Sunday, May 26, 2019

How we pay for DNR environmental management, and how Evers wants to do more

The Joint Finance Committee will get back to work right after the holiday weekend, with a meeting on Tuesday to go over more items in Governor Evers' budget. One of the top items will involve various environmental programs with the Department of Natural Resources, and let's start our discussion by going into the Legislative Fiscal Bureau's summary of the main two accounts that fund most of the programs that deal with water and waste management.
The segregated (SEG) environmental fund consists of the environmental management account and the nonpoint account. The two accounts are statutorily designated as one fund but are tracked separately for budgetary purposes. Both accounts rely heavily on revenues from several state solid waste tipping fees. Wisconsin landfills pay state solid waste tipping fees for each ton of solid waste disposed of in the landfill. State solid waste tipping fees total $12.997 per ton for most solid waste disposed of at Wisconsin landfills, including municipal solid waste and non-highvolume industrial waste. Of this total, $12.84 per ton is deposited in the environmental fund, including $9.64 per ton in the environmental management account and $3.20 per ton in the nonpoint account. The nonpoint account is also funded with an annual general purpose revenue (GPR) transfer of $7,991,100. The environmental fund supports programs primarily at the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP), including financial assistance programs for local governments and collaborating partners.
That GPR transfer (aka, general tax dollars) was reduced from $11.1 million to just under $8 million in the last Walker/WisGOP budget. And to make up for that, as you can see in this chart, the environmental management account sent $3.625 million to the nonpoint account in each year of the 2018-19 budget is projected. But barring other transfers or other changes in law, the nonpoint account is projected to have a deficit of $15.7 million in it as Governor Evers' budget stands today, with a budget hole of more than $10 million that has to be filled in.

If you look at how these two accounts get their funding, you'll see that the Environmental Fund gets a much higher proportion of tipping fees, while the Nonpoint account is the only one that relies on General Tax money.

Those charts would indicate that moving $7.7 million from the environmental fund to the nonpoint account in both years would make both accounts balanced with small cushions for the 2019-21 biennium. But the Evers budget largely left it up to the Legislature to decide how that would be done, so the LFB mentions two methods that could level these two balances off without having to change the overall amount taxpayers or local communities have to pay.
As discussed previously, 2017 Act 59 reduced the GPR transfer to the nonpoint account by $3,152,500 each year on an ongoing basis to $7,991,100. The transfer was offset by an equivalent transfer of environmental management account funding on a one-time basis during the biennium. At the time, the administration provided the environmental management transfer on a one-time basis because it was not clear environmental management revenues would continue to have a surplus in future years. Considering the anticipated surplus of base revenues relative to base expenditures in the environmental management account of $8.9 million in 2020-21, it is expected that surplus revenues will continue in the 2021-23 biennium. While funding could be provided on a one-time basis, both the environmental management account and nonpoint account conditions are due to ongoing factors, thus any imbalance would continue in future years. The Committee could consider providing funding as an ongoing transfer from the environmental management account.

20. Another way of providing an ongoing transfer of revenue from the environmental management to the nonpoint account would be to increase the nonpoint tipping fee for municipal and non-high-volume industrial waste and decrease the environmental repair tipping fee deposited in the environmental management account by the same amount. This would not change the total amount per ton paid on solid waste disposed of in the state and deposited into the environmental fund, but would change the statutory amount of the fee deposited in each of the two accounts. While a transfer of the environmental management account balance and a rebalancing of tipping fees have the same effect, a reallocation of statutory fees would provide more transparency to fee payers about the final use of their contributions. The Committee could consider rebalancing the deposit of tipping fees into each account.
There also could be a usage of our one-time surplus to allow the non-point account to carry over a large amount of money for this year, which would allow any long-term structural change to be put off until at least the next budget.

But the other part of the equation involves costs, and the Evers Administration included more funds in this budget for grants to reverse the backsliding that happened in environmental upkeep and enforcement that happened during the Age of Fitzwalkerstan. Among those moves include:

1. Creating a Bureau of Natural Resources Science at the DNR, include 5 new scientist jobs in that area, and move 14 other positions in fish and wildlife management from another part of the DNR to this new bureau. This would cost the Environmental Management Fund another $718,500.

2. An additional $25 million in borrowing authority to remove sediment and other contaminants from Lake Michigan, Lake Superior, and their inland tributaries.

3. Increase lake and river protection grants by $1.49 million a year, which seems timely given this headline from today.

4. Another $1.5 million a year to soil and water management programs, and borrowing another $10 million (to be paid off over time) to increase a program that helps share the cost of improvements intended to reduce runoff at the source. Evers also wants to set aside $800,000 in cash for nonpoint source water abatement grants, as opposed to the $200,000 that is currently in the budget (from the Nonpoint Account), and an additional $230,000 a year for "providing research, education, and outreach related to nonpoint source water pollution abatement programs.".

5. Another $1.4 million a year to help counties hire workers for land and water conservation (tax dollars would pay for $476,000 of this, the Nonpoint account would cover the other $924,000).

Let's see how much the Koched-up WisGOPs allow out of these provisions, and whether they remove them either out of ideology/corruption, or if the deficit in the Nonpoint account as an excuse. But there's little doubt that Evers is asking for a significant change in direction from the last 8 years, and given the increasing news of runoff problems and deteriorating water quality, it's definitely needed in Wisconsin these days.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Dems, media need to call out, narrow the GOP "hack gap". Or else GOPs will keep lying

This is a tremendous segment by Carlos Maza at Vox talking about the "hack gap" in most political news these days. This is where Fox News and other GOPperganda throw out garbage into the atmosphere and then "work the refs" at other, more legitimate media to make them cover and repeat BS that isn't that newsworthy or worse, deceptive if not outright false.

It is a GOP strategy to stir up fauxtrage and try to intimidate other media into following them, because so much of our media is trapped into not wanting to seem "biased" by whiny righties. So they'll give a more legitimate voice to these (non)stories by saying "People are asking questions", and by "both sidesing" discussions when one side is clearly dishonest and/or wrong.

For example, look at this guest list for the alleged benchmark Sunday morning political talk show.

2 members of the House of Representatives (who would actually vote on impeachment proceedings) who are likely expected to explain themselves and a PAID LIAR in Shuckabee-Sanders who probably has her questions pre-arranged and won't be challenged when she says something verifiably false.

There is no legitimate value in having Sarah Sanders or Kellyanne Conjob on TV, as they are not playing by the same rules of fairness and honesty that the rest of us are. But if they're not offered access because of their history of lying, they complain about "bias" and so they get airtime to poison the atmosphere with BS, which media then megaphones into the public discourse with "Well, Kellyanne/Slanders said (line of bullshit). Isn't there something to that?"

With this game in mind, is it any wonder that Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robbin' Vos tried this line on Thursday?

Who was "one of the troops" that made this claim? Robbin' didn't say, but it was probably somebody who called into Icki McKenna or some of the other hate radio shows on AM 1130 (if it was anyone at all). And it was clearly Robbin's hope that Wisconsin media would run with this meme and try to land a hit on Governor Evers.

However, Patrick Marley of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel performed a rare act of journalistic judgment, and he and the Journal-Sentinel editors actually called out Vos's statement, in an article titled "GOP leader Robin Vos falsely claims Gov. Tony Evers made troops wait for greeting."
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos kicked off the Memorial Day weekend by falsely accusing Gov. Tony Evers of forcing troops to wait hours to greet him.

The allegation is not true, according to the Wisconsin National Guard and those who attended the event at the 128th Air Refueling Wing at Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport.

The Republican leader on Friday acknowledged he had his facts wrong but didn't delete a tweet making the false accusation...

"Everything went well and on schedule," said Rep. Ken Skowronski, a Republican from Franklin who attended the event. "Everything was great."
Skowronski said Friday he was not aware of Vos' tweet and didn't know what he meant by it.

"They weren't waiting around," Skowronski said.
Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes noted that Vos's attempted smear was par for the course with that guy.

But was Robbin' Vos really being any different than most Republicans, where they and their spokespeople on Faux News TV and AM radio amplify non-issues to distract from legitimate ones? It's what GOPs do to allow the distortion/lie to get halfway around the world before the typical person can figure out what really is going on. And it amazes me that more media and more Dems still don't seem to have caught on to the fact that these lowlifes aren't going to follow the rules of debate and fair play that decent people would.

Instead of answering the questions "others are asking", just call it out when GOPs act in bad faith to poison the discussion. Turn the spotlight back on the GOPs, saying "They're making up this garbage because Republicans lie and don't want to talk about real issues." It has the added benefit of being true.

New Census numbers show Madison, Dane Co keep gaining, while MKE keeps losing

The US Census Bureau came out with its annual update of population for all cities, villages and towns in America. And in Wisconsin, the story was a familiar one for the last several years.
Dane County was home to three of the four fastest-growing cities in Wisconsin last year, while the three with the largest population losses were in Milwaukee County, according to numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Madison topped the list, adding about 2,580 residents between 2017 and 2018, according to population estimates released Thursday.

Sun Prairie was No. 2, adding 1,055 people, and Fitchburg No. 4 with 663.

The city of Milwaukee saw the largest drop in population, losing about 1,880 residents, followed by West Allis (down 380) and Franklin (down 268), although the suburban cities of Brookfield and Greenfield were among the five fastest-growing cities.
In fact, Madison, Sun Prairie and Fitchburg alone accounted for nearly 1/5 of Wisconsin’s population growth last year. But Milwaukee continues to bleed people, down over 8,600 since 2015. Very hard for a state to have a great economy when its largest city does that.

A similar pattern repeats for the decade of the 2010s, which is soon to take on extra relevance given that next year’s Census will change the allocation of resources and legislative districts in the state.
Since 2010, Madison, Fitchburg and Sun Prairie have been the three fastest-growing places in Wisconsin. Together they’ve gained more than 34,000 residents — more than the next 18 municipalities on the list, which includes the Dane County communities of Verona, Middleton, Waunakee, DeForest and Oregon.
Madison has added by far the most people out of any community in Wisconsin, as its population has jumped by nearly 25,000 in the 2010s, and now has more than 258,000 people calling it home. As you’ll see here, 5 of the 8 largest gainers in the state are in Dane County, and the rest of the top 10 has 2 suburbs each from Milwaukee and Green Bay, and another blue-voting city with a UW campus.

Meanwhile, Milwaukee’s recent population losses has more than reversed a gain of nearly 6,000 in the first half of this decade, and several mid-size, post-industrial cities join MKE in the list of the largest losers of people the 2010s.

These figures again make me ask “Why doesn’t the rest of the state try to learn what makes Madison and Dane County so attractive to people, and apply it to their communities?” The corollary is also important “Why are we continuing to have our economic policy dictated by Republicans who constantly beat up and handcuff Milwaukee, and how is more of the same going to make this lagging region and state get better?”

This question is especially pointed at the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, which cheered every economically regressive and anti-Milwaukee GOP policy that went through the Legislature during the Age of Fitzwalkerstan. Less corporate rent-seeking, less trickle-down and more community investments seem to be a much better option.

After all, that’s generally how we do it in the growing Mad City, and in the 2010s, people seem to like what the town has to offer. Which is why more of them call it home every year.

You know that "Trump boom" in manufacturing? It's over, especially in the Midwest.

One theme that Donald Trump is going to try to promote for his 2020 campaign is that "our economy is great and I brought factory jobs back for the forgotten [white] man." And for the 2017 and 2018, he might have had a point, as tax cuts and low unemployment assisted in a deficit-fueled bump in GDP growth, as well as in manufacturing employment. 190,000 more manufacturing jobs were added in 2017 and 264,000 more in 2018, which made last year the best for job growth in the sector since 1997.

But that Bubblicious uptick in manufacturing appears to be ending. For example, IHS Markit said yesterday that new orders were at their worst levels since the economic expansion began in 2009, and that we declining toward the flatline of 50 in the monthly Purchasing Managers’ Index.
At 50.9 in May, down from 53.0 in April, the seasonally adjusted IHS Markit Flash U.S. Composite PMI Output Index indicated the slowest expansion in overall business activity since May 2016. The composite index is based on original survey data from IHS Markit’s PMI surveys of both services and manufacturing.

The muted rise in output was attributed to softer demand conditions and subdued growth of new orders. The rise in new business in May was the softest recorded since the series began in October 2009.

Consequently, firms put the brakes on hiring. The latest increase in employment was only marginal and the smallest for just over two years. Companies also noted little strain on capacity due to weak demand, and reported the first decline in backlogs of work since June 2017.

Input price inflation eased for the third month running in May, despite continued comments from panellists regarding the ongoing impact of tariffs. The slower increase in costs and greater competitive pressures underpinned a renewed fall in output charges, the first such decline since February 2016.
As you can see, there's a decent correlation between the fates of the PMI index and the US economy as a whole.

And IHS added in the same report that the services side of the economy wasn’t much better.
The seasonally adjusted IHS Markit Flash U.S. Services PMI™ Business Activity Index posted 50.9 in May, down from 53.0 in April, to indicate a notable slowdown in service sector business activity. The upturn was only marginal overall and the slowest since the current sequence of expansion began in March 2016.
Those slowdowns mirror a report from the Census Bureau on Friday that said manufacturers saw business drop across the board to start the 2nd Quarter of 2019.
New orders for manufactured durable goods in April decreased $5.4 billion or 2.1 percent to $248.4 billion, the U.S. Census Bureau announced today. This decrease, down two of the last three months, followed a 1.7 percent March increase. Excluding transportation, new orders were virtually unchanged. Excluding defense, new orders decreased 2.5 percent. Transportation equipment, also down two of the last three months, drove the decrease, $5.4 billion or 5.9 percent to $85.4 billion.

Shipments of manufactured durable goods in April, down three of the last four months, decreased $4.0 billion or 1.6 percent to $253.3 billion. This followed a 0.5 percent March decrease. Transportation equipment, down four consecutive months, led the decrease, $3.7 billion or 4.1 percent to $85.8 billion.

Unfilled Orders Unfilled orders for manufactured durable goods in April, down two of the last three months, decreased $0.7 billion or 0.1 percent to $1,179.1 billion. This followed a 0.1 percent March increase. Transportation equipment, also down two of the last three months, led the decrease, $0.4 billion or 0.1 percent to $810.6 billion.

Inventories of manufactured durable goods in April, up nine of the last ten months, increased $1.8 billion or 0.4 percent to $422.6 billion. This followed a 0.3 percent March increase. Transportation equipment, also up nine of the last ten months, led the increase, $1.5 billion or 1.1 percent to $136.1 billion.
University of Wisconsin economist Menzie Chinn noted recently in Econbrowser that manufacturing output has declined for much of this year and employment had leveled off in the sector in 2019, with the Midwest starting to see job losses.

None of this is a good sign going forward, and that calls to mind where we were in much of 2016, when manufacturing output and employment was showing some job losses (including 51,000 between January and May of that year), and ended up being the only year that the US has lost manufacturing jobs in the 2010s. That manufacturing slowdown likely played a role in convince some blue-collars in the Heartland take a chance on Donald Trump to turn around their flagging fortunes.

Now we flash forward 3 years, and the 2016-type slowdowns in manufacturing and the Midwestern economy as a whole are starting all over again. Except now we have a higher US budget deficit, with less room for upside as unemployment is likely as low as it can get, and more trade restrictions and adjustments are coming in the near future. Ruh roh.

Friday, May 24, 2019

GOP K-12 moves give Evers a little, but takes a lot. And keeps the voucher scam going

I wanted to review the big changes to the budget bill in K-12 education, so let’s go into the 32-part omnibus that the GOPs on Joint Finance approved of on Thursday. And let’s start with the largest of the aid increases to public schools.
1. General School Aid Base Funding Increase (Paper #550). Provide [an increase of] $83,200,000 GPR in 2019-20 and $246,742,000 GPR in 2020-21 for general school aids…

4. Per Pupil Aid (Paper #550). Provide [increase of] $17,459,200 GPR in 2019-20 and $36,277,600 GPR in 2020-21 and set the per pupil aid payment at $679 per pupil in 2019-20 and $704 per pupil in 2020-21 and in each year thereafter. This would be an annual increase of $25 per pupil in each year of the biennium

5. Special Education Aid (Paper #570). Provide[increase of] $15,533,200 GPR in 2019-20 and $81,337,100 GPR in 2020-21 for special education categorical aid. Base level funding is $368,939,100, which DPI estimates will reimburse 25.3% of eligible costs in 2018-19. It is estimated that the additional aid would allow for reimbursement of 26% of special education costs in 2019-20 and 30% of costs in 2020-21.
The flip side is that it is the first increase in special education aids to public schools in 10 years, with much of it coming in the second year, raising the base amount for the future to more than $450 million. It’s probably not as much as the schools need, (and there’s an important disparity here that I’ll discuss shortly), but it’s a start and GOPs were clearly feeling the pressure from the public as they nearly doubled this increase from the $50 million WisGOP had in their original K-12 plans.

The special education increase of $97 million was significantly less than the $606 million Governor Evers wanted, which Democrats education organizations denounced, and led to tweets like this.

I found it interesting that around $330 million of the increase is in General Aids, while very little of the increase is from Per-Pupil Aid. That’s a direct contrast to the last budget, where Scott Walker and other Republicans put almost all of the aid increases in the form of Per-Pupil aids. That seems like a win for poorer districts in cities and rural areas, as the General Aids try to make up for disparities in property value and other resources.

It also makes for confusing statements from Republicans and media reporters about a “$200/$204 per pupil increase in both years”, as that is clearly NOT the case, at least not in that form . What is being confused is the aid increases with the revenue limits for schools. Those are being upped beyond the aid increases that are coming from the state,
2. Revenue Limit Per Pupil Adjustment (Paper #550). Set the per pupil adjustment under revenue limits at $175 in 2019-20 and $179 in 2020-21 and specify that there would be no per pupil adjustment beginning in 2021-22 and in each year thereafter.
Add in the $25 per-pupil aid (which does not count toward revenue limits) and there you have your increase. There is also an extra boost in the limits for certain low-revenue districts, which enables them to have raise more property taxes to get back toward the levels of other districts if they choose to.

The revenue limits and low-revenue district provisions come close to what Governor Evers wanted in his budget. But as Kids Forward tells us, the GOP severely reduced the 2 largest increases for K-12 public schools that Evers had.

What that graph doesn't mention is that the GOP did add money to “K-12 education” in another way. It's just not a program they want you to know about.

GOP change to base K-12 budget
Vouchers and Charters UP $113.5 million
Aid CUTS to public K-12 $78.5 million

Some of that extra voucher money is in the form of “special needs scholarships”, which reimburse at least 90% of the special ed costs of voucher schools, while public schools are barely going to get 30% of their special ed costs covered, even with the increases approved yesterday. And the money for this special ed aid to vouchers is entirely paid for by cutting aid to the PUBLIC school district the child lives in.

So if you account for the voucher-related cuts to public schools, the net increase over the 2 years in the 3 main aid forms to public schools are as follows.

General K-12 school aids $251.5 million
Per-pupil aid $53.7 million
Special Education Aid $96.8 million

The GOP did add $5.3 million for a new type of aid that was not in Evers’ budget.
Specify that a district would be eligible for this aid if the district's net per pupil payment from the general school aids appropriation is less than the difference between $1,000 and the per pupil categorical aid payment amount for that year ($679 per pupil in 2019-20 and $704 per pupil in 2020-21 under the motion). Specify that the payment for an eligible district would be equal to the difference between $1,000 and the per pupil categorical aid payment amount for that year multiplied by the enrollment used to calculate the district's per pupil aid in that year. Specify that if aid entitlements exceed the amount appropriated, DPI would prorate the payments.
This seems targeted to certain school districts in Northern Wisconsin and other places that have high property values but small student populations. I’d like a final list of that, but I bet it’s related to the list of schools I mentioned earlier this week that were likely to lose out with the GOP’s opening move to keep $1.09 billion in property tax credits as opposed to moving it into General Aids (Attachment 3 of this document gives you an idea of who those districts would be. Hayward was specifically named on Thursday). Those districts stood to significantly lose funding, as they wouldn’t get much from either General Aids or Per-Pupil aids.

But other rural districts took a hit with the GOP’s budget motion, as the JFC members chose to take out an Evers provision worth about $9.8 million a year that would have expanded the sparsity aid program to mid-size and larger districts that have lots of land area. The JFC also turned down Evers’ plans that would have directed $43.5 million to bilingual education, $5.7 million for to increase what schools get for providing breakfasts to students, as well as a number of other smaller proposals. In all, nearly $978 million was reduced from Evers’ proposed K-12 budget with JFC’s action, although at least most of the K-12 increases that remained went into General Aid and not Per-Pupil this time.

That $978 mil fills the budget holes caused by the GOP’s moves earlier this month to continue tax cuts for the rich and corporate and turn down Medicaid expansion. That seems like some messed-up priorities, and the WisGOPs decisions leaves flawed and failing school funding situation largely in effect, with the only positive change in direction being the likelihood of fewer referenda due to the higher revenue limits.

So even with these minor increases, there’s still a long way to go before we dig ourselves out of the hole dug during the previous 8 years, both in K-12 public school funding, and in most notable economic statistics.

Confirmed - Wisconsin fell further behind for jobs in 2018, cementing Walker's failure

It slipped out without much notice, but the year-end numbers from the “gold standard” Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages came out on Wednesday. And it closed the book on an awful 8-year record of job growth for Wisconsin under Scott Walker.
If you dig into the QCEW’s always-great map function you can see they only have it on a statewide and large county basis for now, but it allows us to see how Wisconsin compares to other states.

And 2018 was as bad as any during the Age of Fitzwalkerstan. We ended up 39th in the country in total job growth for 2018, at 0.60%, well behind the US rate of 1.5% for the year. And it continued a declining trend in Wisconsin’s numbers that we’ve seen for much of the last 3 years.

Also noteworthy is that not one state in the Midwest was near that US rate of job growth last year, which means Wisconsin ended up in the middle of the pack for our part of the country, despite that 39th place standing.

Job growth Dec 2017- Dec 2018, QCEW
U.S. +1.5%
Mich +1.04%
Minn +0.91%
Ind. +0.88%
Wis. +0.60%
Ohio +0.549%
Iowa +0.547%
Ill. +0.31%

Those numbers aren’t a good sign if you’re Donald Trump, when you need the Midwest to buy into your talk of a “booming economy” to have any chance of getting re-elected in 18 months (if Trump is even a candidate in November 2020).

If you look at Scott Walker’s full 8 years, it shows that Wisconsin fell well short of Scott Walker’s promise of 250,000 jobs…despite getting 4 more years to get there. But you know who did blow past that number? Our neighbors to the west in Minnesota, who had more jobs than Wisconsin did by the end of the year, and added nearly 100,000 more jobs than we did over the 8 years Walker and WisGOP ran the state.

All job growth, Dec 2010- Dec 2018
Minn +319,619
Wis. +222,260

In looking at the 8-year record, Wisconsin falls to 5th in the Midwest for the rate of job growth, only beating the train wreck of Illinois and Iowa. Which makes me repeat a question I’ve asked many times in recent weeks. “Why does WisGOP want to keep us on this losing track?”

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

GOP K-12 plans offer some more money, but more of the same disparities

Now that we've finished discussing what the funding options for K-12, let's talk a little about what the GOP leaders in the gerrymandered Legislature are going to counter with tomorrow in the Joint Finance Committee.

These four paragraphs from Mark Sommerhauser’s article in the Wisconsin State Journal do a good job in summing up the proposal, and its differences with what Gov Evers wants to do with K-12 funding.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, told the Wisconsin State Journal on Tuesday districts would get $200 per pupil in 2019-20, then an additional $200 more per pupil in 2020-21.

That approach would mirror the centerpiece of the school-funding increase in the most recent state budget that former Gov. Scott Walker signed in 2017, which translated to about a half-billion increase in state aid to districts.

It contrasts with Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ proposal for the next budget. Evers wants to pump $611 million into general school aids through a revised state funding formula that would guarantee a basic level of funding for each student, but provide additional funding for low-income students.

The per-pupil funding stream gives districts a flat amount per student, not accounting for a district’s property-tax base.
The GOP plan goes directly against the state’s Blue Ribbon Commission on School Funding, as the Legislative Fiscal Bureau tells us in their summary of K-12 funding methods and revenue limits.
The Blue Ribbon Commission on School Funding was a bipartisan Commission consisting of sixteen members, including legislators, school administrators, and other stakeholders. The Commission developed its recommendations following public hearings and informational hearings held throughout the state. In its final report, which was published in January, 2019, the Commission recommended that the Legislature provide future increases in resources for school districts through increases in the per pupil adjustment under revenue limits rather than per pupil aid, and that any per pupil adjustment provided under revenue limits be annually indexed by inflation. The Commission also recommended that the Legislature provide future increases in state support through the general school aid formula rather than through the school levy tax credit.
The LFB had already calculated that the GOPs' proposed aid increase would be just under $494 million for the next 2 years, based on the projected K-12 student population for the next 2 years.
For example, as shown in the fifth line of Table 4, if the per pupil aid payment were set at $854 per pupil in 2019-20 and $1,058 per pupil in 2020-21 and each year thereafter (thus providing the same increase to per pupil aid as the proposed per pupil adjustments in the bill), estimated general fund expenditures would increase by $163.5 million in 2019-20 and $330.6 million in 2020-21 compared to the base. Relative to the bill, per pupil aid funding would increase by $166.9 million in 2019-20 and $335.9 million in 2020-21.

The per pupil adjustment under revenue limits and the level of per pupil aid funding provided also affect payments under the private school choice programs, the independent charter school program, and the special needs scholarship program, as well as the aid transfer amounts under the open enrollment program. Under current law, the respective per pupil payment under each of these programs in a given year increased by the per pupil revenue limit adjustment for the current year, if positive, plus the change in the amount of statewide categorical aid per pupil between the previous year and the current year, if positive. Under the bill, the change in the per pupil aid payment amount would replace the change in statewide categorical aid in the indexing mechanism. If the Committee modifies the bill with respect to the per pupil adjustment or per pupil aid, the respective payments and aid reductions for these programs would need to be adjusted as well.
Basically, that second paragraph means that WisGOP’s proposed increase in per-pupil aid is a back-door way to increase money to vouchers and charter schools. Win-win for a GOP that gets a lot of assistance from front groups for Betsy DeVos and the Bradley Foundation.

The other question with this increase in per-pupil aid is whether that extra funding will go along with an increase in a school’s revenue limit. Up until the Age of Fitzwalkerstan began in 2011, this was generally how per-pupil “aid” worked – not as money given to districts, but as a way to allow them to allocate more funds without having to go to referendum. But in the last 8 years, that’s generally not happened, and in fact, the increased money to districts hasn’t allowed for the flexibility to do much more with the funding in recent years.

Now it looks like revenue limits will at least be raised by the same amount as the per-pupil increases, if I’m reading this tweet from Wispolitics’ J.R. Ross correctly.

Those numbers match what Evers wanted in his budget, so there is some semblance of compromise in a few places. With higher revenue limits, there’s less of a chance that we’ll repeat the same cycle of “limited funding/ask for referendum” that so many Wisconsin districts have had to deal with in recent years.

On the down side, if I’m reading the reports right, it means that there will be NO increase in General school aids, as all of the increase will be in the form of per-pupil aids. That means our already-large disparities across school districts for resources will be even worse, as growing suburban districts get more of this increase, and declining enrollment districts in rural and urban areas get less of a benefit.

Former State Schools Superintendent Tony Evers was elected not only promising to increase funding to public schools, but to change our current funding system in a state that has some of the worst racial disparities in America, both in schools and other statistics. While the extra funding flexibility is nice, it’s still not close to repairing the damage that has been done to public schools over the last 8 years.

Instead, the GOPs want to continue a two-step where they claim “see, we gave more state aid for schools” while keeping the same failing funding method. Much like with some other topics this budget season, GOPs are trying to seem like they’re compromising and adding some funding, because they’ve lost the policy argument on the issue, but they’re still going to try to Evers’ hands from full effectiveness through other means.

Don’t fall for it, and don’t let your neighbors be tricked either.