Copy-The Latest: Budget panel approves $639 million for schools
MADISON, Wis. (AP) - The Latest on Wisconsin budget committee action (all times local):
The Legislature's budget-writing committee has approved increasing spending on K-12 schools by $639 million over the next two years.
The plan approved by the Joint Finance Committee comes as the Republican-controlled panel is nearing completion of the seven-week late state budget.
The heart of Gov. Scott Walker's education funding proposal approved Monday with no Democratic support would raise per-pupil aid by $200 this year and $204 next year for all schools, at a cost of about $505 million.
Democrats voted against the plan. They argue the latest school funding proposal didn't do enough to help public schools, while spending millions more for private schools in the choice program.
The plan will raise income limits to participate in the statewide private school voucher program from 185 percent to 220 percent of the federal poverty level.
Republicans on the Wisconsin Legislature's budget committee want to incentivize districts to consolidate and make it easier for people without a teacher's license to be in the classroom.
A Republican proposal up for a committee vote Monday would provide an additional $150 in per-student aid for students in districts that consolidate.
The proposal also looks to plug teacher shortages by requiring a teaching license be given to anyone with a bachelor's degree who passes an alternative teacher preparation program that meets certain criteria.
College or university faculty would also be permitted to teach at a public high school without getting a license or permit from the state.
The budget would also make $125 for every 9th grade student available in grants to purchase a laptop or other personal computing device or related equipment.
Overall state spending on Wisconsin K-12 schools would increase by $639 million over the next two years, low-spending districts would get a boost and wealthier families could qualify for taxpayer-funded private school vouchers under a Republican-authored state budget proposal.
The heart of Gov. Scott Walker's education funding proposal the Joint Finance Committee planned to approve Monday would allow for per-student spending increases of $200 this year and $204 next year for all schools, at a cost of about $505 million.
Walker has touted the school aid increase as he tries to get his approval rating over 50 percent before an expected run for a third term next year.
Republicans on the budget committee praise the additional funding, while Democrats say it doesn't make up for previous cuts and other moves Walker and Republicans made that have hurt public schools.
The Wisconsin Legislature's budget committee has unanimously approved $1 billion in funding for state building projects.
The committee on Monday voted to fund a number of building projects that Gov. Scott Walker did not include in his budget. Those include about $192 million in seven projects across the University of Wisconsin System, $7 million for a geriatric prison facility and $1 million for unspecified improvements to the basement of the state Capitol.
Other approved projects include $75 million for a new crime lab and regional law enforcement facility in the Milwaukee area and $12.4 million for the state veterans home at King to make a variety of improvements.
An $11 million project to remove and replace the Little Falls Dam at Willow River State Park was also approved.
Wisconsin public schools that spend less on their students would be able to spend more under a change set to be approved by the Legislature's budget committee.
The Joint Finance Committee planned to vote Monday on increasing the maximum that low-spending districts can spend from a combination of local property taxes and state aid per student from $9,100 to $9,300 this year and $9,400 the next.
State law limits how much schools can spend based on a combination of local property taxes and state aid. But districts are locked in at different property tax rates based on what they were spending in 1993 when the law capping what they can levy took effect. That has led to complaints from mostly rural districts that spend less than others but can't raise any more.
Income limits to participate in the statewide private school voucher program will increase from 185 percent of federal poverty level to 220 percent under a planned move by the Legislature's budget committee.
The Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee was meeting Monday to vote on making that change and other education-related issues.
The income limit increase would mean a family of four could earn up to $53,460 and qualify for the taxpayer subsidized program. Currently, the cut off is nearly $45,000. Income limits are tied to 300 percent of the poverty level to participate in the voucher programs in Milwaukee and Racine.
School Choice Wisconsin President Jim Bender says he was told the committee planned to raise the limits to 220 percent. Zach Bemis, chief of staff to committee co-chair Rep. John Nygren, confirms that is the plan.
Increasing funding for Wisconsin public schools is up for committee approval as lawmakers vote on the final remaining pieces of Gov. Scott Walker's two-year spending plan.
The budget-writing Joint Finance Committee was scheduled to decide Monday whether to increase aid to public K-12 schools by the $648 million Walker proposed. Total spending on K-12 education would increase 6.4 percent under Walker's budget.
Numerous other issues affecting schools were also to be decided. That includes whether to loosen income requirements for the statewide voucher program.
The votes are among the last for the committee to make before the entire $76 billion budget goes to the Assembly and Senate for approval.
Walker has touted the school aid increase as he prepares to run for a third term for governor next year.
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