Alert!: Amendment Would Penalize Public School Revenue Limit Authority Related to Voucher Expansion

The 142 school districts that are currently impacted by the Racine or Wisconsin Parental Choice Programs are about to have their revenue limit authority reduced under a recently introduced surprise amendment scheduled for a vote today.

Two amendments crafted by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) have been hastily added to today’s Executive Session in the Assembly Education Committee.  This means that the amendments are scheduled for a vote in the Committee today (Feb. 4) at 1:00 pm.

These amendments would amend Assembly Bill 751, which would make some technical fixes to the special needs voucher program, but the amendments have nothing to do with special needs vouchers.  Both amendments were introduced with very little notice and neither was afforded the scrutiny of a public hearing.  The WASB opposes both of these amendments but this alert focuses on the most concerning: Assembly Amendment 2.

Assembly Amendment 2 would change the revenue limit calculation for incoming choice pupils, beginning in 2016-17,  to no longer provide an adjustment that counts an “incoming choice pupil” as a full 1.0 pupil  for revenue limit purposes.  Instead, incoming voucher students would be counted as other residents students are counted (phasing them in as .333 pupils the first year, .667 pupils the second year and 1.0 student the third year. (An “incoming choice pupil” is a pupil who begins participating in either the Racine or the statewide voucher program in the 2015-16 school year or any school year thereafter.)

Under this amendment, any districts that have (or will have) resident students who enter either the statewide or the Racine voucher program in 2016-17 or thereafter will lose money (roughly $6700 per voucher student on average) in the form of reduced revenue limit authority.  The impact will differ among districts depending on the district’s revenue cap.

(Note: With 20 to 30 more private schools likely to enter the statewide voucher program next fall, the number of districts affected by this amendment will grow beyond the current 142 number.)

A preliminary fiscal analysis estimates the loss of revenue limit authority at about $22 million spread across the 142 districts currently impacted.  The Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) has been asked to prepare a memo detailing the fiscal impact on each of the affected districts.  We hope this memo will be available soon.  Of course, we will make it available to you as soon as it is available.

Once again, the bottom line is if your district has resident students in the statewide or Racine voucher programs, under this amendment,  you will lose revenue limit authority in 2016-17 and you will likely have to pay for your voucher students by reducing educational opportunities for the children that remain in your district.

Please contact the leadership of the Committee (Chairman Thiesfeldt, Vice-Chairman Kitchens and the ranking Democrat Representative Sondy Pope) in opposition to this amendment.  Also, contact any of the other committee members that are from your area of the state.  Finally, make sure you also contact your Assembly Representative as well.  For your convenience in doing so, we have provided links to the Assembly Directory and to Find My Legislators (top right there is an address field to look up your lawmakers).

WASB staff will be contacting committee members as well but we need your voice to back up what we are saying.  Please help!

Here are the members of the Assembly Education Committee & their toll free office phone numbers:

Thank you!