Heart of the North
2023-25 Biennial Budget
Legislative Priorities for Education
1. Predictable, Sustainable School Funding
Index general school revenue growth closer to the consumer price index (CPI) to align allowable revenue growth with increased operational costs, retainment of quality staffing necessary to effectively meet academic needs of our students and to account for no per-pupil revenue limit adjustment in the previous biennial budget. Our ask is to increase revenue limit per-pupil funding by $650 and $350 respectively in FY24 and FY25. This would constitute roughly a 6% funding increase and then a 3% increase.
2. Students with Disabilities
While we greatly appreciate the increase in special education categorical aid made in the 2021-23 state budget, our ask is to increase the current level of special education aid from a projected 30 percent to 45 percent in FY24 and to 60 percent in FY25. The needs we are experiencing in our special education program are exponentially growing and the funding deficit is detrimental to general education.
3. Children’s Mental Health
In Wisconsin, too many children have unmet mental health needs resulting in serious negative consequences for the individual, their families, our communities and the learning environment in our schools. While we greatly appreciate the school mental health investments made in the last two state budgets, we believe a stronger, long-term commitment from the state is required to meet this challenge. Our ask is that every district receives permanent and adequate funding to have at least one full-time mental health navigator per 1000 students, in order to effectively navigate mental health resources for our staff and students. A $100,000 base for all local schools would allow Districts to staff 1.0 FTE to facilitate mental health needs.
4. Early Learning Opportunities
Numerous studies have shown that improving early learning opportunities, especially for those in poverty, will help prepare children for their PK-12 experience and help reduce achievement gaps.
·Counting full-day 4K students as 1.0 FTE for general aid and revenue limit purposes.
·Reimbursement for legally obligated services of 3-4 year old students with Special Education needs.
5. Economically Disadvantaged Students
Wisconsin currently has no comprehensive program that targets additional resources to raise achievement among economically disadvantaged students, yet districts need to meet these needs locally. Our ask is to provide an additional $150 in per pupil aid for each economically disadvantaged student in order to meet their unmet basic needs so they can perform better academically.
6. English Learners
We need to increase the current level of categorical aid support for English Learners (EL) and direct that support to all school districts with EL students. Educating our English Learners is almost identical to the cost (on a per-pupil level) of educating our special education students. It requires districts to staff additional FTE to meet the unique needs of our students. Our ask is to increase the Bilingual Bicultural reimbursement percentage to match that of special education aid.
Please give special considerations to the following four items:
Educator Recruitment & Retention
· School districts will need continued flexibility in the hiring and licensure of teachers and administrators to manage our labor shortage and high levels of turnover. Recommendations to tackle troubling educator shortages in the short-term:
· Continue to ease restrictions on hiring retired educators to fill key positions.
· Maximize district flexibility in utilizing the current pool of licensed educators.
· Expand and streamline licensing reciprocity to increase the pool of out-of-state educators available under PI 34.
Expand Revenue Limit Exemptions
Safety should be priority one for our kids therefore revenue limit exemptions and/or more categorical aid funding should be allowed for expenses related to school safety enhancements, energy efficiency, environmental air quality in school buildings and nursing service expenses.
Collaborations regarding new revenue streams
We are willing and able to work with our Legislators to create new revenue streams, ie. penny sales tax to create funds to cover capital improvements across our districts. In order to save money, we need to eliminate all the special purpose funds and grants, and create one pot of money and give that pot of money local control because each district has diverse needs.
Supporting The Talent Pipeline
Entering the workforce or receiving a post-secondary education has been a discussion topic for many Wisconsinites. For many, the choice is either to enter the workforce full-time or attend school full-time while trying to maintain a part-time job. Employers need trained employees and employees to maintain operations at their place of business. Employees want to receive training but cannot afford to leave work. Out of necessity to keep businesses viable, a comprise is needed. New concepts and delivery options must be created to obtain education and training goals. Post-secondary institutions can assist with meeting both employer and employee goals with the support of the following initiatives:
· Make college more affordable
o As student debt remains one of the most pressing issues for students and the nation’s economy, state leaders can assist students and their families by investing $3 million over the biennium in Open Educational Resources, which will provide free-of-cost textbooks and other materials.
· Transform financial aid to work for all students
o Provide an investment of $4.4 million annually to support the estimated increased financial need of WTCS students based on the Federal FAFSA Simplification Act of 2021.
o Modernize the Wisconsin Grants program to allow less than half-time students eligible for financial assistance. Align the statutory lifetime eligibility cap with the Federal Pell Grant ensuring non-traditional students have the support they need.
· Expand the talent pool for Wisconsin’s employers
o Increase investment in WTCS colleges by $75 million over the biennium to sustain the colleges’ high-impact, industry- aligned education and training. With additional resources, colleges can expand their capacity to build upon proven strategies that successfully move students through the WTCS talent pipeline, expanding the skilled workforce in the state.
· Reskill and upskill Wisconsin’s current workforce
o Workforce Advancement Training (WAT) grants deliver skill development opportunities to incumbent workers that are tailored to individual business needs. An additional $3.5 million over the biennium will provide resources for WTCS colleges to meet growing demands and build a talented workforce with industry-aligned skills.