During its final meeting on the budget, the Joint Finance Committee voted to increase general state aid for K-12 schools by $650 million. As a result of this action, the state will fulfill the federal government’s “maintenance of effort” requirement for the $1.5 billion windfall that Wisconsin K-12 schools are set to receive through the most recent COVID-19 spending bill (the American Rescue Plan Act). Absent a veto from Gov. Evers, the state will cover over two-thirds of K-12 funding during the second year of the budget. Two-thirds state funding for K-12 education has been one of the oft-repeated goals of Gov. Evers.
Across the three federal COVID-19 spending bills (the CARES Act, the Consolidated Appropriations Act and the American Rescue Plan Act), $2.6 billion will be provided to K-12 schools. The lion’s share of these funds ($2.4 billion) were allocated through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER funds).
Congress directed 90% of the ESSER funds be distributed through a formula based on the number of low-income students residing in each school district. As a result, MPS will be by far the largest beneficiary of the infusion of federal dollars. Per the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, MPS is estimated to receive 38% of these funds, or $797 million. This amounts to an increase of $11,242 per student, which comes in addition to the $15,844 MPS already spends per student. Put another way, the federal funds alone amount to 79% of the $1 billion operations budget approved by the MPS School Board for the 2020-21 school year.
Some in the public school lobby have been quick to characterize the federal COVID-19 funds as “one-time” money that should be given no consideration in the Legislature’s deliberations on the next state budget. However, Congress authorized the third round of funding ($1.5 billion through ARPA) to be spent through September 30, 2024. Moreover, the authorized uses of these funds are very broad.
The MPS School Board is in no position to complain about a lack of taxpayer funding for K-12 education. The sum of these federal funds makes the $87 million property tax increase through 2023 that MPS secured via referendum last year look “paltry.”
Good for him. I wish more prominent people would weigh in on local elections.
Speaking of elections, the Wisconsin Spring Election is quickly approaching on April 6th. With respect to the state Superintendent race, Deborah Kerr is clearly the best choice – I urge all to support her. But we also need to focus on our local spring elections. These races are critical to effective governance of our towns, villages, cities, counties and school boards. Please research the races and get out to support our conservative candidates. And I do not just mean vote….I mean get out and help these candidates in any way you are able. We have to actively engage – it DOES make a difference!
I am doing what I can in a local school board election in my hometown of Cedarburg. Our school districts desperately need common sense conservatives to provide leadership. I fully support Dave Krier and Kate Noetzel for our Cedarburg School Board. If you are in the District, please take note of the attached flyer and stop by their “Meet and Greet” this Thursday – I will be the special guest at the event. Their races will not be easy; it is going to take an intense team effort from grassroots leaders to get these great candidates across the finish line.
20th Senate District
“The first two-and-a-half months of the COVID-19 vaccine distribution have put many of the pitfalls of unchecked, government central planning on full display. The latest pitfall is the Evers administration’s arbitrary decision to rely exclusively on measures of poverty and race to determine the school districts that are being placed at the front of the line for teacher vaccination,” Stroebel said. “As a result, school districts that have offered little to no in-person instruction over the past 12 months are being rewarded for placing the interests of teachers’ unions above the best interests of children and families.”
But Stroebel’s concerns with vaccine prioritization may be moot. During a press conference Tuesday, DHS Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk said that they haven’t had to use those rankings and may not ever need to.
I love the response from the DHS person… “sure, we have those rankings but we haven’t had to use them.” So? How does that change the fact that they are ranking priority based on arbitrary distinctions instead of following the science?
The effort, being led by Sen. Duey Stroebel of Saukville, would require absentee voters to provide an ID for every election, limit who can automatically receive absentee ballots for every election and create more paperwork for those who vote early in clerk’s offices.
The proposals would also put new limits on when voters are considered indefinitely confined because of age or disability. Under a long-standing law, confined voters do not have to show ID to receive absentee ballots and do not have to regularly reapply for ballots.
Most of these measures are merely affirming existing law or plugging loopholes that Democrats exploited last year. Either way, the effort seeks to support an electoral process that we all say we want – one that balances election integrity with ballot access.
I was going to write something substantially similar to this, but Senator Stroebel beat me to it.
“Yesterday, Gov. Tony Evers demonstrated his irresponsible priorities as a chief executive. While the state learned of his disastrous handling of the COVID-19 vaccination effort, Gov. Evers was busy rushing out a press statement defending the indefensible actions of convicted domestic abuser Jacob Blake.
“According to press reports, Gov. Evers’ plan – if he has one – to ensure frontline healthcare workers and senior citizens receive the COVID vaccine has resulted in Wisconsin being third worst in the region in terms of per capita vaccinations. Physicians and senior citizens have confirmed to the press and lawmakers that they are struggling to receive the vaccine even though they are the national priority to receive it.
“Just last month Gov. Evers was upset that Wisconsin ended up with fewer doses of the Pfizer COVID vaccine than originally planned. Apparently he never had a good plan to distribute the doses received or the additional doses he was trying to secure.
“Instead of posturing and defending a convicted domestic abuser who armed himself and attempted to steal a vehicle with children in it, Gov. Evers should be fixing the COVID vaccine distribution problem in our state. It is sad that he learned nothing from his failure to adequately process the unemployment insurance claims of hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin workers last year.”
Sen. Stroebel represents the 20th Senate District.
Madison, WI – State Sen. Duey Stroebel (R-Saukville) released the following statement today after being appointed Senate Vice-Chairman of the Joint Finance Committee:
“I am honored to be appointed to this position and grateful to Majority Leader-elect LeMahieu for this opportunity. Since being appointed to the Joint Finance Committee in 2017, I have advocated for common sense budgeting and fiscal responsibility.
“To taxpayers, I pledge to continue fighting for your interests and the wise stewardship of your hard-earned tax dollars. Decision-makers in Madison need to stay grounded in the realities faced every day by Wisconsin’s workers, farmers, and employers. Those realities will continue to guide my work on the Finance Committee.
“To my colleagues, I will work diligently to represent the interests of our chamber during the budget process. Senate Republicans have a great track record of pushing for more efficient, more effective, and smaller government that spends only what it needs and returns savings to the taxpayers. I look forward to working with each of you to craft the next state budget.
Senator Darling had been drifting more purple as her district has (she was even running ads bragging about how she was responsible for the most spending on government schools in the history of Wisconsin). Stroebel is a smart conservative and we couldn’t ask for a better Senator to help craft the budget.
CORRECTION: I mistook “vice”chair for “co”chair. Stroebel moved up in the leadership, but Senator Marklein actually took Darling’s position. Still… good moves that are good for Wisconsin.
This is exactly the right response. I highly encourage all of those Republicans and republicans who espouse beliefs in individual liberty, capitalism, and the wisdom of individual citizens to reject any attempt to create a new plan to micromanage our lives and oppress our rights. The new plan is no plan. Government should fulfill its traditional and rightful role of providing guidance and resources to combat the pandemic.
Madison, WI – State Senator Duey Stroebel (R-Cedarburg) released the below statement following the State Supreme Court’s ruling in Legislature v. Palm.
“By ruling in favor of the State Legislature the Supreme Court has made clear that Governor Evers’ Secretary-designee has unlawfully exceeded her authority. With this decision in hand it is time to immediately reopen our state.” “Regardless of state regulations, I have watched my neighbors and constituents exercise reasonable care and caution as they have gone about their lives. I believe we can fully reopen our state by relying upon the judgement and discretion of our citizens to navigate the challenges of COVID-19 while resuming our day-to-day lives. If it is necessary to set statewide policies through the administrative rule process, I look forward to being a voice for targeted policies to protect our vulnerable population rather than the broad policies advanced by Governor Evers that have had disastrous consequences for so many Wisconsinites.”
Madison, WI – The Wisconsin Election Commission continues to ignore state law, and a judicial order, by refusing to update our voter rolls. The fact that Democratic members of the Elections Commission are disobeying a judicial order is troubling for anyone concerned with elections in our state.
Senator Stroebel made the following statement in reaction to the Election Commission’s refusal to follow Judge Malloy’s Order:
“The judicial order was clear, the Wisconsin Elections Commission must maintain voter lists as per state law. This law is clear and the judicial order leaves no room for the Democratic members of the Election Commission to find excuses.
“My constituents expect fair and transparent elections and disregarding state law and a judicial order undermine those expectations.”
Wisconsin continues to have same day voter registration. This means that any citizen who is eligible to vote and can register to vote almost any day between now until Election Day, whether they have moved or are voting for the first time.
The largest portion of our property tax dollars go to support for our K-12 educational systems. According to the Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau, K-12 spending has seen an increase of $4 billion since 2013. This $4 billion figure does not even count debt service payments for referendums passed in the same time.
How is this massive K-12 spending increase possible while local property taxes statewide remained flat? It’s because of state appropriations that “back filled” (or reduced) local property taxes.
In total, the Legislature appropriated $4.25 billion in local property tax relief from the 2014 fiscal year through the budget ending in June of 2019. That’s right — money all Wisconsinites paid, predominantly in income tax, has been used to back fill local property taxes statewide. To put that sum into perspective, those funds could have been used to lower income taxes from our current four tax brackets topping at 7.65% to only two income tax brackets of 4% and 5.5%. Viewed another way, if that money were pooled into our current budget, we could cover all funds for the entire two year commitment for these departments: Corrections, Natural Resources, Justice, and all of our appellate courts.
The billions of dollars in state level spending was necessary to keep local property taxes statewide flat despite the 13.1% increased spending by local K-12 school districts from 2013 to June of 2019. Interestingly, during this same period, statewide student enrollment declined 0.8%.
State Senator Duey Stroebel penned a column in response to a recent article in the Washington County Daily News where the Kewaskum Schools were whining about not getting as much state aid as they wanted. While Stroebel uses Kewaskum as the example, he brings up some important points that are applicable across Wisconsin.
From a common-sense standpoint, state and local funding for schools is also on a per-student basis. Dollars are tied to how many students a district educates. Kewaskum enrollment has fallen 236 students from a high of 2,050 students in 2008-09 to 1,814 students in 2018-19. Clearly a 12.5 percent,
or oneeighth, reduction in enrollment should impact finances. According to documents on the Kewaskum School Board website, the 2016-17 school year had a general fund budget of $19.62 million, with an enrollment of 1,844.
The recently finished 2018-19 school year had a general fund budget of $20.78 million with 1,814 students. That is an increase in spending of 5.9 percent over two years while enrollment fell 1.6 percent.
Given current demographics, we can expect flat to declining enrollment to continue throughout Wisconsin. It is up to local school boards, and those they employ, to scale costs and ensure a quality product. Nothing we do at the state level can force a school district to prudently control costs or invest funding in the most critical areas. Every community must ask if each budget item improves educational performance and graduation rates.
Last, but not least, communities can go to referendum. The same cost and education-result questions should be asked on those occasions.
Madison, WI – Today, the Wisconsin Senate passed a package of bills aimed at protecting human life and ensuring that taxpayer dollars do not subsidize abortion clinics. Senator Duey Stroebel (R-Saukville) authored Assembly Bill 183, which directs the state Department of Health Services to exclude abortion clinics from the state’s Medicaid program, better known as BadgerCare.
State and federal law prohibit taxpayer funds from directly paying for abortions, but under Medicaid, abortion clinics may be reimbursed for non-abortion services provided to consumers.
After the vote, Stroebel made the following statement:
“This bill ensures that taxpayer funds do not subsidize the operations of any abortion clinic, it does not reduce funding for women’s care by a single penny. The killing of unborn children is wrong, and no taxpayer dollars should go to clinics that engage in this practice. Unfortunately, Wisconsin taxpayers gave the state’s largest abortion provider $94 million between 2011 and 2018. This bill ends that subsidy while preserving the funds for use by other women’s care providers.
“Pro-life legislative majorities have previously redirected state and federal family planning dollars away from abortion clinics, and this bill continues that theme. Additionally, a number of other states, including Iowa, Texas, South Carolina, Tennessee and Missouri have enacted legislation to this effect.
“It is important to note that there are more federally qualified health centers in Wisconsin than there are abortion clinics, and the $94 million previously sent to abortion clinics will now be able to flow to these other providers to provide true women’s healthcare.”
Stroebel also voted in favor of legislation requiring physicians to provide care to children who survive an abortion attempt, prohibit abortions based on the sex or genetic condition of a child, and enhance informed consent and reporting requirements related to abortion procedures.
Yes, Evers will veto these bills in his quest to kill more babies, but at least he will have to act on it.
It’s hard to argue with any of these reforms… but I’m sure liberals will fins a way.
I have advocated, and will continue to advocate, for reforms to provide greater transparency in the referendum process and to remove policies that incentivize overspending. Among these reforms are:
- requiring ballot questions to show the total actual cost of referendums with projected debt service
- requiring borrowed money to be spent on what is listed on the ballot
- making referendum costs non-shareable, so that one school district’s taxpayers do not subsidize another’s referendum
- requiring public bidding of school district projects
- and clarifying what communications are allowable information to voters and what is illegal electioneering with public money.
The size and importance of these expenditures demands no less from our public officials.
It is remarkable that school districts are one of the only government bodies that can do massive construction projects without putting it out to bid. Given the school-construction-industrial-complex that has sprung up in Wisconsin (now, apparently aided by hired gun Gard), reform is necessary.
With a prominent Wisconsin lawmaker irked that a record could be set for approvals of school projects this year, a lobbying group has emerged to block legislation that could upend the state’s school-referendum system.
Former Wisconsin Assembly Speaker John Gard has registered as a lobbyist for an organization called the Wisconsin Construction Group, which advocates for “school construction and school referendums.” Gard filed a disclosure form with the Wisconsin Ethics Commission on Thursday — one day after a Wisconsin Policy Forum report found that state voters will have the opportunity in November to approve a record $2 billion worth of school referendum spending this year.
The prospect that a record could be set has irked Wisconsin Sen. Duey Stroebel, R-Saukville, who has promised to again pursue legislation that would curtail the use of school referendums. Stroebel has also criticized construction companies for offering so-called pre-referendum services to help school districts win voters’ approval for spending proposals.
In a statement released on Tuesday, Stroebel deemed Wisconsin’s current system for school projects uncompetitive. He noted that school districts, unlike most other forms of government, are not required to bid out their projects, even those whose cost runs into millions of dollars.
A proposal Stroebel sponsored in the most recent legislative session, Senate Bill 236, would have required school districts to bid out such projects. The bill passed the Wisconsin Senate but failed in the Assembly. Stroebel blamed lobbyists “who don’t want transparency.”
“I am not surprised Mr. Gard is involved as he has been one of the go to lobbyists for anyone opposing reform in the construction industry in recent years at the expense of the taxpayer,” Stroebel said. “There is nothing inherently wrong with a school district seeking technical expertise from a company, but the way construction companies advertise their services shows the real world unspoken understanding. ‘You give me the contract. I’ll help pass your referendum’. The question should be, will you deliver the best building at the best price?”
Senator Stroebel offered a comment on the story I posted this morning regarding the teacher resignations in West Bend. He nails it.
It’s now clear former Superintendent Olson handled these inappropriate emails correctly.
No student, parent or community member should be mocked with explicit language – especially since those using bullying tactics are teachers.
Earlier this week, the West Bend Educator’s Association suggested this clear violation of public trust was not handled correctly.
Union teachers need to answer if bullying is ok and how they would have handled the situation.
Yesterday, the Washington County Insider posted a second politically charged survey offered to students.
Political agendas must stay out of the classroom.
Children must always come first.
It is unfortunate the many past achievements made by former board members, administrators and teachers are being shadowed by the lapse of judgement of some teachers.
The Assembly tonight passed the state budget 57-39, with five Republicans joining all Dems in opposing it.
It now heads to the Senate, where it faces an uncertain future as Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald says he doesn’t have the 17 votes he needs to pass it and three Senate Republicans circulate a list of demanded changes.
The Assembly vote came after nearly 11 hours of debate, the rejection of 19 Dem amendments and the adoption of a GOP amendment that makes what the authors call “technical” changes, including deleting a provision requiring DOT to install a railroad gate crossing in Winnebago County.
But in the end, Reps. Scott Allen, R-Waukesha; Janel Brandtjen, R-Menomonee Falls; Bob Gannon, R-West Bend; Adam Jarchow, R-Balsam Lake; and Joe Sanfelippo, R-New Berlin, all voted against the budget.
Good for my rep, Bob Gannon, for voting against this. This is not the kind of budget we expect from a Republican government. We don’t just want “well, it’s better than the Democrats would do.” We want a budget that actually moves the needle toward a better Wisconsin.
And good for my Senator, Duey Stroebel, for being one of the senators holding out for a more conservative budget. It’s almost frustrating because I can’t call and yell at my elected officials. They are already doing the right thing!
Three Senate Republicans are demanding a series of changes to the budget to win over their votes, including raising the income limit for the statewide school choice program and banning UW from spending money on diversity, sensitivity and cultural fluency training.
The three — Sens. Chris Kapenga, of Delafield; Steve Nass, of Whitewater; and Duey Stroebel, of Saukville — also want to move up the planned repeal of the prevailing wage on state projects to Jan. 1 rather than Sept. 1, 2018, and to delete language the Joint Finance Committee added to the budget that would pre-empt local regulations of quarries that produce material for road and construction work.
Heh. This is a story where the reporter is trying very hard to make a distinction that doesn’t make any difference.
State Sen. Duey Stroebel recently cited an eye-popping figure to support his call to scrap Wisconsin’s prevailing wage, telling Wisconsin Public Radio that the typical flagger on a state road project makes $100,000 a year.
That overstates the earnings potential of a highway worker by a wide margin, according to publicly available wage rates and unions that represent road workers.
A typical flagger on such projects would make about $32,760 a year in salary, according to information from those sources.
The number rises to about $53,000 if benefits are included. Overtime hours could push the figure higher, but still far shy of Stroebel’s six-figure estimate.
That’s how it starts. Makes sense so far? Then we see how they arrived at their figures:
But in wintry Wisconsin, road workers aren’t on the job year-round, said Kent Miller, a spokesman for Wisconsin Laborers District Council. He said a typical work year for flaggers and other road workers would be about 1,200 hours, compared to the 2,080 hours-per-year benchmark for people working full-time, year-round. That’s roughly seven and a half months of the year.
But state Sen. Duey Stroebel said all the talk of the declining condition of the state’s roads needs to be debunked.
The Saukville Republican said in an interview broadcast Sunday on “UpFront with Mike Gousha” that people should consider the source and motivation of those who publicize road grades.
“We hear about these studies that say how bad our roads are,” Stroebel said. “Well, you look at who pays for those studies? It’s people who make money building roads. The road builders are paying for those studies.”
Stroebel opposes tax or fee increases to help pay for what some claim is a crumbling state transportation system. He said other studies show a different picture for Wisconsin’s roads.
A report by the conservative Reason Foundation showed Wisconsin’s highway ranking improving from 31st in 2009 to 15th in 2012.
Stroebel said that in the Reason Foundation report, the four states ranked as having the worst roads have prevailing wage laws and no right to work law. The 10 states with the best roads, he said, do not have prevailing wage and have instituted right to work.
As with anything…. follow the money. There is a reason that we have a coordinated push for more transportation spending.
Stroebel brings up a good point about prevailing wage. Although Wisconsin has gotten rid of the prevailing wage requirements for some projects, we have not fully repealed prevailing wage requirements. Let’s fully enact these policy prescriptions before thinking about tax increases.
Stroebel’s measure would limit school referendums to the regularly scheduled fall and spring election dates, when voter turnout tends to exceed that of special elections. In addition, it would bar districts from going back to the taxpayers with a new referendum for two years after one fails.
In Wisconsin, school districts are restricted in what they can raise property taxes every year. The exception is that the district can ask the voters through a referendum to approve a property tax increase above the limit. In general, I support this process. It prevents a rogue board from jacking up taxes too much, but allows individual districts to increase their taxes if the voters expressly approve.
The problem is that too many school districts have abused the process. Instead of waiting for normal election days, they have held special elections to suppress voter turnout while district employees flooded the polls. They have also asked the voters multiple times – over and over again – to raise their taxes. They do this because they know that all they need to get a “yes” vote once regardless of how many times the voters have said “no” before that.
Stroebel’s reforms would still allow districts to ask the voters to exceed state-imposed limits on property tax increases, thus preserving local control, but force school boards to put together a valid justification the first time instead of throwing referendum after referendum against the wall until something sticks. Also, making the districts schedule the referendum elections for the same day as normal elections is perfectly reasonable and encourages higher voter turnout. There is nothing so urgent in a school referendum as to warrant a special election.
Sen. Duey Stroebel, R-Saukville, is proposing to raise the minimum age for most workers in the Wisconsin Retirement System from 55 to 57, or 52 from 50 for those in protective services jobs.
A second bill would say retirement payouts would be calculated on the top five years of an employees’ work, rather than the three years considered currently.
“Look at the private sector. Who even has a pension anymore, let alone the ability to retire at 50?” Stroebel said. “It just isn’t out there.”
Stroebel said while the WRS is considered fully funded currently, he believes it could help the future solvency of the trust fund.
“We have to be ahead of the curve on these things, and I don’t think anyone would consider these changes unreasonable whatsoever,” Stroebel said.
Whenever retirement ages are discussed, whether it is for Social Security, public employees, or private employees who still have a pension, I am always amazed at the ridiculousness of the objections. The only reason to oppose raising the retirement age is because you want to retire earlier rather than later. Well, duh, we all do. But as life expectancy has risen, so should the retirement age. There is no rational reason that the taxpayers should be paying someone for 40 years of retirement for someone who only worked for 30 years.
Raise it. And then index it to the national average life expectancy so we can stop fussing with it.
Yeah, I’m with Senator Stroebel on this one. It should be a quick investigation if they are telling the truth.
Officials with Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin argue there’s no reason for an investigation of its state operations, because fetal tissue donations are not allowed at any of its facilities. Executive Director Tanya Atkinson says it’s due to the extensive infrastructure that’s needed to participate.
State Sen. Duey Stroebel (R-Cedarburg), one of the lawmakers calling for an investigation, does not accept Planned Parenthood’s claims that tissue collection is not done in Wisconsin. “No, I’m not going to just take their word for it. I think we need to see that and confirm that.”