Monday, February 9, 2015

Governor Walker's Proposed 2015-17 state budget

Governor Walker released his proposed 2015-17 state budget February 3, which maintains funding for BadgerLink and Public Library Aid and makes changes to the TEACH program, by broadening existing statutory language, so more schools can request access to multiple data lines and video links. In addition, the proposed budget includes several initiatives related to broadband expansion. For a general overview of what the Governor's proposed budget includes, you can view his executive budget summary or the Budget in Brief. We have provided a few snapshots of the general Department of Public Instruction budget below. 

Now that the budget has been introduced, the powerful Joint Finance Committee (JFC) will begin reviewing the document. JFC will hold hearings with state agency leaders, conduct several public hearings throughout the state and then make modifications to the proposed budget. After JFC finishes its work in May, the bill goes to the Senate and Assembly for approval.

Meanwhile, the State Legislature will continue to work. Representative Michael Schraa (R-Oshkosh) and Senator Rick Gudex (R-Fond du Lac) have introduced Assembly Joint Resolution 5 and Senate Joint Resolution 4, respectively, which eliminate the office of State Treasurer. Under their proposal, the Lieutenant Governor takes the place of the State Treasurer on the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands, which administers the Common School Fund. WEMTA’s Legislative Committee will closely monitor this legislation. 

School Choice Expansion

The Governor's proposed budget removes the enrollment caps on the school choice program and increases funding for school choice. Participation in the program is currently capped at 1,000 students.

Charter School Oversight Board

The Governor recommends creating a charter school oversight board, which would have responsibility for approving new independent charter school authorizers, and increasing funding for independent charter schools to reflect an anticipated increase in enrollment.

School Accountability

The Governor recommends the implementation of new school and district accountability measures and increasing funding for assessments and assessment analysis necessary for the accountability system. The Governor also recommends school and district report cards include letter grades. The Governor further recommends that schools and districts be allowed to choose which assessments are administered to their students.  In addition, Governor recommends that the State Superintendent be prohibited from adopting SMARTER Balanced Assessments and participating in the SMARTER Balanced Consortium. The Governor recommends that school districts notify parents of the school district's and school's report card grades and the academic standards to be used for the upcoming school year. Lastly, the Governor recommends that the department and school boards provide information regarding the educational options available to children between the ages of 3 and 18.

Alternative Teacher License

The Governor recommends creating an alternative teaching license under which any person who has a bachelor's degree, relevant experience and demonstrated proficiency in a subject may receive a license to teach the relevant subject to students in grades 6 through 12.

CESA Participation

This proposed budget makes school board participation in a cooperative educational service agency (CESA) optional.

Common Core State Standards

The proposed budget prohibits the state superintendent from requiring a school district to adopt or implement the common core standards.

Secretary of State Efficiencies

The Governor recommends reducing position and expenditure authority related to the assistant secretary of state. The Governor also recommends moving the office to the state capitol building to be co-located with the Office of State Treasurer. The Governor further recommends reducing the amount transferred to the office by the Department of Financial Institutions from $325,000 to $150,000. Finally, the Governor recommends transferring the authority to record municipal boundary changes to the Department of Administration to consolidate the process in one agency.

Read to Lead

The Governor recommends transferring the Read to Lead Development Council and its appropriations to the Department of Children and Families and appointing the secretary of DCF as chairperson.

Other highlights include:

   Provide $6 million of new funding from the Universal Service Fund cash balance to the Broadband Expansion Grant Program. In addition, increase flexibility for the Public Service Commission in using current funds over the biennium and redirect unused funds from other Universal Service Fund appropriations to the broadband expansion grant program.

·         Tuition freezes for the UW System and high-demand programs at Technical Colleges

·         $300 million cut to the UW System and the creation of a public authority model

·         The budget does not include significant increases to K-12 public education funding and it modifies the way per pupil aid is calculated. It also does not include Superintendent Evers's proposal to create grants for the consortia purchasing of e-publications.

·         State Aid to the public library system is set at roughly $15 million in each year of the biennium

·         The Governor recommends offering a $2,000 annual incentive for employees who opt out of the state health insurance program.