Governor Evers signed the 2019-21 state budget bill into law with partial vetoes on Wednesday afternoon.
While Evers said the budget fell short in many areas, he believed that vetoing it in its entirety would have led to more division.
“This budget is a down payment on The People’s Budget and the priorities of the people of Wisconsin,” said Governor Evers. “Today I am signing a better version of the Legislature’s budget with the understanding that we are nowhere near where we need to be, and there is more work for us to do.”
Evers vetoed 78 items from the bill as passed by the Legislature. Some of WEMTA’s priority items were impacted by vetoes (full details below). Specifically, Governor Evers vetoed out funding for the Personal Electronic Computing Device Grant Program. He also used his partial veto power to increase funding for per pupil aid payments (it is estimated that this change will increase per pupil payments by $87 million).
Evers has pledged to continue working to expand Medicaid, enact non-partisan redistricting reform, reform the school funding formula and provide student debt relief.
Items of Interest to WEMTA in the budget as signed into law (updated budget summary attached):
Eliminates the TEACH Educational Technology Training Grants. Eliminates the TEACH Educational Technology Training Grants. These grants provided $1.5 million in yearly funding to eligible rural school districts and libraries to provide training to teachers and librarians on the use of educational technology.
Eliminates Funding for Personal Electronic Computing Device (1:1) Grant program. Governor Evers used his partial veto authority to eliminate funding for the Personal Electronic Computing Device Grant Program in both years of the budget. In his veto message, Evers said: “I believe that districts may choose to invest in technology through flexibility provided by the revenue limit increase and through the existing TEACH program. Further, these funds could more effectively be spent on programs that close achievement gaps.” This grant program provided $9.2 million in yearly funding for the purchase of student one-to-one devices (laptops, Chromebooks, tablets, etc.) and supporting software, curriculum, and training.
Transfers $44 million of e-rate funds, which are used to support telecommunications services in schools and libraries, to fund Broadband Expansion Grants. The budget transfers $44 million in e-rate funds to the Broadband Expansion Grant program. E-rate provides discounts for telecommunications, Internet access and internal connections to schools and libraries. Currently, schools and libraries are not expressly listed as eligible applicants for the Broadband Expansion grants and state statute requires political subdivisions to partner with a telecommunications company or private organization in order to apply.
Eliminates TEACH Curriculum Grant Program. The budget eliminates the TEACH curriculum grants which support the development and implementation of technology-enhanced high school curriculum. These grants currently provide $25,000 per year to eligible consortia of school districts.
Extends the TEACH Information Technology Infrastructure Block Grant program until June 31, 2021 but reduces funding from $7.5 million per year to $3 million per year. The budget extends the TEACH infrastructure grants until June 31, 2021 but reduces funding for the program. These grants provide technology infrastructure to improve the capacity of rural school districts to utilize technology for students. Eligible purchases include: portable devices/hotspots, routers, access points, cabling, firewall services and other items.
Does not Restore State Funding for the Media Lab run by the Educational Communications Board. The budget as signed into law does not restore state funding for the Media Lab run by the Educational Communications Board. Media Lab funds support Wisconsin-based K-12 educational media production. Governor Evers had proposed re-instating state funding for Media Lab, but the Joint Finance Committee removed that item from the budget.
Maintains Funding for Information Technology Education Grant (Microsoft IT Academy): The final budget provides $875,000 annually to a recipient (currently Microsoft IT Academy) to provide information technology education to public school and technical college students as well as public library patrons.
Fully Funds Library Service Contracts. The budget provides an additional $133,200 in the first year of the biennium and $168,100 in the second year of the biennium to fully fund the library service contracts. The contracts are currently held by: the Milwaukee Public Library (MPL), the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison), the Wisconsin Talking Book and Braille Library (WTBBL), and the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC).
Fully Funds BadgerLink and Newsline for the Blind. The budget provides an additional $345,800 to fully fund BadgerLink contracts and Newsline for the Blind.
Increases Public Library System Aid. The budget increases public library system aid by $1 million per year.