Don’t restrict school referendums, increase state funding, committee told

School officials and other supporters of public education spoke out Thursday against a package of bills that would severely restrict the ability of local school districts to raise needed funds through referendums. At a hearing on the bills, they blamed cuts in state funding of public education for the financial challenges faced by school districts and the rise in local referendums. “The level of referendums would drop significantly if the state would get behind real education reform,” Baraboo School Board Member Doug Mering told the Assembly’s Education Committee.

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Legislative Update – June 15

The Joint Finance Committee unanimously nixed the governor’s plan to move state workers to self-insurance, after halting meetings for over a week, saying it was risky and they can find other ways to insure schools. “I’m happy we were able to do that without sticking it to state employees,” Rep. Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh, told Madison insiders. Other topics include the debate over K-12 funding, referendum restrictions and private school vouchers.

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Report urges policy-makers to make rural schools a higher priority

A new 50-state report urges state and federal leaders to make rural students and their communities a far greater priority and notes that Wisconsin rural schools receive far less state support than the national average. “While some rural schools thrive, far too many rural students face nothing less than a national emergency,” said Robert Mahaffey, the executive director of the non-profit Rural School and Community Trust, which produced the report titled Why Rural Matters.

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Legislative Update – June 12

With the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee holding off meetings last week and committing to none in the future, the division between Assembly and Senate Republicans around, among other topics, education is front-and-center. The Assembly is still pushing its own education budget that differs significantly from the governor’s, while leading senators say lawmakers should work off the governor’s proposal and the promise of per-pupil categorical aids of $200 and $204 over two years – or perhaps the Senate Republicans will make their own.

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Legislative Update – June 5

While public education advocates were expecting the Joint Finance Committee could take up some measures relating to the K-12 budget soon, things seem to be at an impasse. The delay comes from a stir around school funding caused by the Assembly Republicans again floating the idea of creating their own education budget, which could cut about $90 million from the budget proposal currently on the table. Senators continue to push back hard, saying they will work off the original plan.

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