Saturday, May 29, 2021

WisGOPs screwing up stimulus to schools continues a tradition of state sabotage

Well that didn't take long.

And specifically, the US Department of Ed is telling the WisGOPs that their scheme to shove $350 million into the state's rainy day fund is not an "investment" into K-12 education.
It has come to our attention that the Wisconsin legislature is considering an omnibus motion as it finalizes the State’s 2021-2023 biennial budget. It is our understanding that, as part of this motion, the State would transfer $350 million from Wisconsin’s general fund to a budget stabilization fund in the second year of the biennium. These funds would be available for appropriation by the legislature for K-12 education or for any other purpose. We are concerned that this proposal may have an impact on the ability of the State and its local educational agencies (LEAs) to comply with Federal fiscal requirements if the funds, in fact, are not appropriated for K-12 education.

Each of the Federal pandemic relief statutes – the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the CARES Act), the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021 (the CRRSA Act), and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (the ARP Act) – contain maintenance of effort (MOE) requirements that apply to States that receive Federal education support. Specifically, as a condition of receiving funds under the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund and the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund, Wisconsin assured that it would maintain State fiscal effort for both elementary and secondary education and for higher education in fiscal years (FYs) 2020 through 2023. These provisions are designed to ensure that States do not reduce support for education because of the influx of Federal financial assistance and that students receive the much-needed supports and services that the additional Federal resources are intended to provide.

The failure of the Wisconsin legislature to appropriate sufficient levels of funds specifically for K-12 education may preclude the State from meeting applicable MOE requirements. Specifically, Wisconsin may not consider funds that the legislature transfers to the budget stabilization fund to be State support for K-12 education until such time as those funds are appropriated by the legislature for the sole purpose of supporting K-12 education and made available to school districts for their use during the applicable fiscal year. Consequently, the $350 million that the State might transfer to the budget stabilization fund may not be considered State support for education at the time of the transfer unless it is actually appropriated for K-12 education for the applicable fiscal year and not “for any other purpose.”
But maybe the WisGOPs are just fine with that scenario. Check out the responses from the two WisGOPs that chair the Joint Finance Committee, starting with the State Senator from a swingy SW Wisconsin district who has constantly told his constituents that he's an "independent voice".
On Friday, budget committee co-chairpersons Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, and Mark Born, R-Beaver Dam, dismissed the warning.

“My position remains the same as it was yesterday,” Marklein said in a statement. “We will continue to consider the potential impact of the (minimum state funding thresholds) for the future, but we will not paralyze our state budget process.”
Oh, I dunno Howie. I'd say not knowing whether $2.2 billion will be yanked out of the budget due to your stupid games might "paralyze our state budget process." Especially if Governor Evers would veto the entire budget and tell you gerrymandered dopes to start over and get it right.

Marklein's Assembly counterpart, Rep. Mark Born from Beaver Dam, let the mask slip with his response, with a nice side-order of race-baiting and resentment.
In another statement, Born called the amount of federal funding schools are slated to receive (if requirements are met) “obscene,” and questioned whether it was legal for Evers to have accepted such federal funds given that the federal government has imposed additional requirements on the Republican Legislature during the budget process.

“Ultimately, this is a political letter sent by a Biden bureaucrat at the request of a hyper partisan liberal-democrat from Dane County who cut state aid for K-12 education when he was Co-Chair of the Joint Committee on Finance,” Born said, referring to U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Black Earth, who asked the Department of Education about the funding thresholds.
In addition to the whininess and Koched-up BS, it's cute how Born tries to compare the time of the Great Recession, when Federal aid was badly needed to backstop a major lack of state revenue. That's not today's situation, where Wisconsin is likely to have $2.5 billion or more in surplus at the state level as the 21-23 biennium begins.

Stupid, scummy, or both?

I also note that Assembly Speaker Robbin' Vos sneered this week about how public schools "won the lottery" and that the amount of Federal aid going to K-12 was "obscene." So would you put it by these lowlifes to intentionally try to keep those stimulus funds from reaching Wisconsin districts? Especially with a lot of it going to THOSE PEOPLE at MPS? Me neither.

This sounds like the same game plan the WisGOPs did the last time a Democratic president did a stimulus package, when Scott Walker told the US Department of Transportation that we didn't need $810 million in infrastructure funds to build a high-speed rail line that connected Minneapolis, Madison, Milwaukee and Chicago. And Walker also turned down $23 million in federal funds to extend broadband to underserved (and mostly rural areas) 1 month after taking office.

Both of these choices set Wisconsin back years, and now a decade later, we're asking for funds in this stimulus and this state budget to make up for the investments we didn't make. But to WisGOPs that was a small price to pay if it stangated the economy and could get voters angry enough to throw out Barack Obama from the White House in 2012.

That strategy didn't exactly work in 2012 in terms of getting rid of Obama, but it definitely held our economy back. And I have strong suspciions that the WisGOPs are running the same strategy in 2021 to try to blunt Wisconsin's recovery from the COVID-induced recession. If things aren't good in 2022, that makes it more likely that voters will be grumpy and WisGOPs figure they will turn their anger on the party (perceived to be) in power - which is the Dems.

See, WisGOPs don't care what happens to the everyday person and Main Street communities in Wisconsin, they only care about getting power and steering money to themselves and their donors/allies. And if it means they rule over a pile of rubble, that's fine with them.

For more good insight and detail on where things stand on K-12 and higher education in the state budget after this week, Wisconsin Eye's Rewind show spends a good 15-20 minutes on it this week. I'll embed the video when it pops up on their YouTube channel, but there's a lot to unpack there, including the possibility that WisGOPs TeaBag the budget and do nothing if Evers were to veto the whole thing.

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