2017 Day at the Capitol
BY KELLI JACOBI
Superintendent of Schools
School District of Rhinelander (SDR) Director of Instruction Teri Maney, and School Board members Ron Counter, Judy Conlin, Dennis O’Brien, and I went to Madison for the 2017 Day at the Capitol event March 15 to advocate for our school district. The event is sponsored by the Wisconsin Association of School Boards (WASB).The day began with a state budget briefing, which was followed by a legislative panel discussion. It was clear from the panel discussion that there is much work to be done in Madison before this budget will be completed. One example is that there is disagreement on how the budget should be built; whether the Governor’s budget or the current base budget should be the starting point. Another issue that will need time to be addressed is how to fund the additions proposed in the budget.
The Governor’s proposed budget includes a few elements that may be of some benefit to SDR. These include possible funding for additional supports to help address student mental health needs, possible year three grant funds for the Fab Lab, and increased flexibility with teacher licensing. At this point, it doesn’t appear that SDR will see any increased funding from the Rural Schools Task Force work, although smaller districts may see some additional funds.
The Governor’s budget proposal calls for a per pupil increase of approximately $200 in each of the two years of the budget, but it is too early to count on those funds for budgeting purposes for the 2017-18 school year.
While in Madison, the SDR team met with Dominic Belmonte, Sen. Tiffany’s Communications Director, and Rep. Swearingen and shared concerns and areas of need in SDR. The concerns shared were:
•Sparsity Aid (Remove the enrollment restrictions)
•High Cost Transportation Aid (Re-do the formula to meet the needs of more districts)
•Continue Energy Efficiency Exemptions available to school districts
•Staff Shortages (Modify current law to allow WI Retirement System retirees to return to work without restrictions and more flexibility with teacher licenses.)
•School Start Date (Allow for local control)
•Referenda (Allow for local control on timing)
•School Funding Formula (Changes to the formula to take income into consideration when determining state aid. Just under 50 percent of SDR students qualify for free and reduced meals, which isn’t currently taken into consideration.)
SDR representatives will continue to stay up-to-date on the budget process in Madison and continue advocating for the district, its students, and the community.