The following offers highlights of the recent legislative sessions. Precollegiate enrollment figures are based on fall 2005 data reported by state officials for public elementary and secondary schools. The figures for precollegiate education spending do not include federal flow-through funds, unless noted.
After vetoing a similar bill last year, Gov. James E. Doyle, a Democrat, struck a deal with leaders of the Republican-controlled Wisconsin legislature last spring to lift the enrollment cap on the state’s voucher program in Milwaukee.
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Under the plan, the number of vouchers—worth up to $6,300 annually—that can be awarded rose by 7,500, to a total of 22,500. Voucher proponents sought the increase last year as the number of students enrolled in the program neared the previous cap of 15,000.
As part of the compromise, private schools receiving the tuition vouchers must obtain independent accreditation and administer a nationally normed test, measures supported by Gov. Doyle. The bill also increases state funding for class-size reduction in grades K-3 from $2,000 per student to $2,250 per student—an additional $25 million over the 2008 and 2009 fiscal years.
General state support for K-12 education for fiscal 2007 will be $5.25 billion under the biennial budget passed during the last legislative session which ended in early January. The current session is officially open until the inauguration of the new legislature on Jan. 3, although no more regular floor sessions are scheduled until that time.
The governor also signed a measure requiring school districts to seek informed consent from a child’s parent before providing special education to the child. Under the legislation, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction is no longer required to approve districts’ special education plans, only to determine their eligibility for special education funding.
A version of this article appeared in the December 06, 2006 edition of Education Week