Madison – Governor Scott Walker today announced his K-12 education increase will lift total investment to $11.5 billion over the state’s two-year budget, an all-time high. The Governor’s upcoming budget proposal includes $649 million in new state aids for all of Wisconsin’s K-12 schools in his budget proposal set to be unveiled on Wednesday.
The news comes on the heels of Governor Walker’s plan to significantly increase state funding for sparsity and transportation aids for Wisconsin’s rural schools.
“Our reform dividends in Wisconsin are working, allowing us to increase state aids to an all-time high,” Governor Walker said. “We are ramping up state support for our public schools, and we are also investing in important things like mental health programs for our children and early college credit so students can get a head start on college, career, and life.”
Governor Walker is also making strong investments in Wisconsin’s K-12 public schools in other areas such as mental health programs, summer school grants, performance funding for Milwaukee schools, and special education workforce readiness grants.
GOVERNOR WALKER’S BUDGET MAKES MAJOR INVESTMENTS IN PUBLIC EDUCATION
- $509.2 million increase in per-pupil state aid. This represents a $200 per-pupil increase in 2017-18 and $204 increase in 2018-19. Per-pupil state aid will be at an all-time high.
- The total state school aids, general and categorical funding for K-12 schools under Governor Walker’s budget proposal, would be an all-time high.
SUPPORT FOR MILWAUKEE SCHOOLS
- Within the Milwaukee Public School district, 42 schools, which accounts for almost one-third of the district’s students, are failing to meet expectations on the most recent school report card. To best address the needs of these students, Governor Walker’s budget proposal provides $5.6 million in fiscal year 2018-19 to incentivize improvement through a performance-based funding program made available to public, charter, and choice schools in the Milwaukee Public School district.
- $500,000 for the Department of Children and Families (DCF) Families and Schools Together (FAST) Mental Health Initiative in Milwaukee schools. Governor Walker’s budget will provide $250,000 in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funding in each fiscal year to support FAST, an evidence-based prevention and early intervention program connecting families, schools, and communities of young students in certain Milwaukee schools. This will enhance family functioning and prevent abuse, delinquency, and maltreatment issues at home.
- $2.8 million for Milwaukee Public Schools Summer School grants. Students who attend summer school have the opportunity to take courses they might not otherwise have the chance to take during the traditional school year, which sets them up for further academic success. Governor Walker’s budget proposal invests $1.4 million per year for grants to schools in the Milwaukee Public School district with plans to increase student achievement in summer school programs.
OUR CHILDREN’S MENTAL HEALTH IS A PRIORITY
- $3 million for school social workers. An estimated one in five school-age children and youth struggle with mental health issues and of these, 80 percent of those students do not receive professional help. Governor Walker’s budget proposal creates a categorical aid program to support the social work expenditures of school districts and independent charter schools.
- $2.5 million for Mental Health Expansion Grants. Governor Walker’s budget proposal creates a grant program helping school districts and independent charter schools in connecting youth to mental health services.
- $1 million to support Mental Health Diagnostic Training. To better provide mental health screening and intervention services to Wisconsin students, Governor Walker’s budget proposal supports training opportunities for school district and independent charter school employees.
PREPARING OUR STUDENTS FOR THE WORKFORCE
- $2.9 million for Early College Credit Program. Governor Walker’s budget proposal creates the Early College Credit program, which combines the current Youth Options and Course Options programs, and serves as a single structure under which Wisconsin students receive college credit while earning their high school diploma. It further provides financial support for college credit by allocating $1,150,300 in fiscal year 2017-18 and $1,753,500 in fiscal year 2018-19 to reduce per credit costs to schools and students.
- $7.6 million for Special Education Transitional Jobs Program. To better ensure Wisconsin students with disabilities gain the skills and connections needed for life after high school, Governor Walker’s budget proposal includes $2.6 million in fiscal year 2017-18 and $3.5 million in fiscal year 2018-19 to fund awards to school districts that successfully help students with disabilities gain employment. It further allocates $1.5 million in fiscal year 2018-19 to support the efforts of school districts in connecting students with disabilities to employment.
ENSURING THE SAFETY OF OUR STUDENTS
- $300,000 to fund “Act Now!” anti-bullying curriculum. Bullying is a serious issue – one that has numerous negative effects on our students. Governor Walker’s budget proposal works to combat bullying in Wisconsin schools by providing $150,000 each year of the biennium to fund “Act Now!,” an e-learning, game-based curriculum developed by the Children’s Hospital in collaboration with the Department of Public Instruction that empowers bystanders to bullying and improves school atmosphere. This funding allows the Children’s Hospital to continue serving children in grades K4-8 at no cost and to develop plans for further expansion.
“Wisconsin’s public education system is one of the best in the nation, and these important investments, combined with our important reforms, will make us even better,” Governor Walker said.
Governor Walker also recently outlined the significant increase Wisconsin’s rural public schools will receive in his budget proposal.
INCREASED SPARSITY AID
- Increase Sparsity Aid by $20 million. Governor Walker’s budget increases Sparsity Aid by $20 million ($12.3 million more than DPI requested). This makes for a total investment in Sparsity Aid of $55.4 million over the two-year budget. Governor Walker’s budget will also increase the per-pupil reimbursement rate for districts that previously qualified for Sparsity Aid to $400 per pupil. Sparsity Aid is for small rural districts that have less than 745 pupils and a population density of less than 10 pupils per square mile of district attendance. As an example, these are flexible funds that can assist in retention and recruitment of teachers in our rural districts.
- Expand Sparsity Aid. Governor Walker’s budget will create a new $100 per pupil tier of Sparsity Aid funding for districts with 746-1000 pupils. This buffer will provide more stability for school districts that fall just outside the 745 pupil requirement.
INCREASED TRANSPORTATION AID
- Provide 100% reimbursement for rural school districts in the High-Cost Transportation Aid program by investing $25.4 million over the two-year budget. This is an increase of $10.4 million over the last budget. Created in the 2013-15 State Budget, High-Cost Transportation Aid provides additional transportation funding to school districts with a density of 50 pupils per square mile or less and per pupil transportation costs totaling more than 150 percent of the state average. The 2015-16 reimbursement rate was prorated at roughly is 60 percent.
- Fully fund DPI’s request for Pupil Transportation Aid. Governor Walker’s budget will provide $92,000 over the two-year budget for pupil transportation and increase reimbursement rates for pupil transportation to $365 for 12+ miles (currently this is $300 per pupil), $10 for 2-5 miles in summer school, (currently this is $4 per pupil), and $20 for 5+ miles in summer school (currently this is $6 per pupil).
INCREASED BROADBAND INVESTMENT
- Increase funding for the Infrastructure Grant Program through Technology for Educational Achievement (TEACH) by $22.5 million. This will allow more school districts to apply for grants for allowable costs under the Infrastructure Grant Program. Allowable costs include reimbursing eligible school districts for improving information technology infrastructure.
- The Teacher Training Grant Program will continue to be funded at $3 million over the biennium, or $1.5 million per year. This will allow more school districts to apply for grants for allowable costs of training teachers to use educational technology.
- The budget also will include a provision to allow districts to apply for TEACH grant funding for mobile hot spots on buses and mobile hot spots for students to take home. Access to high-speed internet is particularly challenging in rural areas. When combined with school laptop computers, taking mobile hot spots home allows students online access outside school hours for homework. The hot spots can only be used for homework, and entertainment sites such as Netflix are blocked. Wisconsin ranks third among all 50 states for use of mobile hot spots in schools, behind just California and Texas. 15 school districts in Wisconsin currently allow students to check out mobile hot spots to take the internet home. (Rick Barrett, “Schools Lend Out Mobile Hotspots To Get All Students Online,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 4/10/2016)
- Increase the Broadband Expansion Grant Program by an estimated $13 million. Access to fast and reliable high-speed internet remains out of reach for too many Wisconsin families and communities, and this continued state investment will help connect more rural communities.
INCREASED OPPORTUNITY TO RECRUIT AND RETAIN TEACHERS
- Rural districts often identify teacher recruitment and retention as an issue. To address this, Governor Walker’s budget will include a provision that requires the UW Flex Option to develop a program to train paraprofessionals currently working in schools (such as teacher’s aides) to become full-time teachers. Wisconsin Fast Forward grant funding may be made available to allow districts to seek grants to help pay for tuition for paraprofessionals getting training to become teachers. The budget will also clarify state law to permit a district to compensate student teachers. Districts are not currently barred from doing so, but districts report uncertainty about paying student teachers.
INCREASED FLEXIBILITY THROUGH SCHOOL DISTRICT SHARED SERVICES
- Bureaucratic mandates can be an extra burden for rural school districts. Rather than requiring each school district to identify a specialist and person of contact for the following roles, Governor Walker’s budget will allow school districts to enter into agreements to share or jointly provide the following services or specialists:
- Reading Specialist
- Bilingual-Bicultural Education Programs
- Lifesaving Skill Instruction
- Emergency Nursing Services
- Attendance Officer
- Guidance and Counseling
- Technical Preparation Programs
- Services for Gifted and Talented Pupils
INCREASED INVESTMENT FOR FABRICATION LABORATORIES (FAB LABS)
- Double the state’s investment for Fab Labs. Governor Walker’s budget will require the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation to allocate $1 million total over the two-year budget for the Fabrication Laboratories Grant Program. The program supports hands-on science, technology, engineering, arts, and math education by helping public school districts with equipment purchases used for instructional and educational purposes in fabrication laboratories.
- For more information on how Fab Labs are contributing to the success of Wisconsin public schools, please see Wisconsin ‘fab labs’ boost high school tech ed by Erin Richards of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Governor Walker’s full 2017 – 2019 Executive Budget will be formally presented to the Legislature on Wednesday, February 8, at 4:00 p.m.