Democratic Gov. Tony Evers rolled out his biennial budget proposal last week. It includes major investments in public health and criminal justice reform, increases taxes by about $1 billion and repeals some parts of Act 10.
The single largest spending increase proposed by the former state superintendent is in K-12 education: $1.6 billion. Evers is also proposing a $192 million boost for the UW System.
Here’s a breakdown of some of the most significant proposals:
- $613 million increase in general school aid to help restore the state’s commitment to cover 2/3 of school district costs
- $710 million increase for special education, bringing the state’s reimbursement of schools’ special education costs from less than 30% to 50% in FY23
- $47 million in mental health aid to reimburse 10% of school expenditures for social workers, counselors, psychologists and nurses
- $7 million increase for mental health services grants to help rural districts partner with providers
- $28 million increase for English language learners, in conjuction with expanding eligibility for ELL funding
- Targeted $75 per pupil funding for economically disadvantaged students, in addition to per pupil payment for every student of $750
- Fully funding 4-year-old kindergarten
- Revenue limit adjustment of $200 in FY22 and $204 in FY23, then tying revenue limit increases to consumer price index beginning in FY24
- Allowing districts to use the greater of 2019 or 2020 pupil counts in calculation of revenue limits, since many districts experienced enrollment declines due to pandemic
- $20 million increase in sparsity aid for rural districts
- $20 million for energy efficiency grant program that prioritizes projects related to updating heating, ventilation and air conditioning
- $400,000 to provide grants for districts to replace race-based mascots, nicknames or logos
- Repeal Truancy Abatement and Burglary Suppression Program
Parental choice programs
- Cap the number of seats in parental choice programs beginning in FY23, using FY22 headcount
- Require licensure for teachers at private parental choice schools
- Require charter and choice schools to provide American Indian studies instruction
- $20 million increase each year of biennial budget in general operations funding
- $5 million for fellowships and loan assistance for individuals who commit to teach nursing at a UW school for at least three years
- Continue UW System in-state tuition freeze, but fund it with $50 million in state support
- $39 million for UW System tuition promise program that pays tuition and fees for students with household income of $60,000 or less
- Provide UW System with bonding authority
- $10 million for UW System student mental and behavioral health services
- $5 million for UW System prison baccalaureate degree program
- $36 million general aid increase for Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS)
- Offer in-state tuition for Native American students who are members of tribes in states contiguous with Wisconsin or who are members of one of Wisconsin’s federally recognized Indian nations or tribal communities
- Offer in-state tuition to undocumented students who meet certain requirements
Republicans in the Legislature are skeptical of Evers' plan. Joint Committee on Finance co-chairs Mark Born and Howard Marklein spoke last week during a WisPolitics event. Sen. Marklein called Evers’ budget “a liberal’s dream” and Rep. Born called it a “spending spree.”
When it comes to education, Marklein said Republicans are considering how to encourage schools to reopen for in-person instruction.
"I believe strongly that we need to get our kids back in school," Marklein said. "So while we haven’t talked about any specifics in our caucus on K-12 funding, I think that the idea of providing incentives or whatever for our kids to be back in school is something that we may be considering."
In 2019, Evers proposed a $1.4 billion increase for K-12 schools. Republicans cut it down to $500 million, and Evers used his veto pen to bring the number up to $570 million.
The Joint Committee on Finance will hold public hearings this spring to hear what Wisconsinites want in the next state budget. If all goes according to plan, the budget will go into effect July 1.
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