Saturday, September 23, 2017

Governor Walker Signs Budget into Law

Governor Walker officially signed the 2017-19 state budget into law Thursday afternoon at an elementary school in Neenah, Wisconsin.

The two-year spending plans includes a $639 million increase to K-12 education, one of the largest in state history, which Governor Walker touted heavily in his speech.

It also creates a new grant program for schools to purchase one-to-one devices for 9th grade students; increases public library system aid; and provides more funding for broadband and TEACH grants.

Governor Walker did veto several provisions that WEMTA has also been following, including increased funding for low-spending school districts. Joint Finance Committee Co-Chair John Nygren publicly criticized the Governor’s decision to veto that provision, which would  have gradually increased the revenue limit for historically low-spending school districts, saying “as a result, over 200 school districts across the state will lose over $90 million in funding over the next 6 years.” Nygren characterized it as a funding inequity which he said “has existed for over 20 years and under this budget will continue to do so.” Governor Walker said he vetoed the provision because “the result is a substantial increase in property tax capacity that school districts may exercise without voter input.”

The Governor also vetoed two new grant programs created by the Joint Finance Committee that would have provided increased funding for schools that into Whole Grade Sharing or Shared Services arrangements. Walker says, he hopes the funding that had been appropriated for these items (about $2.75 million) can be used instead "to support more effective programs that support rural schools." 

Here are the provisions of interest that Governor Walker vetoed either in whole or in part. 

Low Revenue Adjustment-VETOED in FULL

This section increases the low revenue adjustment for school districts from $9,100 under current
law to $9,300 in fiscal year 2017-18; $9,400 in fiscal year 2018-19; $9,500 in fiscal year
2019-20; $9,600 in fiscal year 2020-21; $9,700 in fiscal year 2021-22; and $9,800 in fiscal year
2022-23 and each year thereafter.

I am vetoing this section entirely because the result is a substantial increase in property tax
capacity that school districts may exercise without voter input. In several school districts that
would be eligible to raise taxes under these sections, referenda to exceed revenue limits already
failed within the past two years. An increase in revenue authority from the state in these districts
would circumvent purposeful, local actions.

It should also be noted that in some cases, the same districts that would have become eligible to
increase their revenues with this adjustment have increased their base revenues at a rate higher
than the state average. This brings into question the need for this adjustment and highlights the
need for local taxpayer input before a revenue limit adjustment is made.

As a result of this veto, the low revenue adjustment level for school districts will remain at
$9,100. School districts across the state will benefit from other significant education investments
in this budget, including meaningful increases in per pupil aid. These per pupil increases are
equal among all school districts. In addition, school districts could pursue an increase in their
revenue limit through a referendum as is the case under current law. In fact, numerous districts
have already done so by asking taxpayers through a referendum. Increases to the low revenue
adjustment can be discussed in future state budgets.

School District Referenda Scheduling--VETOED IN PART

I am partially vetoing these provisions to eliminate the ability of school districts to conduct the
special elections to consider referenda as described above, but maintain the effective date of
January 1, 2018, for the limitations on referendum scheduling. School referenda should be
known and considered by the greatest number of voters possible, and limiting referenda to
regularly scheduled election days will further this principle.

Whole Grade Sharing Aid--VETOED IN FULL

These sections create a grant program in fiscal year 2018-19 for school districts to enter into a
whole grade sharing agreement. Grants of $150 per pupil enrolled in a shared grade would be
provided to school districts in the first four years of the agreement. In the fifth year, grants are
prorated to 50 percent. In addition, the Department of Public Instruction is required to provide a
report to the Joint Committee on Finance by February 1, 2019, regarding the number of grant
applicants, the number of approved whole grade sharing agreements, the names of participating
districts and the grades shared in each district, and how much of the appropriation is awarded or

I am vetoing these sections in their entirety to eliminate the grant program for whole grade
sharing and related reporting requirements. Whole grade sharing is intended to create savings,
which should be a built-in incentive; however, school districts have not taken advantage of whole
grade sharing since it became permissible under 2015 Wisconsin Act 55. Therefore, I believe
these funds can be repurposed to support more effective programs that support rural schools.

Shared Services Aid--VETOED in FULL

These sections create a grant program funded at $2,000,000 in fiscal year 2018-19 for school
districts that share administrative functions with local governments or other school districts.
Grants would be provided in the following amounts during the first three years of an agreement to
share services: $40,000 for sharing a district administrator; $22,500 for sharing a human
resources director, information technology coordinator or business manager; and $17,500 for
other administrative positions, excluding principals and assistant principals. In the fourth year,
grants are prorated to 50 percent, unless the parties to the agreement also are whole grade sharing.
I am vetoing these sections in their entirety to eliminate the grant program for shared services.
Sharing services will create savings for school districts; therefore, providing state grants would
nullify savings to taxpayers that would result from local actions. In addition, I believe these
funds can be repurposed to support more effective programs that support rural schools.

Summer School Grants--VETOED in PART 

This provision creates a grant program in fiscal year 2018-19 for the Milwaukee Public Schools
district and any other school district that receives a "fails to meet expectations" rating on its district report card.

These competitive grants are to be awarded to school districts to increase
attendance, improve low-performing schools, improve academic achievement and expose pupils
to innovative learning activities, all through development, redesign or implementation of a
summer school program.

I am partially vetoing this provision to create a grant to the Milwaukee Public Schools for
summer school programs. The program proposed in my Executive Budget was targeted to the
district to augment the Milwaukee Public Schools district's summer school expansion efforts. I
object to the expansion of eligibility because it will dilute the funding, and therefore
effectiveness, of the funds in the district. I also believe that language specifying outcomes is
unnecessary absent a competitive process, and would diminish the ability of a district to employ
the funds in the most effective way. As a result of this veto, the district will receive a grant of
$1,400,000 in fiscal year 2018-19 for summer school programs, and no other districts will be
eligible to apply for these funds.

Virtual Charter School Funding Study--VETOED in FULL 

This provision requires the Department of Public Instruction to submit a report by January 1,
2019, to the Joint Committee on Finance and appropriate standing legislative committees
comparing open enrollment payments and the actual costs of educating virtual charter school

I am vetoing this provision to eliminate the report. I object to the increased administrative burden
on the department.

You can watch the official bill signing ceremony here:

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