State Budget Impacts the SDMA

State Budget Impacts the SDMA
Posted on 09/29/2017

It is a real pleasure to travel down to Madison each September to attend the Fall Superintendents Conference hosted by the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators (WASDA). Not only does this conference provide good opportunities for professional development and networking with school superintendents across the state, but it also gives us a chance to receive important updates from the Department of Public Instruction (DPI), connect with some of our state legislators, and attend the annual State of Education Address held in the rotunda of the Wisconsin State Capitol.

This year’s visit to Madison was a little unique, as Governor Scott Walker missed his presentation to superintendents due to the ceremony for signing the state budget, and the state of education speech delivered by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers appeared to be more comprehensive than previous years. In his address, Evers spent time connecting education to larger state issues like transportation and Medicaid.  With Evers having already announced his candidacy for governor in 2018, and some people classifying the new state spending plan as “Walker’s reelection budget”, it was not difficult to recognize political tensions in Madison.

After recently being appointed regional representative on the WASDA legislative committee, I have spent a good amount of time reviewing the recently signed biennial state budget.  From my perspective, I am very pleased that schools across the state will be receiving a revenue increase of at least $200 per student in both this year and next.  This should allow most school districts in Wisconsin to maintain operations without further reducing staff or programming for children.  In Menomonie, we built a balanced budget for the 2017-2018 school year based on the funding that was proposed by the governor and passed by the state legislature.

In response to the shortage of quality teaching candidates across the state and country, the new state budget also included legislation to provide greater flexibility for teacher licensing. Restrictions on the subjects and grade levels that can be taught by teachers were loosened, and educators who have already been approved for a five-year professional or master educator license will now be granted a lifetime license. Other provisions in the new law will allow people with a two-year degree to obtain a substitute teaching permit and make it easier for newer teachers to obtain an initial educator license as they work toward earning the professional educator status. These changes should provide some much needed relief to school districts in the short-term, but there is concern for how these changes could negatively impact teacher quality over time. 

While there certainly are some parts of the new biennial budget to celebrate, the number of resources that our state has already committed to the future concerns me. Much can change in two years, but with the increasing costs of Medicaid, the large investments that our state has made in private school tax credits and vouchers, the unmet needs of our transportation system, and the new incentives approved for Foxconn, it is likely that the next biennial budget will require significant reductions or reforms to balance future revenue with expenditures. In Menomonie, we will keep a close eye on what is happening in Madison, and we continue to make decisions to keep our school district operating as efficiently and effectively as possible.

Should school families or stakeholders have any questions about how the new state budget impacts our schools or anything else related to our school district, I invite you to visit with me at the Administrative Service Center on Pine Avenue or call me at 715-232-1642.  More information about our schools can be found on the school district website (, and I regularly post school-related information on Twitter ( and Facebook (