Following a regular session that saw relatively modest action on the education front, state legislators reconvened late last month for a short-lived special session focused on a proposal to limit spending on state and local government, including public schools.
The unexpected one-day session fizzled on July 28 without a floor vote in either chamber on a proposed amendment to the state constitution known as the “Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights.” Modeled loosely after one enacted in Colorado, the amendment would have limited spending increases by state and local government bodies to 90 percent of the three-year average growth rate in personal income statewide.
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GOP leaders promised to bring the measure back early next year, while Democrats and school groups vowed to continue their opposition. The amendment would have to clear the legislature in two consecutive sessions before going to a statewide vote. The earliest date for such a referendum would be 2007.
The dust-up came as state spending for public schools rose by 1 percent for the fiscal year that began July 1, under terms of a biennial budget enacted last year. That increase brought the bottom line for state spending on K-12 schools to nearly $4.9 billion in fiscal 2004-05.
The only major program eliminated this fiscal year was state funding for drivers’ education programs—for a savings of $3.8 million.
Meanwhile, the governor signed legislation imposing new financial requirements on private schools participating in the Milwaukee voucher program, and granted state officials new powers to kick schools out of the state-run program. (“Milwaukee Voucher Schools to See Increased Accountability to State,” March 24, 2004.)