Jul 26

Public schools, taxpayers would pay greater share of voucher costs under new state budget plan

Legislative Update – July 26

Taxpayers would see the price tag for school vouchers triple under the Senate budget plan, the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau has discovered. Senate Democrats called out the proposed shift of the costs of the unaccountable voucher program onto local taxpayers.

For the Racine and statewide school choice programs in the 2015-17 biennium, state aid to public schools was reduced by $43.1 million. Under the Senate Republican plan for the 2017-19 biennium, aid is estimated to be reduced by $120.3 million, nearly three times the amount over the last budget. But according to the Department of Public Instruction, districts are given a non-recurring revenue limit exemption, allowing them to make up the aid reductions through a combination of property taxes and school aid. In part, that’s caused by the Senate proposal to increase the income limits for receiving a taxpayer-funded private school tuition subsidy. Under their plan, families at 220 percent of the federal poverty level would qualify – including far more students than those in poverty.

Under Governor Scott Walker’s education budget, vouchers would siphon $101.5 million from public schools. Neither option is best for Wisconsin students, WEAC President Ron Martin said. Instead, that funding should be restored to the public schools serving all children, no matter where they live or what their family circumstances are.