Despite likely revenue increase, GOP legislators low-ball budget for special ed

By: - May 24, 2021 5:00 am
a long line of parked school buses in a field

School buses by John Picken Photo via Flickr CC BY 2.0

The Joint Finance Committee (JFC) has scheduled a vote on the state’s K-12 education budget for Thursday, May 27, before a revenue estimate likely to come in early June that is expected to show that the state continues to be in good fiscal health.

Public school advocates and school administrators around the state have called for an increase in funding for special education in line with Gov. Tony Evers’ proposal to reimburse school districts at a rate of 50% of the cost of special ed. The special ed funding is significant because school districts are required by federal law to cover students’ special education needs, and as the reimbursement rate has declined school districts have been forced to take money from other programs.

The only alternatives that the JFC appears to be considering in the released budget documents it has prepared ahead of next Thursday’s meeting include special education reimbursements of 28% and 30%. 

On Friday, the Department of Public Instruction released an interactive map that allows users to hover over their school districts to see out how a 50% reimbursement would benefit the local public schools. 

Under the current budget, private and voucher schools already receive a minimum reimbursement rate of 90% for special education.


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Ruth Conniff
Ruth Conniff

Ruth Conniff is Editor-in-chief of the Wisconsin Examiner. She formerly served as Editor-in-chief of The Progressive Magazine where she worked for many years from both Madison and Washington, DC. Shortly after Donald Trump took office she moved with her family to Oaxaca, Mexico, and covered U.S./Mexico relations, the migrant caravan, and Mexico’s efforts to grapple with Trump. Conniff is a frequent guest on MSNBC and has appeared on Good Morning America, Democracy Now!, Wisconsin Public Radio, CNN, Fox News and many other radio and television outlets. She has also written for The Nation, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Los Angeles Times, among other publications. She graduated from Yale University in 1990, where she ran track and edited the campus magazine The New Journal. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin with her husband and three daughters.