Education spending, recurring problems with revenue shared at the budget hearing

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WAUKESHA — The Joint Finance Committee spent eight hours hearing from Wisconsin during its first budget hearing at the Waukesha Expo Center on Wednesday.

Sen. Howard Marklin (R-Green Spring) and Rep. Mark Born (R-Beaver Dam) did not offer specific thoughts on individual budget items before the session began, saying they were still in the “gathering” stage.

“We haven’t really started active discussions and negotiations on specific amounts on things in the budget. That really comes after this month’s activity, after that information was collected,” Bourne said. “This is the next phase and we’re certainly looking forward to that but we don’t want to pass up these opportunities to hear from Wisconsinians.”

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Representative Mark Bourne and Sen. Howard Marklin speak to the press before the hearing begins. (Baylor Spurs | Wisconsin Examiner)

Wisconsin residents — who had two minutes each to make their case — rolled out increased revenue caps for schools, raised special education payments, increased shared revenue funding, a childcare number program, and expanded childcare.

Lawmakers did not comment between speakers as many people are scheduled to speak. At 2:48 p.m., the committee had just been hearing from speakers who had taped at 8:30 a.m.—an hour and a half before the session was due to start—and the committee had to extend the session by an additional hour.

Public school advocates, superintendents and other officials have urged lawmakers to include increases in maximum spending per pupil, funding for special education and mental health investments in the budget.

Students deserve good teachers, small classes, librarians, music and art teachers, and adequate funding for private education, Bob Peterson, president of the Milwaukee Public School Board, said during a news conference.

“We need the Joint Finance Committee and the state legislature—which has a moral, civil, and legal responsibility—to provide adequate funding for all public schools throughout Wisconsin,” Peterson said. Public schools have been and should remain the cornerstone of our democracy. Please, please provide a real lesson in civics for all of our students in Wisconsin and adequately fund our public schools.”

Advocates said they were asking the commission to either meet or exceed the limit set forth in Governor Tony Evers’ budget proposal.

keep up with inflation

Evers Proposal An increase of more than $2.6 billion in the total for public schools, including $1 billion for the state’s general equivalency aid formula, more than $1 billion in funding for private education and an increase in per-pupil school revenue limit by $350 in the first year of the budget and an additional $650 in the second year.

Raising spending caps on aid is especially important because it didn’t happen in the last budget, executive director of the Wisconsin Public Education Network Heather Dubois-Bornan said at a news conference.

“Raising revenue limits to allow counties to spend the aid they receive is critical, and that’s what the state didn’t do in the previous budget,” Dubois-Bornan said. “It was basically a local property tax exemption disguised as government aid.”

Republicans included an increase in school aid during the last budget, but not an increase in the amount districts were allowed to spend per student. The extra aid can only be used for property tax cuts for those areas that have already reached their spending cap.

DuBois Bourenane also said it would take at least a $1,500 increase per student just to keep up with inflation since the last budget.

“Anything less is a cutoff,” said Dubois-Bornan. “If we don’t match the inflationary needs of our children and their public schools, we’re taking resources away, and that’s our minimum expectation.”

Rebecca Tewitz, superintendent of DeForest Public Schools, said the increases will help schools cover staffing, transportation and energy costs, while making up for years of not adequately funding public schools. She also highlighted the importance of increasing private education payments from 30 cents to 60 cents in the first year of the budget and to 90 cents in the second year.

Twitz told the commission her district raised hourly wages last year, but even after that schools still had vacancies and a “revolving door” in assistant positions.

Endangering special education

“This puts the entire special education program at risk when students experience constant changes with the turnover rate of their support staff,” said Tuetz. Special education teachers also begin to burn out as they work to recruit, train and retain their assistants. If private education is fully funded, it will allow districts to pay competitive wages, provide paid training days and purchase high-quality materials to meet the unique needs of our students.”

A large group of attendees wearing green shirts called for more spending on private schools and private schools. Anthony McHenry, CEO of the Milwaukee Academy of Sciences, said the group is looking for “equal school funding.” He said charter schools and private schools should have the same amount of funding per pupil as public schools.

“At the very least, what that allows us to serve our existing children is, and to provide more support and better resources for our children and staff,” McHenry said. “but [it] It may also create opportunities to be able to expand and serve more children.”

Republican lawmakers have said in the past that they would like to see an expansion of Wisconsin’s School Choice program along with investments in public schools.

An appeal to expand Medicaid

Many attendees spoke of the importance of Wisconsin joining the 40 other states that have already accepted federal Medicaid expansion.

“Just last week, North Carolina accepted an expansion of Medicaid,” Dr. Lynne Curry of Germantown told the panel. “Expanding Medicaid — or Badgercare — will bring coverage to nearly 90,000 Wisconsin. As you all know, it will bring billions of dollars to our state in federal support and state aid.”

Evers did it again and again Proposal Taking the federal Medicaid expansion.

Becky Cooper, a member of the Main Street Alliance, an organization that advocates for small businesses, said the expansion could help her employees access healthcare. She said she employs 27 people at her company, Bounce MKE. While her business offers to pay 80% of her employees’ health insurance, she said it remains out of reach for some of her employees because the cost of private health insurance is so expensive.

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Becky Cooper of the Main Street Alliance called for an expansion of Medicaid before the hearing began. (Baylor Spurs | Wisconsin Examiner)

“Expanding BadgerCare means we will have more employees who will have Medicare coverage,” Cooper said. “To me, that means employees who use fewer sick days because they take care of their health issues before they become important. It means we have employees who take care of mental health needs, cover their children as needed, and it also takes a financial burden off us so that we can use those money wiser way.”

Several local government officials, including Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson, have spoken of the strain that funding shortfalls over the past several decades have placed on local governments including fire services and public safety.

“The 2023-2025 state budget is an opportunity for us to have stable future local governments delivering essential services…to our residents and visitors,” Johnson said. “My top priority as mayor of the City of Milwaukee is to increase public safety as well as address the city’s financial situation. By supporting increased shared revenue within the state budget, you can enable all communities throughout the entire city of Wisconsin to invest in their essential services.”

Increase joint revenue

Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow asked lawmakers to keep shared revenue a top priority, and talked about how parts of local government budgets are consumed by mandates not funded by the state. Farrow said a shared revenue formula could be needed to help local municipalities.

“In Waukesha County, 42% of mandates are paid for from the state through our estate taxes,” Farrow said. “We’re funding these priorities, which may or may not be the priorities of county or local components.”

Evers proposed increasing state aid to local governments by more than $500 million by allocating 20% ​​of Wisconsin sales tax revenue to joint revenue. The plan would potentially allow local governments to see an annual increase in the amount they receive from the state because sales tax revenue tends to grow each year.

“We’ve seen great effort and great work on the shared revenue formula, and I appreciate the leadership from the many individuals here on the stage who have taken it upon themselves to look at this change,” Farrow said. “We heard in the governor’s budget plan that he’s looking at changing his common revenue plan. I hope you’ll continue to look at the common revenue plan and make sure we have an opportunity as local municipalities and counties to share the strength we have across Waukesha County.”

Some of the other issues raised in the session included Evers’ motion to introduce it driving licences For everyone, funded child care programme and funding mental health priorities.

JFC will host Three more hearings All month long in Eau Claire, Wisconsin Dells, and Minocqua. The committee would then spend the next several months debating and rewriting Evers’ proposed budget. Republican leaders on the committee said they plan to start from scratch.

Once the JFC has finished its work, the legislature will vote on the spending plan and send it to Evers for signature. The budget deadline is July 1.

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