Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Senate Republicans Release Their Own Budget, Includes Funding for Ed Tech

Senate Republicans released their own budget proposal Tuesday afternoon in an attempt to end the standoff between the Assembly and Senate over the future of transportation funding in Wisconsin. The plan incorporates everything already approved by the Joint Finance Committee and puts forward the Senate’s own proposal for transportation, K-12 education and taxes.  During a press conference held Tuesday to unveil the plan, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said the goal is to get the Joint Finance Committee back in to finish the budget and that “this puts it back in the Assembly’s court.” Joint Finance Co-Chair Alberta Darling defended the Senate’s decision to include new bonding in the transportation budget, calling the Assembly’s opposition to bonding “totally unrealistic.”

In a letter to Speaker Vos, Fitzgerald says that the Senate has “confirmed that Governor Walker believes this proposal meets his key priorities of funding k-12 education, holding the line on property taxes, and insuring sound investments in transportation without raising taxes.” Fitzgerald also indicated that the K-12 education proposal in the Senate’s budget was negotiated with the Assembly.

Items of interest to WEMTA in the proposal include:

·        Increased K-12 education funding. The Senate adopts the Governor’s proposal to increase per pupil aid payments from $250 to $450 per pupil in 2017-18 and $654 per pupil in 2018-19. The Senate’s proposal also deletes the Governor’s recommendation to require districts to certify that they are in compliance with Act 10 in order to receive the increased funding.

·         New funding for 1-to-1 devices. The proposal includes $9.2 million in new funding to provide grants to school districts to be used for purchasing personal electronic computing devices. However, unlike the proposal put forward by the Assembly, the Senate’s version does not include detailed criteria for how the money could be spent. Payments would equal $125 per 9th grade student and require schools to put forward matching funds.

·         New funding of $1.75 million to contract with a single provider of information technology education for public school students in grades 6-12, technical college students and library patrons.

·         Includes full funding of Newsline for the Blind and Library Service Contracts.

·        One-time funding of $1 million to the Wisconsin Reading Corps one-on-one AmeriCorps tutoring program.

·         New funding for a shared services pilot program that would allow districts to share certain administrative positions, including information technology coordinators.

·         $1 million in funding for a new Rural School Teacher Talent Pilot Program.

·         An expansion of the income eligibility limit for the statewide school choice program from 185% of the Federal Poverty Level to 220% of the Federal Poverty Level. This change is estimated to result in an additional 550 pupils participating in the program.

·         A new provision that would allow private school choice schools to offer virtual education.
·         Changes to the revenue limit for low-spending school districts.

·        Requires DPI to update their rules related to teacher licenses to simplify the process as much as possible.

·         A modification to the Governor’s proposal to eliminate expiration dates for teacher’s licenses. The Senate proposal requires a provisional three-year license for new teachers or administrators. After six successful semesters, a lifetime license would be granted. The Senate’s proposal would also allow individuals to complete an “alternative teacher preparation program.”

·         Limits to school district referenda scheduling, which would only allow districts to hold referenda on regularly scheduled election days.

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