School district looking at impact of state budget proposal

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker presented his 2011-13 budget proposal March 1 to the Wisconsin Legislature. Wisconsin Department of Administration posted the “Budget in Brief” to its website. District officials are still researching details of the plan, but some of the most significant items related to K-12 education contained in the budget summary include proposals to:

·         Reduce state aid by $749.4 million over the biennium – 8.4 percent in 2011-12 and 7.7 percent in 2012-13.

·         Reduce school district revenue limits per pupil by 5.5 percent below the amounts authorized in 2010-11 and maintain the same amount over the biennium. Revenue limit exemptions for school nurses, pupil transportation costs, school safety equipment and security officers that were set to go into effect in the 2011-12 school year will be repealed.

·         Eliminate the requirement to schedule at least 180 school days annually, but keep the mandate for current number of hours.

·         Create a student information system that will provide longitudinal data to state policymakers, school districts, parents and citizens on the performance of the state’s public education system and its students in an effort to shift the state’s focus from educational inputs to accountability for outcomes. Funding for the system will come from a per-pupil charge to school districts.

·         Create a third grade reading initiative that will require all third graders in Wisconsin’s public schools to achieve literacy by the end of third grade. The governor plans to appoint a task force to develop a literacy initiative that identifies problem readers in the early grades.

·         Eliminate mandates requiring school districts to employ reading specialists or only licensed school nurses who have at least a bachelor’s degree.

·         Eliminate the mandate to provide staff training on prescription and nonprescription drugs administration only if the training is approved by the Department of Public Instruction.

·         Repeal DPI funding for Advanced Placement, alcohol and other drug abuse prevention and intervention, alternative education, children-at-risk, English for Southeast Asian children, improving pupil academic achievement, nursing services, supplemental aid and science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs.

·         Expand charter schools by allowing all four-year UW campuses to sponsor charter schools and allow them anywhere in the state, repealing the enrollment limit for the virtual charter school program and requiring charter school teachers to have a bachelor’s degree but not a teacher’s license.

·         Modify the Milwaukee private school choice program to eliminate the enrollment cap, income eligibility and state testing requirement.

·         Extend the deadline to apply under the open enrollment program period for public schools and virtual charter schools from the fourth Friday in February to the end of April.

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) is analyzing the governor’s budget bill to answer questions school district have regarding school funding. In a message to school districts March 2, DPI stated that because the budget bills contained no specific references to 4-year-old kindergarten, summer school or Chapter 220 programming, these programs will continue to be funded through state aid. Hamilton relies on state funding to support these programs.