Republican lawmakers writing the next state budget voted Monday to include a $639 million funding increase for Wisconsin schools — about $10 million less than the record amount Gov. Scott Walker proposed earlier this year.
The budget-writing committee also increased the household income limits for participation in the statewide private voucher school program.
The 2017-19 spending plan also sets up a timeline for a potential turnaround program for the Racine School District and limits the number of times a school district can ask voters to raise property taxes to pay for building projects and school operations.
The GOP plan allows school districts that spend less per student than the average to raise their property taxes, eliminates expiration dates for teacher and school administrator licenses and gives about $9 million to public and private schools to buy computers for ninth-graders.
The Racine Unified School District looks as if it could get a pass for one more year on the threat of a possible state takeover of several of its underperforming schools.
But to completely avoid a possible takeover, the School Board will have to make its employee handbook compliant with the state’s Act 10 law, which prohibits collective bargaining for public employees.
As part of an omnibus education provision, the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee on Monday voted to delay the creation of an Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program by one year. If approved by the full Legislature as an amendment to the state’s 2017-19 biennial budget, the delay would help Racine Unified and other school districts which received a failing grade last year from the state Department of Public Instruction.
Unified has been lobbying local legislators to include the change to the current law, which states if a school receives a failing grade from the state two years in a row, then the opportunity schools provision will go into effect. That would mean underperforming schools would be pulled from the school district and a commissioner would be put in charge of those schools. The commissioner would be appointed by the county executive from a pool of candidates chosen by a city’s mayor, the governor and county executive.
The drive to improve the way Wisconsin redraws its district maps is rapidly gaining speed.
Using advanced mathematical modeling, Republicans have gerrymandered the state’s current political map so that 40 percent of its districts do not have competitive elections.
The winners have already been chosen by the way that boundaries were drawn.
In the first eight months of this year, a total of 17 counties in Wisconsin have endorsed the Iowa Model, and 7 counties endorsed it in previous years, so 24 counties are now on board. Three counties – Kenosha, La Crosse, and Monroe — have passed resolutions saying they are in favor of nonpartisan redistricting in just the past few weeks.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tony Evers said he would renegotiate the Foxconn deal if he’s elected governor in 2018.
Evers, the state’s DPI superintendent since 2009, appeared on “UPFRONT with Mike Gousha,” produced in partnership with Wispolitics.com.
Evers said he would renegotiate whichever parts of the deal could be renegotiated.
“I don’t think it’s a fair deal for the people of Wisconsin,” Evers said. “I think it’s a bit of a Hail Mary pass. Three billion dollars, without environmental restrictions on the company and no guarantees on the number of jobs.”
The Foxconn Technology Group deal could drop a multibillion-dollar dilemma onto one of the two southeastern Wisconsin counties competing to land it.
The sheer size of the deal — and the state’s complex tax laws — might leave municipal and county officials in the winning community with a tricky decision.
During the development’s early years, they could be tempted to raise taxes on existing homeowners to ensure services keep up with the rapid growth around the Foxconn development. If they wait, these local officials would lose their ability to do so later on because of state property tax caps.
“You could see a big (property tax) increase and residents aren’t going to be happy with that,” said Dale Knapp, research director of the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, who examined the issue at the request of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
The Legislature’s budget-writing committee will vote Monday on a spending plan for the state’s K-12 schools, moving the weeks-overdue state budget closer to passage — but details of the education package are still unclear.
“For the most part, stay tuned,” said Joint Finance Committee co-chair Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, when asked on Thursday what will be included in the plan the committee will consider.
Nygren said not much has changed since the state Senate and Assembly released competing education packages earlier this summer. Lawmakers have agreed to keep intact an increase in categorical aid proposed in Gov. Scott Walker’s original budget, Nygren said.
The budget will also likely include a measure to allow low spending districts to raise their revenue limits, both Nygren and co-chair Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, said.