It's true that current law permits districts to recoup reductions in state aid to pay for vouchers for children a district no longer educates, but it isn't the whole story. And, under the Vos amendment, districts would still be able to recoup aid reduction..
Let's start with existing law. Although the districts may recoup the reduction in state aid attributable to a student departing for a private school, whether that reduction amounts to a "loss" depends on the circumstances. But many districts are doing much more than "recouping" what they have lost in state aid.
Last June, my organization released a report concerning the contemplated statewide expansion of school choice. We pointed out that changes in the way that vouchers were funded statewide could create a "school choice bonus" for districts with students departing for private schools. This, we explained, was because districts could continue to count departing students for purposes of their revenue limit and state aid. State aid, in turn, would only be reduced by the amount of the voucher. Because this will invariably be less than the revenue limit, districts could receive a combination of state aid and local property tax revenue greater for each departing student than the amount by which their state aid would be reduced. Thus, while districts receive less total revenue, their revenue per student would - in almost all - if not all - instances, increase.
Apparently some legislators believed that the funding formula as passed would permit districts to tax only to the extent of their lost revenue per departing student or that, in any event, districts would not levy up to the revenue limit for students that they no longer educated. But that's not what has happened. According to the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, most school districts, which have children in the voucher program, have helped themselves to the school choice "bonus" that we predicted and then had the temerity to "blame" the voucher program for the excess taxes that they chose to impose. The MacIver Institute highlights this issue.
The question is this: Should school districts be able to continue to receive state aid and levy taxes for students that they no longer must educate even if the sum of state aid and taxes exceeds the amount of revenue they lose for each departing student? Districts are not simply "recouping" lost funds. Those who choose to tax to the extent of their revenue limit are making up for what they have lost and then some.
At very low levels of participation, it is possible that the savings attributable to departing students will be less than the voucher amount (and lost revenue) for those students. The impact won't be large but it may make sense - both for the school districts and taxpayer equity (it is not clear why there should not be a local component of voucher funding) to allow districts to recover some or all of the portion of their lost revenue. Of course, at higher levels of participation, a well managed district ought to be able to offset revenue losses because marginal costs should become closer to average costs and the aid reduction will always be substantially less than the average cost per student.
In any event, the amendment to the law proposed by Speaker Vos would only change the timing of this school choice "bonus." Rather than allow school districts to count all choice students (kids that a district no longer educates) for purposes of state aid and taxing authority immediately, it "phases" in the counting of these students as would be the case if these were new students (and phases them "out" after they no longer attend a private school within the district). In other words, the Vos amendment only changes the timing of the school choice "bonus."
The public narrative has been that current law simply drains the public schools and the amendment would make it worse. It's not that simple.
Cross posted at Purple Wisconsin.