It's nearly time. After a long spring and summer of negotiations, my Assembly colleagues and I will soon vote on the comprehensive plan that will fund the state's operations for another two years. Whether Republican or Democrat, I believe that every person in this photo genuinely wants Wisconsin to succeed, our people to prosper, our children to learn and our opportunities to grow. It's my great honor to serve among them and discover solutions that serve our people.
The budget-writing Joint Finance Committee made big decisions this week on education and infrastructure and will make more big decisions next week on transportation and taxes. Although the process is not yet complete, I'm eager to cast my vote soon on a plan that makes historic investments in our future but also continues the ongoing reforms that are proving to be so successful.
As always, I encourage you to follow my updates on social media or contact my office directly with your questions. Best wishes on your weekend... and I hope to see you out at the Sheboygan County Fair!
An All-Time Record Investment
The legislature's Joint Finance Committee voted this week to approve a K-12 education funding package that delivers results for ALL Wisconsin students. We are committed to our students, our schools and Wisconsin's future. The $639 million increase to the base budget means that school funding in Wisconsin will reach a new all-time record high.
There is a lot of good news for our students in this plan. Every school district will receive $200/pupil in new state aid in 2017-18 and another $204/pupil on top of that in 2018-19 for a total increase of $604/pupil over two years; that additional money goes directly to the classroom. School districts that have historically been frugal low spenders (that's you, rural Sheboygan County!) will receive additional aid, phased in over several years, that will help reduce the imbalance that exists among districts today. Nearly $10 million in new matching funds will help schools purchase computers for all high school students. More than $5 million in new aid will help failing school districts improve and help students who are falling behind catch up. There will be a new lifetime teaching license available so that it is easier for the best teachers to remain on the job.
Other provisions will increase students' options and opportunities for success. Under current law, a family has to earn less than 185 percent of the federal poverty rate to qualify for the statewide school choice program; that threshold will increase to 220 percent, which means that a greater number of students will qualify to apply for the program seats that already exist. At my urging, students who were eligible in the past to participate in school choice but missed out due to program caps will be newly eligible to reapply in future years. The Special Education Transitions Incentive Grant program will provide more than $6 million to reward school districts who connect special-needs students with meaningful employment or continued education.
We care about hard-working families, too. All this and more is being achieved without any tax increases! Just as they have since 2010, property taxes under this budget plan go slightly down, not up; the cumulative savings for a typical family is more than $1,500 over the eight fiscal years since 2010. Our children are going to have more opportunity for success than ever before even as we keep faith with hard-working taxpayers who deserve a break, too. It's a win-win! Regrettably, this plan passed in the Joint Finance Committee on a party-line vote; this historic plan received no Democrat support.
That's a Good One!
On several occasions already this year, I've shared information in this newsletter about the State Capitol's ongoing 100th Anniversary celebration. If you haven't already, you should take a few minutes to glance at the official website and Facebook page; there are a TON of historical resources and fun facts and photos available.
I got a kick out of this gem, originally published in the Sheboygan Press-Telegram in 1924, about a favorite prank pulled by state representatives on one another in the late 1800s!