IRG Action Fund to deliver testimony in support of key provisions
Today, IRG Action Fund will deliver testimony in support of Senate Bill (SB) 330 to the Senate Committee on Education. The committee is holding a public hearing on the bill today at 10:00 AM and already plans to vote on it tomorrow. A similar hearing is planned for 10:00 AM Tuesday by the state Assembly Committee on Education on Assembly Bill (AB) 305, the identical Assembly version of SB 330.
Here is the testimony being delivered today from Chris Reader, IRG Action Fund Executive Vice President, and Quinton Klabon, Senior Research Director for the Institute for Reforming Government.
EXCERPTS FROM THE TESTIMONY
“If passed, your hard work will improve children’s lives and Wisconsin’s economic future.”
“You already know the success that choice schools have become, especially for poor students. Despite making up a fraction of the overall options, most of the predominantly low-income schools in Wisconsin with the highest reading proficiencies are voucher and charter schools… They’re getting top-tier results across the state…helping students defy the odds.”
“But the days when underfunding sustained them have long since passed, and meager federal pandemic relief has them gasping for air. A substantial increase in choice funding must pass. This is about survival.”
“Pass SB 330, and you’ll perpetuate that story in the lives of children across Wisconsin; they’ll grow up, take on skills and good character, and live lives that fill their parents and communities with pride. Thank you for the hearing today.”
WHAT IT IS
SB 330/AB 305 is a much-needed boost to voucher and charter funding in Wisconsin. It is part of a larger education and shared revenue compromise by Republican leaders and Governor Evers. In particular, this bill does the following for voucher and charter funding:
- Increases elementary per-student school voucher amount from $8,399 to $9,500
- Increases high school per-student voucher amount from $9,045 to $12,000
- Increases special needs per-student voucher amount from $13,076 to $14,677
- Improves charter school per-student base funding from $9,264 to $11,000
But despite the higher amounts, it should be noted that the bill still does not fully fix the funding crisis for K8 private schools, especially in Milwaukee. For them, it does not cover expenses, including sustaining the high cost of doing business, fixing one of the worst education ecosystems in the country, potentially needing to spend thousands on new reading curriculum, and getting -$3,300 less per student in pandemic aid than Milwaukee Public Schools. This biennium, their results will plateau and teachers will leave.
WHY IT MATTERS
Parents need educational options when public district schools aren’t providing their children with results they expect. But, today, parents in 43% of Wisconsin school districts are without other options. Many private and charter schools have closed forever in recent years due to years of voucher amounts not meeting the budget needs and growing expenses private and charter schools face, especially when coupled with negative impacts of the pandemic.
While the bill doesn’t fully fix the crisis for K8 private schools, it will help stave off financial crises in many schools and help unlock their full potential to serve Wisconsin’s kids. SB 330 is the first step towards making sure voucher and charter schools are appropriately supported for the children they serve.
Interested individuals can watch the hearing live at WisconsinEye.org. The Senate Committee on Education plans to advance SB 330 on Tuesday following a public hearing today. The Assembly Committee on Education is holding a hearing on AB 305 tomorrow. After that, the bill will be available to go to the full Senate and Assembly for votes at any time as the state budget negotiations come to a conclusion this month.