Republicans in the legislature made restoring over $100 million in cuts the Governor made to K-12 funding a top priority. In addition to doing that, they made a number of policy changes to both the charter and choice programs in Wisconsin, including allowing for broader expansion in both arenas.
Teacher licensing standards were relaxed, deductions for parents sending their kids to private schools were expanded, a new ratings system was implemented and a high-school civics test was mandated.
The omnibus also included specific directives for Milwaukee Public Schools. Giving the Milwaukee County Executive authority to appoint an individual to take five failing public schools over the next two years and convert them into an independent charter or voucher school. This would continue after 2017, when a special commissioner would be allowed to do the same with no more than five schools every school year after 2017.
Early in the process Governor Walker’s budget proposal for the University of Wisconsin System was one of the most talked about provisions. The legislature reduced the governor’s cut by $50 million and settled on a $250 million GPR cut. The governor’s plan to give more authority to the UW system was rebuffed and removed, while a two-year freeze on tuition remained. A somewhat controversial item relating to how tenure is addressed within the system was also adopted. Early on, it appeared that the majority of the cuts will hit the system’s flagship campus in Madison.
The budget committee also removed the governor’s proposal to end the Minnesota-Wisconsin tuition reciprocity agreement, costing the state a payment of $6.4 million GPR to Minnesota annually.