Bad news on school aid seen
Tuesday, March 19, 2013 7:00 PM
MARINETTE - The Marinette School District is bracing for reduced state aid. School board president John LaCourt attended a budget seminar in Madison last week put on by the Wisconsin Association of School Boards (WASB).
"As far as I'm concerned we didn't find out very good news on the budget," he told fellow board members Tuesday night. The WASB is at odds with portions of Gov. Scott Walker's Budget Bill.
LaCourt said the WASB would like to take the voucher program from the Budget Bill and debate it as separate legislation. The WASB would also like to remove the proposal to create a statewide special education voucher program and debate that on its own as well.
According to a WASB handout provided by LaCourt, state general and categorical aid to public schools over the next two years will increase by a total of $111.4 million under the proposed 2013-15 state budget.
An analysis by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau shows the proposed budget would increase general equalization aid by $129 million over the two-year biennium and would provide $64 million in categorical aid in 2014-15 in the form of grants. The grants would be distributed to districts based on individual school's performance on the state report cards. The proposal also eliminated a $42.5 million categorical payment called Per Pupil Adjustment Aid.
According to the WASB, the total education aid increase comes to more than $111 million over the next two years compared to the current year base funding. The amount actually received by school districts would be considerably less. Traditional public school districts would see only a $39 million increase over the next two years due to a number of deductions attributable to expansion of voucher and independent charter school programs in the state.
Citing the WASB report, from the $111 million, $23 million would be taken off the top of general aids to fund an expansion of independent charter schools and an increase in per-pupil payments to non-school district operated charters.
LaCourt said doing that would take away local control of the school board. In addition, $21 million would be deducted from the general aid allocations of individual districts to fund a newly created special education voucher program, while another $28 million in general aids would be diverted from individual school districts to fund expansion in the voucher program and a per pupil payment increase to voucher schools.
The deductions total $72 million, leaving $39 million to flow to public school districts, which serve more than 870,000 students. By comparison, the net increase for voucher schools, which currently serve fewer than 26,000 students and will likely serve no more than 30,000 students by the end of the upcoming two-year budget cycle, will see an increase of $73 million in state funding in the next two years.
"We will lose general aid," said LaCourt. "Part of our money comes from general aid and another part comes from categoric aid. We will lose funds and general aid if this passes. The WASB simply wants to take that off the budget and do that separately and debate it separately throughout the state."
LaCourt said if the district does not get funded by the state, local taxpayers will end up footing the bill through an increased tax levy. He urged the board to consider passing a resolution and sending it to lawmakers and also encouraged individual board members and taxpayer to contact their elected representatives to let them know how their feelings.
Board Member Brian Ceranski said he felt the WASB was an appropriate advocate and that the school board was not a political action committee.
"When things are happening in Madison the board should be politically active in trying to direct it, trying to do things in Madison that would be advantageous to our school district," added Board Member Lee Kuntz.
Ceranski said people will have conflicting views on school funding.
"We're not a legislative body on the state level," he said. "Our main focus is to improve education on the local (level)."