A deep dive into the numbers
March 20, 2017
By Ola Lisowski
MacIver Institute Research Associate
[Madison, Wis...] Now that the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau's budget analysis is finally available to the public, let's look back at Gov. Scott Walker's K-12 education proposals for the 2017-19 biennial budget. First, the numbers:
Overall, the Department of Public Instruction sees a large increase of overall funding - $648.2 million more in total school aid than the last budget, a 6.0 percent increase. The biggest single increase comes in the form of $508.7 million for per pupil aid.
Currently, districts receive $250 per pupil in aid. Under the Governor's budget proposal, they would receive $450 per pupil in 2017-18 and $654 per pupil in 2018-19. One major caveat, though, is that districts will need to prove that they're in compliance with Act 10's requirements on employee healthcare contributions in order to receive the extra bump in funding. Act 10 required many public employees to begin paying at least 12 percent of total health care costs, but certain districts, such as Madison Metropolitan, extended their old contracts rather than moving into compliance immediately.
Under the provision, districts will need to certify to DPI that school district employees are paying at least 12 percent of their total health care costs for that school year. If districts don't or can't ensure that their employees are contributing to heath care coverage, they could miss out on the new funding. Madison Metropolitan and Beloit School District are among the districts that are currently not in compliance.
Behind per pupil funding and general school aids, the single largest line-item increase in Walker's proposal is over $20 million for sparsity aid. Under current law, districts qualify for an additional $300 per pupil if they have an enrollment of fewer than 745 pupils and a population density of fewer than 10 pupils per square mile of the district's attendance area. Under the budget proposal, district payments increase to $400 per pupil, and districts with an enrollment of up to 1000 students with the same population density will also qualify.
Rural schools also receive over $10 million for high cost transportation aid and increased transportation reimbursement rates to the tune of $92,000 over the biennium. Pupils that are transported more than 12 miles between home and school would receive a $65 reimbursement increase up to $365 beginning in the 2017-18 school year. Summer school reimbursement rates would also increase from $4 to $10 for students traveling between two and five miles, and from $6 to $20 for students transported more than five miles.
Another $6 million is sent to special education transitions incentives grants. Last budget, these grants received just $100,000, making this fund the single largest percentage increase in Walker's DPI budget, at 3,050 percent more than the base year funding. This proposal would provide an additional $1,000 per pupil for children who meet the following criteria:
attended school in the district or charter school in the 2014-15 or 2015-16 school years
had an individualized education program (IEP) in place
has been enrolled in a higher education program, postsecondary education or training program, or employed for at least 90 days
Currently, DPI estimates that schools receive $60 per pupil under this program. Gov. Walker's budget also includes an additional $1.5 million for special education transition readiness investment grants in the 2018-19 school year.
Other focuses on children with special needs in this budget include a provision that requires a DPI ombudsman to ensure that private school pupils have equal access to special education services. To that end, the provision creates a new "fiscal agent" to ensure that private schools receive federal funding for special education services and other benefits.
Along the same lines, the budget also specifies that independent charter schools and noninstrumentality charter schools would be allowed to employ personnel and create special education programs on the basis of demonstrated need. DPI would be required to certify to the Department of Administration the amount expended by each school for salaries and related services, and would be reimbursed for such expenses. Entities such as school boards and the board of control of cooperative educational service agencies (CESAs) would also be required to provide special or additional transportation for students with disabilities, as required in any pupil's IEP.
The State Superintendent is also required to certify reimbursement costs for special education aid, if satisfied with the services provided. The State Superintendent would be allowed to audit costs related to special education transportation services in order to ensure that reimbursements are limited to the actual costs.
Focus on Milwaukee
Schools in Milwaukee receive extra attention in this budget, with $5.65 million provided for Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS), district charter schools, independent charter schools, and private schools in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP).
About 35 percent of that funding is earmarked for distribution among eligible schools that received scores of "significantly exceeds expectations" or "exceeds expectations" on the most recent school report cards. Each school would receive a payment directly proportional to the number of pupils in that school.
The remaining 65 percent of performance-based funding would be allocated to schools that show performance increases of three points or more over two years prior on their report cards. This funding would also be split directly proportional to the number of pupils in each school.
MPS also receives an additional $2.8 million for summer school grants, split evenly across the biennium. The MPS Board is charged with creating a program to annually award grants for summer school programs to increase pupil attendance, improve academic achievement, and expose pupils to innovative learning. This pot of money is specifically allocated for public schools in the city of Milwaukee, except for independent charter schools.
Mental Health and Bullying
With an increased focus on mental health care throughout the Governor's budget proposal, DPI sees extra funding in this issue area as well. A new $3 million categorical aid program is created to reimburse school districts and independent charter schools for social workers. Another $2.5 million is provided in 2018-19 for community and mental health collaboration grants. DPI is charged with creating a new grant program for the purpose of collaborating with mental health professionals to provide mental health services to pupils.
Another new program is funded to the tune of $300,000 across the biennium to provide and create an online training curriculum for bullying prevention. Students in grades kindergarten through eight are expected to benefit from this program.
One full time position and $1 million is provided across the biennium to fund training for school districts and independent charter schools to provide mental health screening and intervention services for students.
School Choice Programs
As I wrote here, there are no substantial changes to any of Wisconsin's school choice programs, which are known formally in law as the Parental Choice Programs. Plenty of new regulations, however, are proposed:
- Requirements for annual hours of instruction for public schools and private schools that participate in a choice program are deleted. However, current law requiring that private schools offer at least 875 hours of instruction would be maintained.
- Private choice schools would be required to conduct a background check for all potential teachers and administrators prior to extending an offer of employment. Private choice schools would also be required to conduct background checks on all individuals already employed by the school, and would have to regularly conduct such checks at least once every five years after the initial background investigation.
- Students would be able to participate in the statewide choice program if they attended a school in another state in the previous school year. Such students are not currently eligible for participation in the statewide program.
- Pupil parents or guardians, as well as private schools, would be allowed to submit financial information to DPI for the purpose of verifying student eligibility. Under current law, only private schools are able to submit parental income information.
- A school would be able to be barred from participating in a private school choice program for two years if it is found to misrepresent any information to DPI. Schools may also be barred from participating in the special needs scholarship program if the school is found to misrepresent any required information.
- Change private school reporting requirements so that schools may submit information prior to the first year of participation in any of the choice programs rather than annually. Schools would still be required to provide copies of any policy - such as the school's policy for awarding a high school diploma - upon request of DPI.
- Certain members of school governing bodies will be required to submit signed statements to DPI verifying that the individual is a member of the governing body.
- DPI will be explicitly prohibited from requiring any private choice school that is not a new school and that is in good standing with DPI to submit an annual operating budget as evidence of financial viability.
- Pupils attending a private school in a nonresident district will be able to be reevaluated by an IEP team appointed by the nonresident district if the parent or guardian provides written consent. Under current law, pupils who participate in the special needs scholarship program may only be reevaluated by an IEP team appointed by the pupil's resident school district.
- The part-time open enrollment program, which the 2013-15 biennial budget transformed into the course options program, would be gradually restored as the open enrollment program once more.
- The youth options program would be modified into the early college credit program, allowing public high school pupils to enroll in higher education institutions to take extra classes.
All the Rest of It
Other odds and ends in Gov. Walker's K-12 budget proposal include:
- Eliminating the required hours of instruction for public schools.
- Deleting the requirements that school boards meet at least once per month, that common school districts hold an annual meeting on the fourth Monday in July at 8pm, and that union high school districts hold an annual meeting on the third Monday in July at 8pm.
- Eliminate the current rule that school district's employment contracts not exceed two years.
- Allow school boards to contract with each other and to offer shared services required under state law. Such services would include a shared bilingual-bicultural program, emergency nursing services, guidance and counseling services, among others.
- School boards would be allowed to compensate student teachers for classroom time spent directly with students.
- Delete the requirement that school districts provide statements showing bonded and all other indebtedness of the district.
- Specify that the Department of Children and Families (DCF) can inspect the premises and records of any child care program established or contracted for by a school board that receives childcare subsidies. DCF is also permitted to investigate and prosecute any alleged violations at such programs.
- Exclude school districts from a law requiring local units of government to maximize the purchase of recycled materials when possible. School districts are also exempted from law requiring local units of government to award contracts for material, supplies, and equipment based on life cycle cost estimates.
- A new renewable energy appropriation of $29,000 across the biennium is created for the generation or purchase of electric energy.
- The Very Special Arts program, which provides arts activities for children and adults with disabilities, is provided $23,400 across the biennium, restoring funding levels to the 2008-09 fiscal year.
- The five-year renewal requirement for teaching and administrator licenses would be eliminated. However, school boards would be required to conduct background checks on all employed individuals at least once every five years.
- A teacher development program grant program is created to increase collaboration between the Department of Workforce Development and schools of education in the UW System.
- A faculty member of an institution of higher education would be allowed to teach in a public high school without a license or permit from DPI.
- The requirement that an individual receive an offer of employment from a school in Wisconsin to be eligible for a teaching license based on reciprocity is eliminated.
- An additional $52,200 across the biennium is provided for a program that provides newspaper access to the blind.
- The State Superintendent will be required to work with DCF to develop success sequence-related materials to be incorporated into academic and career services. The document defines the success sequence as graduating from high school, maintaining a full-time job or a partner who does, and waiting until after age 21 and marriage to have children. Every school board is required to incorporate success sequence information into its career services materials by the 2019-20 school year.
- School report cards will be required to include additional information, including: the number and percentage of pupils participating in early college credit programs, the number and percentage participating in a youth apprenticeship, the number of community service hours logged by pupils, the number of advanced placement courses offered and the amount of credits earned, and the number of pupils earning industry-recognized credentials through a technical education program.
- Finally, DPI is required to create a report on the population overlap of families that receive public benefits and children who are absent from school for 10 percent or more of the school year. The report must be submitted on or before December 30, 2018.
Phew! That was a lot, wasn't it? As always, follow our budget coverage here at maciverinstitute.com and on twitter at @MacIverWisc. Comment below and let us know what you think about the Governor's K-12 budget proposals!