Assembly Republicans propose $500 million boost to K-12

Assembly Republicans today pledged to pump an additional $500 million into K-12 education, including the first increase in special education aid in more than a decade.

The proposal still falls well short of the $1.4 billion more that Gov. Tony Evers proposed for K-12. But Assembly Republicans said it was an approach the state could afford and builds upon their “historic” investment in education in the current biennium.

Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and JFC Co-chair John Nygren, R-Marinette, also said final details were still being worked out with Senate Republicans ahead of tomorrow’s Joint Finance vote on K-12 education. Both expressed optimism they were close on the details.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said Tuesday his caucus was looking at similar increases for per student spending over the next two years and said talks continue ahead of tomorrow’s JFC vote.

“I had a great discussion with my caucus this morning and have spoken with Speaker Vos as well,” Fitzgerald said. “The caucuses in both houses seem to be headed in a very similar direction in crafting another pro-kid budget.”

Dems, meanwhile, slammed the proposal as a sign Republicans’ top priorities weren’t Wisconsin’s public school students, but protecting tax breaks for the wealthy.

The Assembly GOP plan would restore the state’s commitment to fund two-thirds of public school costs. But Rep. Chris Taylor, a member of the Finance Committee, called it inadequate after schools struggled for the past eight years under unified GOP control of the state Capitol.

“It’s just a piece of the puzzle,” the Madison Dem said of restoring two-thirds funding. “It seems like my Republican colleagues are leaving the rest of the puzzle behind and leaving our children behind in the process.”

The Assembly GOP plan includes:

*raising revenue limits by $200 per student in the first year of the budget and an additional $204 in the second year through the school funding formula, which distributes aid based on property values. Some of that increase would be paid for by property tax increases.

*$50 million more in funding for special education, a 13 percent increase.

*an additional $20 million for student mental health.

*an additional $4.6 million for high-cost transportation.

*raising the revenue caps for low-spending districts to $10,000 over the next two years. They’re now at $9,400.

Evers’ budget was projected to result in an increase in property tax bills of $56 in the first year of the budget and $48 in the second year. That amounts to an increase of 2 percent and 1.6 percent.

Vos said the Assembly GOP plan would result in increases of less than 1 percent.