Legislative Update: Joint Finance Committee to take up education issues

The Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee will meet next Thursday, May 23, to take up funding for K-12 education. GOP lawmakers have said they won’t support the $1.4 billion increase the governor is proposing, but they have promised an increase. They may also take up voucher schools, independently run charters and open enrollment. 

JFC Action. The JFC has voted to put more money into tech colleges and workforce development than the governor asked for in his original budget, but it’s less than what the governor called for after just-released revenue estimates climbed $753 million through mid-2021. The measures were passed along party lines by the Republican majority, with Democrats voting in opposition as they called for more funding. JFC action included:

  • $25M Wisconsin Technical College System boost. Evers originally asked for $18 million, but urged $36 million in funding after the new estimates to fully fund the tech colleges’ budget request.
  • Additional money for workforce development. The JFC approved $12.5 million more than Evers originally proposed, including putting an additional $6 million into career and technical education grants for school districts and earmarking $5.5 million for youth apprenticeship grants. The final $1 million would go to grants that cover the cost of technical education equipment. Also included is expanding a youth summer jobs program to communities other than Milwaukee. 
  • Rejection of need-based grants. Evers proposed a grant increase for students at Wisconsin’s colleges, universities and tech schools, but the JFC voted to keep funding at current levels.
  • Rejection of move to ease property tax limits.The governor wanted to ease property tax limits on counties and municipalities but the JFC only agreed to provide relief for storm water management costs. 

The Senate and Assemblywill be in session Wednesday.

  • The Assembly will act on a series of bills including AB-022, which would require driver education instruction to include information on spotting and reporting human trafficking.

Bills We’re Watching: 
For a list of all the bills in the Assembly Ed Committee, click here.
For a roundup of all the bills we’re watching, with analysis, click here.

  • School Board Meeting Notice (AB 170SB 160). This changes the way that school board meetings can be noticed. Notably, it provides that, “if a school district clerk or, in the clerk’s absence, the school district’s president determines that providing notice at least 24 hours before the meeting is, for good cause shown by the clerk or president, impossible or impractical, the clerk or resident may notify each school board member of the date, time, and place of the meeting less than 24 hours, but not less than 2 hours, before the meeting.”
  • Driver Education Instruction on Human Trafficking (AB22). This bill would require driver education courses to teach about the signs of human trafficking, and what to do if you suspect it. The bill was referred to the Committee on Universities, Technical Colleges, Children and Families.

Bills Circulating for Co-Sponsorship:

  • School Bus Lights (LRB-2162 Memo). Use of school bus warning lights. 
  • After School Grants(LRB 2176).  This bill creates a grant program to support high-quality after-school programs. The Department of Public Instruction may award grants from $50,000 to $100,000 to school boards, operators of independent charter schools, governing bodies of private schools, and nonprofit organizations that meet certain criteria. The return on investment is found through increased learning potential, improved performance at school, reduced crime and juvenile delinquency, and a stronger workforce after graduation. In Wisconsin, 265,984 youth in K-12 are waiting for an available after school program, and 205,209 youth are alone and unsupervised after school. This program would provide youth with after school opportunities, and stabilize a funding crisis stemming from recent changes in CLC allocations.

  • Voucher Transparency for Property Taxpayers(LRB-2897/1). This bill is circulating to provide full transparency to residents of Wisconsin about how their property tax dollars are spent. It would require property tax bills to include information from the school regarding how much public tax funding is going to pay the tuition for the statewide voucher program, the Racine voucher program, or the Milwaukee voucher program. 

    The school voucher program was started in Milwaukee in 1990 and later expanded to Racine in 2011 and statewide in 2013. State spending on the voucher program has grown from less than $1 million a year to more than $270 million in 2016-17. In 2018, $302 million was transferred from taxpayers to private schools to educate students in the three voucher programs, including 7,140 pupils in the statewide Wisconsin Parental Choice Program, an increase of about $33 million (12.3 percent) over 2017. This reduces public school funding by the same amount. School districts are then forced to pass the charge on to property taxpayers or cut opportunities for the majority of students in public schools.

    Because the cost of the voucher program is not listed on taxpayers’ property tax bills, this voucher tax is hidden. This bill would remedy that by providing complete and open transparency to property taxpayers in Wisconsin.

U.S. Congressman Ron Kind advances labor legislation. U.S. Congressman Ron Kind is a cosponsor of HR 2474, the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act. This bill would take steps to modernize labor law and end prohibitions on workers’ collective action and is the major labor reform legislation this Congress. Click here for contact information to thank Congressman Kind.