Lawmakers reintroduced a bill this month that would allow school districts to exceed revenue limits in order to afford additional security measures.
Rep. Amy Sue Vruwink, D-Milladore, a co-sponsor of the bill, said 28 senators and representatives support the initiative to implement greater degrees of safety into state public schools if the district school board so chooses.
She said the proposed legislation would allow schools to exceed revenue caps by $100 per student or a total of $40,000, whichever is greater.
“Especially with what happened [in Newtown, Conn.], if there’s something we can be doing to protect our students, we should be doing whatever we can to do that,” Vruwink said. “A lot of parents and educators have asked for it.”
Potential increased safety measures that could be introduced in schools could include more security officers, surveillance cameras and any other equipment or safety measures local school districts deem necessary to ensuring safe learning, Vruwink said.
A pair of bipartisan lawmakers passed a similar measure into law in the 2009 biennial budget, but Gov. Scott Walker repealed it in 2011.
Andrew Reschovsky, a professor in the University of Wisconsin La Follette School of Public Affairs, said allowing schools to spend more on security spending may open up all-purpose funds previously used to provide such security measures.
“If they spend the money on security, that effectively frees up money to spend all over the deck, like reading, arithmetic and things schools are supposed to do,” he said.
Reschovsky, an expert on school finance, said the governor’s proposed budget prevents increases in revenue limits, general aid or property taxes in the next two years. Thus, he said any increase in aid this bill permits would have to be offset by a rise in property taxes.
Reschovsky said some members of the Legislature, including Republicans, may disapprove of Walker’s proposal to have no increase in the revenue limit. He said he thinks some lawmakers would like to see an increased revenue limit to allow school districts to fund more education or prevent cuts in education.
He added the politically powerful link to increased security this bill provides may make legislators more likely to pass this bill and return money to schools.
Vruwink said school boards can choose whether they are financially able to raise security funding.
“If the school board thinks they don’t have the money to do this, they’re going to say no,” Vruwink said. “We’re not mandating this. We’re not saying you absolutely have to do this. We’re leaving it up to the local elected officials and the people in the school district to decide.”
The bill has been proposed to both the Assembly and Senate within the past month and is being referred to committees for hearings.
While Vruwink said Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, is the only Republican of the 28 legislators currently endorsing the proposed legislation, she said party affiliation should not determine issues as important as protecting children.
“I really don’t think school safety is a Democratic or Republican issue,” Vruwink said.