Legislative Update – July 25

A provision in the Senate Republicans’ budget plan announced last week has public school advocates sounding the alarm on how it would harm districts in areas of the state with low property values.

As we reported in the July 18 WEAC Legislative Update, referendum restrictions included in the Senate GOP plan would exclude from ‘shared cost’ any amount levied by a district in a prior year for either operating or debt service costs that were authorized by a referendum if doing so would not increase the district’s equalization aid entitlement. That means that districts with low property wealth wouldn’t see any state equalized aid increases if they pass a referendum for additional spending.

The Department of Public Instruction has created this map showing in green the districts that would potentially be adversely impacted by this provision.

Guns and Schools

The Assembly Education Committee is holding a public hearing on AB427, requiring a firearm education curriculum be established for high schools to offer as an elective course.

The Budget and Foxconn

According to U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, reported by the Wall Street JournalFoxconn will be making an announcement on Thursday that the corporation will choose Wisconsin for a production center. The potential of the international company coming to Wisconsin has fueled budget speculation over the past few weeks, including the deadlock on transportation funding. Read related Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story.

Insiders are watching to see what kind of deal the state makes with the corporation, as they say there have been instances in other cases of corporate tax breaks and investments only for the firm to fall short on its end of the deal. And, while the jobs and infrastructure that may come could benefit one part of the state, northern rural communities may wonder if the tax breaks are helping them at all, if in fact the firm does open a center in the state. That all remains to be seen.

Voucher Expansion

When it comes to education, nothing’s a done deal in the long-overdue budget debate. While the Assembly has its own ideas, and the Senate Republicans introduced their own plan last week. The Joint Finance Committee does not plan any meetings this week. The bottom line is this: GOP lawmakers want to expand voucher eligibility, but disagree on how much.

Comparison of Three Different Education Budgets

As part of those negotiations, the Assembly and the Senate have each put forth their own version of an education budget. The Wisconsin Budget Project has released a summary highlighting the major areas of difference in the two budget proposals, and comparing them to the Governor’s proposal. The summary also includes notes on the reaction of education advocates to various provisions in the different versions of the budget. Read summary here: Competing Proposals for Wisconsin’s Schools: A Comparison of Three Different Education Budgets.