The state’s failure to pay for mandated special education and English Language Learner (ELL) costs reduced available resources to Madison Schools by over $11.6 million, according to information released to Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Madison) by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB).
At the district’s request, Pocan asked the LFB to calculate the reimbursement for special education and ELL expenses comparing the level of state categorical aid during the 1993-94 school year (the first year of state-imposed revenue limits) and the 2005-06 school year. School districts statewide were reimbursed for special education expenses at nearly 45% for 1993-94. The reimbursement for 2005-06 slipped to below 29%, translating to a loss of over $9.4 million in resources for Madison Schools compared to 1993-94.
For ELL students, the 1993-94 state reimbursement to districts for expenses was 33.1%. Currently, school districts are reimbursed at 11.5%, a loss of over $2.2 million in resources for Madison Schools compared to 1993-94.
For decades the state had a statutory provision requiring reimbursement for special education to be 63%, but the statute was eliminated from law in the 1999-2001 biennial budget.
The State of Wisconsin has been increasing it’s overall K-12 funding during this time, including the much discussed commitment to fund 2/3 of school district budgets. It would be interesting to see a summary of the spending changes over time, including areas that saw increases, and like this example, decreases.