GOP Putting $1.5 Billion in Aid at Risk

By John Forester | May 28, 2021

Check out this news release from Congressman Mark Pocan.  The release links to a letter from the U.S. Department of Education confirming that Wisconsin would lose $1.5 billion in federal COVID aid for education if Wisconsin moves forward with the K-12 budget plan advanced yesterday by the GOP-controlled Joint Finance Committee.

Stay tuned . . .

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SAA News Release on JFC Action

By John Forester | May 28, 2021

The SAA has issued this news release on yesterday’s Joint Finance Committee K-12 budget action.

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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.

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GOP – DPI Omnibus State Budget Motion

By John Forester | May 27, 2021

See the GOP – DPI Omnibus State Budget Motion here.

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