Thursday, November 13, 2014

DPI Submits Second Half of Budget Request

Earlier this week, State Superintendent Tony Evers released the second half of his budget request, which relates to school funding. Evers submitted the first half of his request in September, which advocated for increased funding for school safety and technology programs. DPI has prepared a very helpful document that highlights the requested funding changes for the biennium.

DPI’s request asks for an additional $450,000,000 for school funding in the 2015-17 state budget. The amount reflects increases to all general school aids of 2.5 percent and 4.9 percent annually, over the biennium.

School Funding Reform

DPI also makes several school funding reform requests. Including:

·         Guaranteeing a minimum amount of state funding for every student ($3,000), providing vital resources to the approximately 60 school districts that currently receive little or no state aid;
·         Increasing the low revenue ceiling to $9,400 per pupil in FY16 and $9,700 in FY17 (current law sets it at $9,100 in 2013-14 and thereafter). It is estimated that 40-60 districts would be eligible to use this additional authority;
·         Incorporating a poverty-factor using the percentage of students receiving Free and Reduced Priced Lunch into the formula (30 percent), accounting for family’s ability to pay – not just the district’s property value;
·         Making technical formula changes that strengthen rural, declining enrollment and negatively aided districts by increasing the secondary cost ceiling and hold harmless (Special Adjustment Aid) level;
·          Increasing the per pupil revenue limit adjustment to $200 per pupil in FY16 and $204 per pupil in FY17 (current law reverts to $0 beginning in FY16). These figures represent increases of approximately 2 percent annually in revenues for the average school district. DPI requests that the revenue limit be linked to changes in the Consumer Price Index going forward; and
·         Directing the School Levy Tax Credit and the First Dollar Credit into general school aids, increasing transparency and providing direct state support for schools.
Rural Schools Funding
DPI requests an additional $8.2 million to fully fund Sparsity Aid. The Department also proposes eliminating the free and reduced-priced lunch (FRL) criteria for districts to qualify for Sparsity Aid; if this change is approved, Sparsity Aid will be based entirely on enrollment and population density. DPI also requests an increase in the reimbursement rate for pupils transported over 12 miles from $275 to $300 per pupil in both Fiscal Year 16 and Fiscal Year 17 and an increase of roughly $5 million for high cost transportation aid to increase the reimbursement rate for high cost transportation aid from 32.5% (in FY14) to 50% of eligible costs.

Common School Fund Re-estimate

DPI projects that Common School Fund revenues will increase by $6 million during the 2015-17 biennium. As a result, school library aid is estimated to be $34 million in 2015-16 and $36 million in 2016-17.

Special Education Funding

DPI requests an increase of approximately $85.7 million for special education funding. The increased funding will allow DPI to raise the reimbursement rate for schools districts to 28 percent in Fiscal Year 16 and 30 percent in Fiscal Year 17. DPI requests an additional $14.4 million to fully fund high-cost special education during the 2015-17 biennium. DPI also proposes changing current open enrollment policy to improve access to the program for students with disabilities and eliminate undue financial burdens by establishing a $12,000 open enrollment transfer amount for students with disabilities.

Career Readiness

The Department requests $5,848,000 for a new grant to provide a $1,000 per student incentive payment to school districts based on post-secondary education and employment outcomes for students with disabilities.  DPI also requests $1,500,000 for a new categorical aid program to improve special education job development capabilities of school districts and/or (Cooperative Educational Service Agencies) CESAs.  DPI requests $4,000,000 to provide resources for school districts to offer bridge support to pupils to develop essential skills such as reading, writing, and oral communication, at the same time that pupils are developing technical employment skills as part of a career pathway.

STEM Education

DPI requests $700,000 annually for the purpose of establishing WisSTEM, a STEM Education Center with the primary focus of building a pool of educators that are well-versed in STEM concepts. With this funding, WisSTEM would be able to support districts statewide to enhance their science, technology, engineering, and mathematics courses and to offer advanced classes that requires students to synthesize knowledge across these four subjects. In addition to the WisSTEM Center, DPI is requesting $500,000 to provide STEM grants directly to school districts.

Parental Choice Program

Currently, the state is responsible for funding approximately 70% of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program. In its budget request, DPI recommends increasing the state’s share of funding to 100% in order to ease the property tax burden on Milwaukee taxpayers. The state already funds 100% of the Racine and Wisconsin choice programs.  DPI is also requesting an additional $54 million to fund the Milwaukee, Racine and Wisconsin Parental Choice program during this budget cycle. This puts state aid at $249 million at the end of the 2015-17 biennium. DPI is also requesting several statutory changes be made to the program, including adding a requirement that a school must be in existence for at least two years before it can receive parental choice participants and removing current statutory language that allows participating schools to charge students tuition in addition to their choice payments.

Gifted and Talented Program

DPI requests an additional $1.5 million for the gifted and talented program.

Reading Proficiency Grant

DPI requests $500,000 to provide an annual grant to Milwaukee Succeeds to support its efforts to improve reading outcomes for pupils by the end of third grade.

Categorical Aids

DPI is also requesting increases for several categorical aid programs, such as the school breakfast program and Bilingual-Bicultural Education Supplemental Aid.

ACT Assessment Suite and Smarter Balanced Assessment

The state added funding for schools to administer the ACT assessment suite in the last state budget. DPI is requesting increased funding to account for the rising cost of administering the exams in the testing suite. They also request the elimination of the requirement that the ASPIRE exam be administered in the fall of ninth grade.  DPI is also requesting additional funds to fully fund the Smarter Balanced Assessment that is administered in grades three, four and eight.

Teacher Licensing Backlog

The processing time for most teacher licenses is estimated at 12 to 13 weeks. DPI is requesting a permanent 1.0 FTE Education Specialist to conduct background checks, a permanent 1.0 FTE Education Specialist to conduct five year renewal applications, and a permanent 1.0 FTE Education Specialist to conduct follow-up on out-of-state applications in an effort to ease the backlog. Teacher certification program revenue would be used to fund these positions.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

2015-16 Legislative Leadership Finalized

All of the caucuses have now met to elect party leadership for the 2015-16 legislative session. 

Assembly Republican Leadership:

Speaker: Robin Vos (R-Rochester)
Speaker Pro Temp:  Tyler August (R-Lake Geneva)
Majority Leader: Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna)
Assistant Majority Leader: Dan Knodl (R-Germantown)
Caucus Chair: John Murtha (R-Baldwin)
Caucus Vice Chair: Lee Nerison (R-Westby)
Caucus Secretary: Jesse Rodriguez (R-Franklin)
Caucus Sergeant at Arms: Samantha Kerkman (R-Powers Lake)

 Senate Republican Leadership:

Majority Leader: Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau)
President: Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin)
President Pro Temp: Rick Gudex (R-Fond du Lac)
Assistant Majority Leader: Paul Farrow (R-Pewaukee)
Caucus Chair: Sheila Harsdorf (R-River Falls)
Caucus Vice Chair:  Van Wanggaard (R-Racine)

Assembly Democratic Leadership:

Minority Leader:  Peter Barca (D-Kenosha)
Assistant Minority Leader:  Katrina Shankland (D-Stevens Point)
Minority Caucus Chair:  Andy Jorgensen (D-Fort Atkinson)
Minority Caucus Vice Chair:  JoCasta Zamarripa (D-Milwaukee)

Senate Democratic Leadership: 

 Minority Leader: Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse)
Assistant Minority Leader: Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay)
Caucus Chair: Julie Lassa (D-Stevens Point)
Caucus Vice Chair: Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma)

Monday, November 10, 2014

Senate and Assembly Republicans Elect Leadership for the 2015-16 Session

Senate and Assembly Republicans have officially elected leadership for the 2015-16 session.

Leadership for the Assembly Republicans is as follows:

Speaker: Robin Vos (R-Rochester)
Speaker Pro Temp:  Tyler August (R-Lake Geneva)
Majority Leader: Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna)
Assistant Majority Leader: Dan Knodl (R-Germantown)
Caucus Chair: John Murtha (R-Baldwin)
Caucus Vice Chair: Lee Nerison (R-Westby)
Caucus Secretary: Jesse Rodriguez (R-Franklin)

Caucus Sergeant at Arms: Samantha Kerkman (R-Powers Lake)

Leadership for the Senate Republicans is:

Majority Leader: Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau)
President: Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin)
President Pro Temp: Rick Gudex (R-Fond du Lac)
Assistant Majority Leader: Paul Farrow (R-Pewaukee)
Caucus Chair: Sheila Harsdorf (R-River Falls)
Caucus Vice Chair:  Van Wanggaard (R-Racine)

Assembly Democrats will elect key leadership on Tuesday and Senate Democrats will elect leadership on Wednesday. 

Other key positions such as  Joint Finance Committee appointments and standing committee chair selections will be made in the coming weeks. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Post-Election Wrap Up

Governor Walker easily fended off a challenge from Mary Burke Tuesday night to win his second term as Wisconsin governor by a vote of 52%-47%. While turnout was incredibly high for a gubernatorial race with approximately 54% of voters casting a ballot statewide and several precincts experiencing near presidential levels, this race did not end up nearly as close as previously predicted.  

In an address to supporters gathered at State Fair Park, Walker heavily emphasized building the economy and reducing government dependence. “We measure success by how many people are no longer dependent on the government,” he said.

While he has not confirmed his 2016 aspirations yet, Walker did compare Wisconsin to the nation’s capitol numerous times and ended his speech with a rousing call for optimism, saying:  “In Wisconsin and America, we want to be for something not against something.”

The other closely watched statewide race this election cycle ended with Republican Waukesha County District Attorney Brad Schimel handily defeating Democrat Jefferson County District Attorney Susan Happ, 52%-45%, to replace outgoing Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen. Rounding out the statewide races, Democrat Doug La Follette will continue his 40-year career as Secretary of State; and Republican Matt Adamczyk will fill the open State Treasurer position, which he has pledged to eliminate. Schimel, La Follette and Adamczyk will serve on the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands, which administers the Common School Fund. 

On the federal level, State Senator Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend) successfully won his bid to fill the 6th Congressional District seat being vacated by Congressman Thomas Petri. He beat Winnebago County Executive Mark Harris, 58%-40%. A special election will need to be held in the 20th Senate District to fill Grothman’s state senate seat. All other congressional incumbents were up for and won re-election Tuesday night.

Turning to the statehouse, Republicans continued their domination of the state legislature.

Several open seats were up for grabs Tuesday in the State Senate. Republicans went into Election Day with 17-15 majority and one vacant seat. While the state senate races did not produce any real surprises, they did result in several promotions for current state representatives. Republicans were able to pick up one seat in the 21st Senate District where Van Wangaard was victorious in the race to fill John Lehman’s (D-Racine) vacant seat.  Republicans will start the 2015-17 legislative session with a 19-14 majority.

     In the closely watched race to replace retiring Senate President Mike Ellis (R-Neenah), Roger Roth (R-Appleton) was able to win out over State Representative Penny Bernard Schaber (D-Appleton), 57%-43%.
     Former State Senator Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) will return to the state senate after defeating Randy Bryce (D-Racine), 63%-47% to fill John Lehman’s open senate seat.
     Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) defeated Martha Lanning (D-Sheboygan), 63%-37% to replace outgoing Senator Joe Leibham (R-Sheboygan), who lost a congressional bid to Glenn Grothman this summer.
     State Representative Steve Nass (R-Whitewater) beat Dan Kilkenny (D-Delavan), 63%-47%, to replace Senator Neal Kedzie (R-Elkhorn) who resigned earlier this year.
     State Representative Janis Ringhand (D-Evansville) was successful in her bid to replace retiring State Senator Tim Cullen (D-Janesville). She beat Brian Fitzgerald (R-Janesville), 59%-41%.
     State Representative Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green) defeated newcomer Pat Bomhack (D-Spring Green), 55%-45%, to replace retiring State Senator Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center).
     State Representative Janet Bewley (D-Ashland) will replace retiring State Senator Bob Jauch (D-Poplar) after defeating Dane Deutsch (R-Rice Lake), 51%-49%. 

In the Assembly, Republicans have likely improved upon their already impressive 60-38 majority by picking up three seats in the 70th, 75th and 85th districts. While races in the 75th and 85th districts are within the margin for a recount and still too close to call, Republican candidates Todd Novak and Dave Heaton lead by 59 and 86 votes, respectively.  If these results hold, Republicans will go into the 2015-17 session with a 63-36 majority.

     In a tight race to replace retiring State Representative Fred Clark (D-Baraboo), Dave Considine (D-Baraboo) was able to retain the seat for Democrats by defeating Ashton Kirsch (R-Baraboo), 54%-46%.
     On her second attempt, Nancy Vander Meer (R-Tomah) succeeded in unseating State Representative Amy Sue Vruwink (D-Milladore), 53%-47%, in the 70th Assembly District.
     Romaine Quinn (R-Rice Lake) upset freshman State Representative Steve Smith (D-Shell Lake), 55%-45% in the 75th Assembly District.
     In a very close race to fill newly-elected State Senator Howard Marklein’s seat, it appears that Dodgeville Mayor Todd Novak (R-Dodgeville) will become the first openly gay republican state representative to be elected to the Assembly.  He currently leads Dick Cates (D-Spring Green), by 59 votes. 
     In the final potential upset of the night, Dave Heaton (R-Wausau) leads freshman State Representative Mandy Wright (D-Wausau) by 86 votes.

     Democrats did technically pick up a seat in Madison’s 78th District where Lisa Subeck (D-Madison) will fill Brett Hulsey’s (I-Madison) vacant seat. Hulsey had previously been part of the Democratic caucus but changed his party affiliation to Independent after a falling out with party leadership. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Election Day 2014: Informational Voter Guide

Don’t forget to vote tomorrow!

There will be a lot of items on your ballot on Election Day, including the hotly contested gubernatorial race between Governor Scott Walker and Mary Burke. In addition, the lieutenant governor, every member of the state Assembly, state senators from odd-numbered districts, the state treasurer, attorney general and secretary of state are all up for election tomorrow. On the federal level, there is no U.S. Senate race this year, but every member of the U.S. House of Representatives is up for re-election.

There is also a state constitutional amendment to establish a state transportation fund in the constitution and specify that any money deposited in the fund may only be used for transportation-related purposes. The Government Accountability Board has prepared an informational document on the referendum here.  Several counties throughout the state are voting on referendum questions concerning the minimum wage and Medicaid expansion.

Here are some important things to remember before you head to the polls:

Voter ID

On Thursday, October 9, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an order blocking implementation of Wisconsin’s voter ID law.  As a result, voters will not be required to show a photo ID at the polls on Election Day.   For up-to-date information on the state’s voter ID law, visit

Polling Place Hours

Polls are open from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m.

Finding Your Polling Place

To find your polling place and see what will be on your ballot, visit

Registering at the Polls

If you are not registered to vote at your current address or have changed your name since the last election, you may register at the polls on Election Day. When you arrive at your polling place, you will need to fill out a voter registration form and provide proof of residence. Acceptable forms of proof of residence must contain the voter’s name and current address. Some examples of acceptable proof of residence documents are: a current and valid Wisconsin driver’s license, a bank statement, a paycheck, a residential lease that is in effect on Election Day, a utility bill issued within the last 90 days. For a full list of acceptable proof of residence documents, please visit

Wisconsin law requires voters to reside at their current address for at least 28 days to be eligible to vote at that address. If you have not lived at your current address for 28 days, you may still vote from your previous address.

If you have any questions about voting in Wisconsin, you can contact:

The Government Accountability Board Help Desk: 608-261-2028.