The Wisconsin Assembly joined the Senate last night in passing a budget repair bill. In the Assembly, the Madison delegation was split. Governor Doyle has promised swift action, including some vetoes. Some democrats are saying they will vote to override (some?, all?) vetoes.
The bill is not great for schools. One good thing is the measure closing the “Wal-Mart Loophole.” If we are going to move toward better school funding, fairer tax policies have to part of the answer. Not so great is shifting $125 million from state aids to local school taxes. This will make passing referenda more difficult.
Madison Superintendent Art Rainwater sent a message to Governor Doyle about another bad provision, this one further limits phase in funding for school districts wishing to start 4 year-old kindergarten programs.
May 15, 2008
Governor Jim Doyle
115 East – State Capitol
Madison, WI 53702
Dear Governor Doyle,
I am requesting that you use your partial veto powers to improve the unnecessarily restrictive 4-year old kindergarten language contained in the budget repair bill.
The provision allows for a 5-year phase-in of 4K programs only for school districts that are operating a 4K program during the 2007-08 school year. This language would only benefit a handful of school districts. Allowing all school districts to phase-in 4K programs would assist districts, such as Madison, in potentially moving forward with 4K programs and assist your laudable goal of expanded early childhood opportunities for our state’s children.
Madison Schools has worked with local child care providers to lay the groundwork for a 4K program, but is substantially stymied by funding problems. The inequity in K4 funding should be fixed in the 2009-2011 biennial budget. It is fundamentally wrong for a Milwaukee voucher school to be able to start a 4K program and September and receive the full state reimbursement by the following June – public schools should have the same opportunity.
Please veto the 4K language to allow all school districts the opportunity to phase in a 4K program over a 5-year period. Thank you for your steadfast support of K-12 public education.
The consensus in Madison is growing that we need need to do this in the very near future. If this measure goes through, it will be nearly impossible.
Doyle issued his veto message. He did not go along with the legislature on the school aid payments, but he did OK the limit on 4K phase in funding. This is not good news for the future of 4K in Madison and the state.
Thomas J. Mertz