School funding did not come up in the Assembly yesterday, despite Gov. Tony Evers’ call for a special session to discuss his proposal to spend part of the state budget surplus on reducing property taxes and increasing the state’s share of education funding.
Democrats started the day praising the governor’s call to restore the state’s commitment to two-thirds funding for schools.
“These bills are the product of hearings from administrators, teachers, school board members, community members all over Wisconsin, telling us this is what they want,” said Sondy Pope (D-Middleton). “This is what they need. It’s urgent and we should be responding to it.”
“One of the reasons that we’re here today is to ring the bell on schools,” said Rep. LaKeshia Myers, a former teacher in the Milwaukee Public School System. “And we have a governor that is a former educator as well as a former school administrator who wants to do just that.”
Myers recalled her own school days, when the state funded two-thirds of public education.
“That meant the school children were able to have PE every day, a PE teacher in every school,” she said. “You had a music teacher in every school, you had art teachers in every school. So that’s what we’re looking to get back to at this time”
The Legislative Fiscal Bureau released a memo detailing the estimated distribution of money in the governor’s proposal among Wisconsin school districts.
Under the bill, an additional $130 million in general aid would be appropriated in 2020-21. The bill would increase special education aid by $79,100,000 in 2020-21. It would also create an additional tier of eligibility for sparsity aid that would provide $100 per pupil to any district with an enrollment of more than 745 pupils and a population density of fewer than 10 pupils per square mile.
The governor’s proposal would increase the state’s share of special education funding, freeing up local school districts to spend money on other student needs.
It would also mean a significant savings for local property taxpayers. (See chart) The Wauwatosa school district would get a $1.7 million reduction in property taxes.