Joint Finance Democrats

Democrats on the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee released their own proposal for K-12 education funding on Thursday. 

PHOTO BY JESSIE OPOIEN

As Republican leaders continue to negotiate Wisconsin's two-year budget, Democrats on the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee released their own proposal for K-12 education funding on Thursday. 

Their plan comes just a few weeks after a proposal from Assembly Republicans that focused on assisting school districts that spend less than most others in the state. Democrats say their proposal would take the best parts of the plans currently being debated by Republicans — but its chances of adoption are razor-thin in the state's GOP-led Capitol. 

"It’s something that’s doable and is right for our state if you truly believe that equal opportunity for all children should be a priority," said Rep. Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh.

The Democratic proposal would implement a funding formula promoted for years by state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers. It would maintain per-pupil aid increases of $200 per student in the first budget year and $204 in the second included in Gov. Scott Walker's budget proposal, and would also address low-spending districts. 

Democrats argued that most low-spending districts would have to raise property taxes to take advantage of the revenue limit adjustments offered under the Assembly GOP plan, while their plan would set aside state funding for those districts. 

The Democrats' plan would eliminate the school levy tax credit and instead allocate that funding through the general school aids funding. 

It would also offer revenue limit exemptions for some school safety expenditures, and would reject the governor's plan to end a revenue limit exemption for some energy efficiency projects. 

The plan would also allocate $17.4 million for alcohol and other drug abuse program grants and an additional $88 million for special education aid. 

According to an analysis by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, the proposal in total would reduce the property tax bill on a median-valued home by $3 in 2017-18 and $5 in 2018-19 compared to the most recent projections under the governor's budget proposal.

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Jessie Opoien covers state government and politics for the Capital Times. She joined the Cap Times in 2013 and has also covered Madison life, race relations, culture and music. She has also covered education and politics for the Oshkosh Northwestern.