School districts worried about voucher funding

Posted at 6:33 PM, Feb 10, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-11 07:09:09-05

The Assembly Committee on Education passed an amendment to a bill today that has school districts across the state worried about losing funding.

Amendment 3 to Assembly Bill 751, passed 9-5 by the Education Committee, changes funding for voucher schools, cutting greatly into some districts' budgets. In Green Bay, the district would lose $936,044.

"Next year, we would have to spend $900,000 to the voucher system to educate students that we have never educated in the past," said Green Bay School Board President Brenda Warren.

The amendment puts into place a three-year rolling average for funding. In the first year, districts would only get back one-third of the cost for each choice student. However, in the second year they would get two-thirds, and the full amount after three. This would allow the districts to make the lost revenue back over three to five years.

"The bill itself, the amendment, is revenue neutral. The fiscal bureau has given us a note that shows that the difference is that the school districts will receive less money up front, but they're going to receive more money on the back end," said Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt (R-Fond du Lac), chairman of the Assembley Education Committee.

Nonetheless, districts are concerned with how this amendment was added. An Amendment 2 was added last week and put on the fast track, then was revised yesterday into Amendment 3.

"To slide it in and rush it through like this to a vote does not seem to be a very democratic process," Warren said.

In addition, some schools without voucher students will suffer in the long run.

"There's 420-some school districts, of which the majority of them do not have voucher students. They will actually be losing state aid because of that, and that's something that I'm not seeing discussed right now," said Green Bay School District CFO Andrew Sarnow.

However, legislators say one key of the amendment is actually to give property taxpayers relief from paying for vouchers. Ultimately, the system would balance funding for the voucher system between state aid and property taxes.