2017-19 State Budget

The 2017-19 state budget debate is under way at the Capitol. To make sure you stay up date on all the developments and insights, sign up for email alerts on the left side of this page. You will receive an email asking you to confirm your subscription.

Education bills we’re watching

2017-19 state budget proposal


The Senate Republicans have created their own budget proposal and reactions are everywhere, with Democrats telling the GOP to “get it together,” while the governor says “we’re a lot closer than we think,” and the Senate Majority Leader saying “there’s no deal yet.” Assembly Republican leaders said they will accept the governor’s offer to redirect $203.5 million in income tax cuts he had proposed, using funds instead to fund transportation in the budget, sent a letter to the Senate urging the same, and suggested the Joint Finance Committee meet July 24-28. Word is, that’s unlikely.

NEW Budget Resource

Competing Proposals for Wisconsin Schools: A Comparison of the Governor’s and the Assembly’s Education Budgets was created by the Wisconsin Budget Project to break down the differences between the various proposals on the table, and where supporters of public education stand on each item.

Below find key proposals that remain under consideration.

Act 10                              

  • The original proposal in the budget under consideration by the Joint Finance Committee would make school districts eligible for an additional $188 per pupil in 2017-18 and $380 in 2018-19 and each year after if districts certify that employees will be required to pay at least 12 percent of all costs and payments associated with employee health care coverage plans in that school year. The Senate budget plan deletes this provision and instead would require districts to send an annual report regarding employee health care.

Course Options and Youth Options merged into Early College Credit program

  • Effective with the 2017-18 school year, the Course Options and Youth Options programs would be merged into a new Early College Credit program to simplify how high school students could obtain college credit. The proposal would limit per-credit charges and designate who is responsible for paying those credit costs. The proposal also allows pupils to take dual enrollment courses during the summer. Any public high school pupil could enroll in a UW System institution, a technical college within the WTCS, a tribal college, or a private, nonprofit institution of higher education located in Wisconsin to take one or more nonsectarian courses, including during a summer semester or session.


  • Eliminate the farm-to-school coordinator position and 15-member farm-to-school advisory council.

Higher Ed

  • Eliminate the Educational Approval Board, which regulates for-profit higher education institutions. Lawmakers stripped that proposal out from the 2015-17 budget.


  • Per-pupil funding for public schools would see a $200 increase in 2017-18 and $204 in 2018-19.
  • General school aids funding would remain at base level funding of $4,584,098,000 in 2017-18 and increase to $4,656,848,000 in 2018-19. This would represent an increase of 1.6% in 2018- 19 compared to the prior year.
  • High-cost special education aid is expanded under the Senate proposal, increasing 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.


  • The initial budget proposal called for permanent teaching and administrator licenses, something Wisconsin moved away from in 1983. Senate Majority Leader Fitzgerald said he’s “not sure why the governor” proposed the change, and State Superintendent Tony Evers questioned the move. The perpetual teaching license would be created to replace current five-year renewal cycles. The Senate proposal does not include the governor’s idea to immediately move to lifetime licenses for teachers and administrators but instead specifies that provisional three-year licenses would be granted for new educators, administrators, and pupil services professionals, with a lifetime license granted after the completion of six semesters of successful experience.
  • The Senate budget also calls on the DPI to ease the licensure process in a few ways. By January 1, 2018, the DPI would have to submit a rule revising PI 34. The new rule must maintain a high standard of quality for teachers and simplify the licensure system as much as practicable, including the following: (a) simplify the grade levels licensees can teach and adopt broadfield subject licenses; (b) enable school districts to increase the number of teachers by offering internships and residency opportunities; (c) simplify out-of-state licensure reciprocity; and (d) expand pathways for existing licensees to fill high needs or shortage areas. The State Superintendent would also be required, by rule, to create a permit that allows a person enrolled in an educator preparation program to work in a school district as part of an internship, residency program, or equivalent program.
  • The initial budget plans calls for a teacher development grant program, under which a school district could apply for a grant to design and implement a teacher development program in partnership with a school of education in the University of Wisconsin (UW) System or the flexible option program in the UW System Extension to prepare district employees who work closely with pupils and hold a bachelor’s degree to successfully complete the requirements for obtaining a professional teaching permit or initial teaching license, including any required standardized examinations. Additionally, the school district would be required to allow employees who are enrolled in the program to satisfy student teaching requirements in a school in the school district, and the partnering entity would be required to prepare and provide intensive coursework for participating school district employees. Allow DPI to issue an initial teaching license to an individual who completes a teacher development program under the grant program. The Senate proposal would allow a private or independent charter school to apply for the grants also and eliminate a requirement that a person entering the program have a bachelor’s degree.
  • The Joint Finance Committee deleted an originally proposed provision regarding teaching licenses based on reciprocity as non-fiscal policy, something the Senate Republicans are seeking to have restored in their budget plan. The move would delete current law that requires an individual to be eligible for a teaching or administrator license based on reciprocity if that person meets certain requirements such as an equivalent license in another state in good standing.
  • Another item deleted from the original budget proposal as non-fiscal policy would have allowed a faculty member of a higher education institution to teach in public high schools without a license or permit from the DPI. Senate Republicans are seeking to restore that provision, but would require that person to pass a background check.

Mental Health Programming

  • Funding for mental health services in preK-12 schools  includes $3 million in 2018-19 to support social work services; $2.5 million in 2018-19 for grants for school-linked mental health services; and about a half-million annually in both years for mental health first aid and trauma-informed care training for school employees.

Part-time open enrollment

  • A part-time open enrollment program would be reinstated, allowing public high school students to attend a public school in another district to take a course offered by the nonresident school district. Under the proposal, students could not attend more than two courses at another school at the same time.

Per-Pupil Funding

  • Per Pupil Increase. Per-pupil aid payments for public school students would increase $200 in fiscal year 2017-18 and $204 in 2018-19. Overall, the governor proposes a plan to provide $648,892,200 over the biennium per pupil aid increase: $197,417,300 in FY2017-18, $451,474,900 in FY2018-19, which includes $10,100,000 in FY2017-18 and $20,200,000 in FY2018-19 be funded with savings from self-insurance health benefits for state employees.  Per pupil aid payments will increase $200 FY2017-18 and $204 in FY2018-19.  School districts would be required to certify they are compliant with 2011 Wisconsin Act 10 to receive the aid, and the aid must go directly to individual school buildings.

Referendum Restrictions

  • While the initial budget proposal did not include restrictions to local control over school referenda, the Senate proposal would place limits school boards. Currently there are stand-alone bills to do the same – but the Senate plan rolls several of them into the budget.
    • Referendum elections could only be held on regularly scheduled election days.
    • School boards could reduce revenue limits by rescinding all or a portion of any increase to a district’s revenue limit approved by an operating referendum.
    • Operating or debt service costs resulting from a referendum would be excluded 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.

Revenue Limits

  • Energy efficiency exemption in revenue limits. Eliminate Act 32, which allows school districts to move forward on energy efficiency projects outside of revenue limits. School districts would need to go to referendum for such energy efficiency projects outside operational budgets.

Self-insurance for state employees

  • The Joint Finance Committee will meet regarding objections to self-insurance on Thursday, June 15. The governor’s budget proposal includes anticipated savings, about which elected leaders on both sides of the aisle have expressed doubts. About 22,000 of WEA Trust’s 82,000 members are in the state worker health plan. AFSCME  has criticized the plan, saying that with a new administration in Washington promising to upend the nation’s health care system now is the wrong time for Wisconsin to roll the dice on a risky rewrite of its own system.


  • Property Taxes. End the state-portion of the property tax levy – thereby eliminating one source of ongoing property tax increases. A sum sufficient appropriation will be established to ensure continued funding for forestry programs equal to the amount that the state-levied property tax would have raised.
  • Income Taxes. Cut individual income taxes by reducing the tax imposed on the first $37,450 of taxable income for married-joint filers and the first $28,900 for single filers.
  • Income Taxes. Reduce the bottom two tax brackets – the bottom bracket will go from 4% to 3.9%; the next bracket will be reduced from 5.84% to 5.74% and the bracket will be expanded by 25%.

Technical Colleges

  • Amending performance-based funding for technical colleges. The budget would maintain the 30 percent portion of state aid distrusted based on performance, but would modify it to include weighted-scale categories: affordability and attainment, workforce readiness, student success in the workforce, and efficiency.


  • Per-pupil aid payments for voucher school students would increase $217 each year. The governor provides for fully funding of expected changes in privately run charter schools, vouchers, and for special needs vouchers.
  • The proposed changes (several of which were accomplished through separate legislative moves already) for the voucher programs in the original budget include:
    • Eliminating some benchmarks that historically have not been used to disqualify a school from the program;
    • Permitting DPI to bar a school from the program for misrepresentation;
    • Allowing pupils who are applying to the program to receive an income eligibility determination from the Department of Revenue;
    • Allowing some information now required to be provided by schools annually to be turned over only if DPI requests it;
    • Prohibiting DPI from requiring an annual operating budget submission from continuously participating schools;
    • Requiring charter schools to conduct background checks of teachers every five years;
    • Permitting pupils who attended school in another state the previous year to be eligible; and
    • Making Sept. 15 the deadline for the summer school daily attendance report deadline rather than Oct. 1.
  • Assembly and Senate leaders appear to have reached agreement on raising the income eligibility level for participating in the statewide voucher program, as reflected in the Senate proposal. That means a family income of less than 220 percent of the federal poverty level could receive tuition subsidies, rather than less than 185 percent under current law. Estimates show an additional 550 pupils could enter the statewide voucher program in 2018-19 as a result of this change.
  • The Senate plan would allow private voucher schools to establish virtual schools, where a teacher is separated from all or some students. Also, schools in the special needs voucher program would be allowed to create virtual programs. The change, estimated to increase the cost of the voucher program by $7.2 million in 2018-19, would be funded by an aid reduction and revenue limit adjustment to the voucher student’s resident school district. Online programs would allow participation to increase by about 1,000 students in 2018-19.
  • In addition to allowing special needs voucher schools to set up virtual programs, the Senate plan would eliminate the requirement that students attend the prior full year at a public school and eliminate the requirement that a student have an IEP at a public school, as long as they’ve been identified as being in need of services. Stop Special Needs Vouchers said it estimates the proposals could increase special needs vouchers by 250 students over the governor’s original budget proposal, more students than are currently even in the program. All at the expense of our already-underfunded public schools and the students who attend.

Read more:

The Wisconsin Budget Project’s summary of the governor’s proposed 2017-19 budget for education