According to a Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction statement, categorical aid came to $653.9 million for the 2012-13 fiscal year. Evers’ proposal for the next two years asks for a 2.4 percent increase in general and categorical school aid for the first year of the budget and a 5.5 percent increase for property tax relief the following year.
The statement said the plan, called “Fair Funding for Our Future,” guarantees school districts would receive $3,000 for every student.
That would produce an extra $30 million for the Madison school district, an increase of 30.3 percent, according to another DPI statement.
The plan would also result in a gross property tax decrease of over 18 percent, the statement said.
“We can do right for our kids,” Evers said in a statement. “This Fair Funding plan is a realistic and ready first step that provides solutions that are good for education and our economic future.”
Tom Beebe, project director of Opportunity to Learn at the Institute for Wisconsin’s Future, and Todd Berry, president of the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, said the proposal is similar to what Evers suggested two years ago.
He added it is unclear how Gov. Scott Walker and the state legislature will consider it.
“DPI is not a cabinet agency,” Berry said. “Sometimes [their proposals] get a look and sometimes they don’t.”
The governor’s press office could not be reached for comment.
An increase in school aid also may not necessarily mean an increase in money for schools, Berry said, because state-imposed revenue limits will determine whether aid can be used by schools or if it will be directed toward property tax relief.
“So there are many budgets where school aid will be increased, but if the revenue limits aren’t adjusted accordingly, that just means the money will reduce property taxes and will not go to schools,” he said.
Beebe applauded the Fair Funding proposal and said it helps counteract the $400 million former Gov. Jim Doyle cut from state aid in his final budget as well as the $790 million Walker cut from his first budget.
However, the proposal would only be an effective plan if it were accepted as a whole, Beebe said, rather than being broken up with only parts of it adopted into the final budget.
He said he would also like to see a one-cent increase in sales tax over the next biennium to go toward public education to make up for past cuts.
“I give [Evers] credit,
he’s done the right thing, but for economic reasons, for political reasons,
whatever, I think he didn’t go far enough for us, he needs to go further,”