“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!

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

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.

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

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.

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

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 »

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

« Previous Entries Next Entries »