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Eagle Point Elementary School

If the Wisconsin legislature’s proposed budget is adopted, it could mean DeForest Area School District missing out on almost $2 million in funding.

As part of the nationwide federal COVID relief program, the state of Wisconsin was expected to receive roughly $1.5 billion allocated across school districts including, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, $1,946,626 for DeForest School District. The funding would come through the CARES Act, CAA, and ARPA.

A condition of the funding is minimum 35% state funding of public schools.

In a statement released on May 28, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Association of School Boards John Ashley accused Wisconsin Republicans of treating federal funding as a ceiling and a reason to avoid long-term investment.

“The K-12 funding plan adopted by the JFC (Joint Finance Committee) proposes to spend only about $128 million more on K-12 education over the next two years,” said Ashley. “This amount is less than one-quarter of the investment the Legislature made in schools in the last state budget and is less than one-tenth of the amount that Gov. Evers has proposed.”

In an April 6 Joint Finance Committee hearing, State Superintendent Carolyn Stanford Taylor called on committee members to return state public school funding to a previous level of 35%.

“To best meet the needs of all students we must restore two-thirds funding for education,” said Stanford Taylor. “Former Governor Tommy Thompson first made this commitment in an effort to equalize the financial resources available to school districts by decreasing the reliance on property taxes. It is an important commitment by the state to return to this promise.”

During the hearing Co-Chair State Senator Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green) argued that increased education budgeting would be unnecessary in part due to expected federal funding.

If there are no legislative changes to federal COVID relief funding and state budgeting continues as proposed, the DeForest School District could suffer the second blow to its funding in the past two months.

In early May the Village of DeForest announced a proposed lawsuit settlement over disputed property valuation with Walgreens over its DeForest distribution center, resulting in a $633,000 tax refund shared between the village and other local entities, including the DeForest Area School District.

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