Tuesday, February 9, 2016

WisGOP's next sneaky plan to cut millions from public schools

Just because the Wisconsin state budget transferred tens of millions of dollars from K-12 public schools to private voucher schools, it doesn't mean the ALEC crew at the State Capitol is done messing with public schools for the next two years. You may have noticed this debacle from the GOP-controlled Assembly from last week.
An Assembly committee Thursday abruptly scrapped a vote on a proposal to reduce the amount of money public school districts can raise to offset the loss of state aid for taxpayer-funded private school vouchers.

The decision by Assembly Education Committee chairman Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt, R-Fond du Lac, came less than an hour before a scheduled 1 p.m. vote and hours after the Wisconsin State Journal began asking questions about the proposal. School officials also mobilized against the idea Thursday.

It could result in a $22 million loss in taxing authority for public schools, according to a Wisconsin Association of School Boards memo to members.

Here’s a look at the Leigslative Fiscal Bureau's memo in question on how the amendment would have worked.
...under current law, school districts receive full revenue limit authority for incoming choice pupils in each year of their attendance in a choice program through a separate revenue limit adjustment, not as part of a district’s enrollment count. Under the amendment, districts would no longer be eligible for a separate adjustment for incoming choice pupils, but they would receive revenue limit authority for these pupils by including them in enrollment counts, similar to every other type of pupil that districts count for revenue limit purposes. Under the three-year rolling average enrollment to calculate revenue limits, districts would have revenue limit authority for one-third of a pupil in the first year of his or her attendance in a choice program, two-thirds of a pupil in the second year, and three-thirds of a pupil in the third year.

Attachment 1 provides information on the effect of the provisions of AA2 on the calculation of revenue limits as if it had been in effect for 2015-16. Specifically, Attachment 1 shows the revenue limit for each district in 2015-16 under current law and under the provisions of AA2 if it had been in effect for that year, as well as the change in the revenue limit for each district, both in dollar and percentage terms. The revenue limits for the 282 districts without incoming choice pupils would not have been affected by the provisions of the amendment. All of the 142 districts with incoming choice pupils would have been affected by the loss of the revenue limit adjustment for those pupils. For a district with increasing enrollment, this would have been partially offset by the increase in the current year revenue that would result from including incoming choice pupils in the September, 2015 enrollment count. For a district with declining enrollment, the increase in enrollment resulting from the inclusion of incoming choice pupils would have resulted in a reduction in both its declining enrollment adjustment and its prior year base hold harmless adjustment. Under this adjustment, if a district’s initial current year revenue is less than the districts base revenue from the prior year, it receives an adjustment equal to the difference.
The memo also lists how badly each of the 142 individual school districts would be hit as a result of the amendment. The total amount is $22.7 million in revenue, which likely would translate into more cuts for those districts, but what’s stunning about this is how heavily concentrated the losses would be in Racine (where Speaker Robbin’ Vos worked to expand the voucher program in 2011), as well as other mid-size urban school districts in Wisconsin.

Top 10 districts losing funding ability under voucher amendment
Racine $7,443,267
Kenosha $1,248,578
Green Bay $936,044
Waukesha $903,652
Wausau $642,969
Appleton $587,352
Stevens Point $482,295
Oshkosh $479,560
Eau Claire $461,408
Sheboygan $381,001

What’s also worth mentioning is the percentage cuts, which hit some smaller, suburban school districts harder. District such as Burlington, Cornell, Little Chute, Portage, and Shawano each would lose more than 1% of their revenue ability under this bill- on top of the cuts that have already been imposed at those schools.

The Wisconsin’s School Administrator’s Alliance has been all over this bill from the start, and actively has opposed this backdoor cut of public schools. Even with the original amendment yanked, there appears to be a second amendment that will be taken up at tomorrow's hastily-called Assembly Education Committee meeting, and the SAA says something else awful may well be in that new amendment.
The new amendment differs from AA 2 in that it attempts to address negative consequences to declining enrollment districts that would occur as a result of the switch to a new calculation method. It tries to accomplish this by excluding new voucher pupils from membership (enrollment) for purposes of calculating declining enrollment adjustments for three years.

The SAA remains opposed to either amendment. Here is the bottom line: if your district has resident students in the statewide or Racine voucher programs, under either amendment, you will lose revenue limit authority and you will likely have to pay for your voucher students by reducing educational opportunities for the children that remain in your district. We strongly oppose these efforts and urge you to keep the pressure on state lawmakers.
Amazingly, this amendment that would pull millions of dollars in potential funding from public schools is on top of an already-bad voucher bill that will continue to give private schools extra money for special needs scholarships...even if the child doesn't have special needs anymore!

This is a clear example of the consequences of voting Republican. Government is used to funnel taxpayer dollars to their campaign contributors in the voucher movement, at the detriment of all public schools and Wisconsin's communities. And now that property taxes are going up to make up the difference for this defunding of public education, the WisGOPs decide to take extraordinary steps to limit the chances of local people voting to raise taxes for their schools, even if the local people are OK with raising taxes to support their public schools.

But then again, the GOP doesn't care about how bad things get as a result of their defunding of public education in Wisconsin, as long as those campaign contributions keep rolling in and they think they can get votes from the rubes by "sticking it to those teachers" (and taking their political power). And it only stops when the Wisconsin voters make them stop.


  1. Man, and it's not just schools--it's literally everything: jobs, wages, the environment, culture war crap, cronyism, and a million other things. This is what Wisconsin voted for THREE times, and no one wants to admit they were wrong, so change could be far away.

    1. The Guv's tanking approval ratings seem to indicate at leaat some of those people recognize their mistake, especially up North, so I take that as a positive sign.

      But it's sad/infuriating that those people didnt get the clue until after the damage was done

  2. ...And the amendment passed the committee. I will continue to email my Assembly Person. I am always surprised to get a response, even a pro forma one, like I did earlier today.

  3. Kudos on finding some numbers behind this. I first read about it on UM and, while concerned, just couldn't bring myself to rail against it without data.

    The WI Legis system (https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/2015/proposals/ab751) was a complete dud -- the 'required' fiscal estimate there used the oh-so-convenient "indeterminate" escape clause.

    1. Thank the SAA, who popped that late Friday memo onto their page. Theyve been all over this bill and its even worse changes since day 1.