Legislative Update – July 18

Latest in the Legislature
Senate Republicans today released their own budget proposal. In it, the Senate GOP includes all actions taken by the Joint Finance Committee mid-June, along with some areas of K-12 funding that have been agreed upon by the Senate and Assembly. Senate leadership is hoping the plan will prompt Assembly Republicans to engage on the outstanding issues holding up the budget, and that the finance committee would move swiftly to move a budget through.

Transportation has been the sticking point with the budget, and the Senate proposal includes $712 million in transportation bonding. Of that, $362 million would come from the segregated transportation fund, with the remaining $350 million coming from the general fund. Governor Walker’s initial proposal included $500 million in borrowing — the lowest level of bonding since the 2001-03 budget.

Here’s a quick glimpse of the proposal as it relates to public school finance, school referenda and programming.

  • Increase per-pupil aid $200 in 2017-18 and $204 in 2018-19.
  • Delete requirement that districts certify employees are required to pay at least 12% of costs and payments associated with its employee health coverage plans. However, districts would have to submit reports annually to the state outlining employee health care, including plan design, premium contributions, self-insurance contributions, deductibles, copays, coinsurance, and other methods by which employees contribute to health care costs.
  • Referendum restrictions would be incorporated. You’ll remember that currently there are five stand-alone bills circulating to limit local control for school spending. The restrictions rolled into the budget proposal include:
    • Referendum elections could only be held on regularly scheduled election days.
    • Allow school boards to reduce revenue limits by rescinding all or a portion of any increase to a district’s revenue limit approved by an operating referendum.
    • Exclude any operating or debt service costs resulting from a referendum from shared costs under the equalization aid formula. This has the potential of permanently harming some low-property value districts by preventing them from receiving state equalization increases if they passed a referendum.

Also noteworthy:

ENERGY EFFICIENCY EXEMPTION.
Somewhat restores the energy efficiency exemption
under revenue caps, by imposing a two-year freeze on energy efficiency projects.

HIGH-COST SPECIAL EDUCATION AID.
Increase the amount school districts are reimbursed for high-cost special education
to 90 percent of eligible prior year costs above $30,000. Currently districts are reimbursed at 70 percent.

HIGH-COST TRANSPORTATION AID.
Expand the high-cost transportation aid
to cover districts that are 145% of statewide average, rather than 150% as under current law. In cases where a district qualified for the aid one year but not the next, the district would receive half of what it did the preceding year.

LOW-REVENUE ADJUSTMENTS.
Increase the low-revenue adjustment
from $9,100 per pupil to $9,300 in 2017-18 and $9,400 per pupil in 2018-19. The low-revenue adjustment would be increased by $100 per pupil each year after until it reaches $9,800 in 2022-23, at which time it would be maintained at $9,800.

OPEN-ENROLLMENT TRANSFER AMOUNT.
Increase the open-enrollment transfer amount
for a regular education student by $100 each above the current law, indexing amount from each year 2017-18 to 2020-21. Currently, the transfer amount is indexed to general and categorical aid increases to public schools in the same way per pupil payments to private voucher schools and independent charter school payments are adjusted – which accounts for the governor’s proposed increase for private school tuition subsidies of $217 per pupil.

PER-PUPIL ADJUSTMENTS.
Maintain current law stipulating no per-pupil adjustment
in the 2015-16 school year and thereafter.

MENTAL HEALTH.

  • Provide $3 million for a categorical aid mental health program to reimburse school districts and independent charter schools for social workers.
  • Provide $3.5 million in Community and School Mental Health Collaboration Grants, which is far above the $1 million increase the governor proposed.

SPARSITY AID.
Delete $100 increase per pupil in sparsity aid
, and instead provide $100 per pupil for districts with between 745-1,000 students. In cases where a district qualified for the aid one year but not the next, the district would receive half of what it did the preceding year.

TECHNOLOGY.
Provide $9.2 million for personal electronic computing device grants
to school districts, private schools, independent charter schools, and tribal schools. Grants would cover $125 per ninth grade pupil and would require schools to provide equal matching funds.