Given that Gov. Tony Evers is a former state superintendent of public instruction, it’s no surprise his second biennial budget proposal is full of education initiatives.
Many of those proposals, however, are not likely to remain intact when the Republican-led state Senate and Assembly begin writing their version of the budget. Those bodies will have to reach an agreement and approve a budget to send to Evers.
While the governor has a relatively strong veto power here, adding some of his initiatives back in at that point is much more legally fraught and unlikely to hold up in court challenges.
Here's how the proposals, as laid out by Evers in his budget, would affect the Madison Metropolitan School District if enacted.
When the state revamped its school financing system in the 1990s, it committed to funding two-thirds of K-12 education costs through the state budget via a combination of state aid and local property taxes.
Since the early 2000s, however, the state has failed to do that, beginning with the 2003-05 budget under Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle. According to Politifact, the state covered 65.4% in 2018-19, under republican Gov. Scott Walker, and the budget approved in 2019, under Evers, covered 65.3% in 2019-20 and 65.5% in 2020-21.
Increasing that to two-thirds would allow MMSD and all districts across the state to increase their revenue and fulfill a 2018 campaign promise from Evers — a promise that also came from Walker, who Evers defeated.
Assembly Republicans have said publicly in the past they supported the idea and saw it as an area in which they could work with Evers. Rep. Mark Born, a co-chair of the Joint Finance Committee, said during a WisPolitics Q&A Thursday it was “premature” to commit to the two-thirds funding, though investing in education is a “priority” for his caucus.
Per-pupil revenue limit change
Among the initiatives spurred by the COVID-19 crisis and large fluctuations in school enrollment, Evers’ budget would give districts flexibility in which years they count for revenue purposes.
The revenue limit, which is the maximum amount a district can take in per student between state aid and local property taxes, is based on a three-year rolling average of enrollment as well as 40% of summer school enrollment. Evers proposes to let districts choose between the 2019-20 and 2020-21 enrollments, whichever is greater, as part of their rolling average through the 2023-24 school year.
In MMSD, that’s a 1,006-student difference for the school year calculation. The district saw a significant drop to 25,877 students in the September 2020 “third Friday count.”
With Evers’ proposal that the revenue limit increase $200 per pupil increase for the 2021-22 school year, using 2019-20 instead of 2020-21 numbers would mean a difference of tens of thousands of dollars for the 2021-22, 2022-23 and 2023-24 school years.
Special adjustment aid
Evers’ proposal would also limit the cut a district could see in state aid from one year to the next.
Under current law, districts are protected from having any cut in state aid greater than 15% from one school year to the next. MMSD has faced that maximum cut repeatedly in recent years as property values grow.
Under Evers’ budget, however, districts would receive a maximum cut of 10% for the 2021-22 and 2022-23 school years. The maximum would return to 15% for the 2023-24 school year.
Evers’ proposal to fully-fund 4-year-old kindergarten programming would come at a convenient time for MMSD.
The state currently counts 4K students as 0.5 or 0.6 of a full-time student for state aid and revenue cap purposes. That leads many districts, including MMSD, to limit their offerings to half-day programs.
But full-day 4K has been a priority topic of conversation in MMSD in recent years, and the district is preparing to pilot it at a few schools, with or without the state aid changes. Evers’ proposal would count 4K students in a five-day-a-week, full-day program as a full student.
If the state started counting those students as 1.0 for funding purposes, it would free up funding the district had planned to commit to that program for other opportunities.
Evers is proposing to eliminate the Office of Educational Opportunity, a body that authorizes independent charter schools.
The OEO has authorized three charters to date, all in Madison: One City Schools, Milestone Democratic School and Isthmus Montessori Academy.
Those schools would be able to operate under their existing charter contracts until they expired, but would not be able to renew or extend the contract with OEO. Instead, they could enter into a contract with other authorizers — local school boards, among them — to continue their operation as a charter school.
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