Feds warn Wisconsin it may lose $1.5 billion in school aid

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The U.S. Department of Education warned Wisconsin’s state superintendent of schools Friday that the state could be in jeopardy of losing $1.5 billion in federal funding if a Republican education plan becomes law.

The Legislature’s Republican-controlled budget committee on Thursday approved spending about $128 million in state dollars on education and putting aside $350 million into a fund that could be used later for education expenses or anything else. The federal coronavirus relief bill enacted by Congress in March requires the state to spend $387 million more over two years on education in order for Wisconsin to keep $1.5 billion in aid.

The $350 million can’t be counted as education funding until it is specifically used for that purpose, the Department of Education said in the letter sent to Wisconsin state Superintendent Carolyn Stanford Taylor.

“The failure of the Wisconsin legislature to appropriate sufficient levels of funds specifically for K-12 education may preclude the State from (complying with the law),” the letter said.

Rep. Mark Born, co-chair of the budget committee, on Friday called the amount of federal money coming into Wisconsin “obscene.” He reiterated his comments from Thursday that lawmakers were aware of the federal requirements to keep the money and dismissed the warning from the education department as a “political letter sent by a Biden bureaucrat.”