MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Tony Evers on Tuesday called for spending nearly $2 billion more on public K-12 schools — a plan derided by Republicans that was released nine weeks before the election and crafted to allow school expenses to increase without raising property taxes.
Evers will formally present the funding plan, which relies on tapping into part of a projected $5 billion budget surplus, next year if he is re-elected in November. But then it would be up to the Republican-controlled Legislature, which rejected much of what Evers wanted to do in its previous two budgets, to decide whether or not to pass it.
“We have to do this if we finally want to make a difference for children”, Evers, a former teacher, administrator and state superintendent for schools, said at the press conference. “We need to. … This is the opportunity of a lifetime.
Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos rejected the plan because “a weak ploy to try to win votes after the disastrous results of Governor Evers’ failures.”
Evers’ Republican opponent Tim Michels said Evers’ plan was “the same as he always is.”
“More money and more bureaucracy” Michels said in a statement. “Evers’ tired, old-fashioned approach didn’t work.” A key part of Michels’ educational platform is to extend private school vouchers to all students in the state, something Evers opposes.
“He spent his career in education and our schools just keep getting worse, especially (Milwaukee),” Michels said. “I’m going to take Wisconsin in the right direction. I will give parents better access to information and more options for their children. »
Evers unveiled highlights of his education plan during a press conference at the Academy of Accelerated Learning in Milwaukee, where he was joined by State Superintendent for Schools Jill Underly as they hosted students in class for the fall.
The bulk of Evers’ plan would provide $800 million in additional school aid to contain property tax increases while allowing schools to raise revenue caps by $350 per student next school year. and $650 during the 2023-2024 school year. Revenue limits are the maximum amounts schools can collect from state aid and property taxes combined, although there are exceptions. School districts frequently look to voters for permission to exceed state-mandated revenue limits so they can increase spending.
Under the Evers plans, aid per student would increase by $24 next year and $45 the following year, at a cost of $60 million. This money is not part of the schools’ income limits. It also calls for spending $750 million more on special education.
Other parts of his plan would spend $240 million to ensure that every public school district has at least one full-time staff member focused on mental health services.
One of the goals of the plan is to improve student reading and literacy. It includes a new $10 million aid package to fund literacy-related programs, with a focus on helping 4- and 5-year-old students who are just starting to learn to read.
The plan also works to expand access to free meals for students by creating a state-funded program to reimburse districts for student breakfast, milk, snack and lunch costs. Evers said the plan would provide free meals to students who qualify for free and reduced-price meals, while reducing costs for other students.
Other parts of the education funding proposal include efforts to improve financial literacy programs, strengthen after-school programs, and change the law on hiring retired teachers and staff to allow more vacancies to be filled by experienced staff.