The Legislative Fiscal Bureau has released their analysis of the Governor Jim Doyle’s Budget proposal. The Department of Public Instruction/Schools section is here. I haven’t had time yet to go through all of it, but here are a few excerpts and fewer comments.
Using the definition of partial school revenues as it existed prior to the repeal of the two thirds funding commitment and including the proposed federal general aid funding, the administration estimates that state support of partial school revenues would decrease from 65.8% in 2008-09 to between 63.8% and 65.1% in 2009-10 and to between 62.0% and 63.2% in 2010-11. The low end of the ranges identified by DOA assumes school districts levy to the maximum allowed under revenue limits, while the high end of the range assumes that school districts use all of the increase in their federal Title I and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) funding to reduce their levies. All of these DOA estimates assume the current law revenue limit per pupil adjustment (estimated by DOA to be $277 in 2009-10 and $286 in 2010- 11), the proposed revenue limit modifications, and the state support funding in the bill, which is presented in Table 1 (emphasis added).
Not only is one time revenue being used for ongoing expenses (which may be acceptable in these economic circumstance), but all this revenue is being used to offset state funds. When combined with the “current law” revenue cap increases estimated at $277 and $286 per member for the two years, this shifts the burden to local property taxpayers in significant ways.
However things go down, the state will move further from the 2/3 support concept and consequently the local property tax portion of school revenues will be increasing at a faster rate than the state portion (unless districts don’t tax to the limit, but that has some bad effects in subsequent years). I am still confused about the Governor’s and the LFB thoughts on IDEA and Title I, which appear to be at least partially contrary to the “supplement not supplant” provisions. I do know that there is lobbying going on from many quarters to expand the loopholes and allow more of the stimulus money to be used to fund existing, not expanded programs and services.
There are also some positives. Revenue cap increases are included at past levels, school safety, nurses and transportation are eased; the low revenue ceiling is raised, Special Education isn’t actually cut, SAGE and 4 K are given increases, albeit insufficient ones. It could be worse.
In other areas across the board 1% reductions are called for. This will tough to deal with, but Title I and IDEA stimulus money may fill some gaps. See this chart:
This brings me to the Qualified Economic Offer (QEO).
The Governor has again called for the elimination of the QEO. With the Democrats in control of both houses, this may well be one of the few educational promises they keep. I’m philosophically opposed to the QEO, but I’m philosophically opposed to the revenue caps also and to lift the QEO in absence of comprehensive school finance reform is a recipe for disaster.
Comprehensive reform is what we need. The School Finance Network plan looks like the best shot at making this happen in ways that positive ways. read the proposal, sign on as a supporter and attend the April 21 hearing.
I know that this biennial budget could have been much worse for education in Wisconsin and I am grateful that the “death by 1,000 cuts” status quo was not expanded to “death by 2,000 cuts, or 3.000 cuts…”
I also know that there are a multitude of revenue options that have not been proposed (see the Institute for Wisconsin’s Future (IWF) and the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families (WCCF) Catalog of Tax Reform Options for Wisconsin). Mostly I know that for 15 years education has been eroding in our state because of a broken system that privileges property tax control over education, that “it could of been worse” means little to a student whose educational opportunities are limited by inadequate investments and I know that in two years the stimulus money will be gone and if our state elected officials (they need to earn the term “leaders”) don’t act now to put in place a system of school funding that works for all of Wisconsin’s students things will be much worse than any of us want to imagine.
Thomas J. Mertz
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