Addressing the most contentious issue in Gov. Scott Walker’s budget bill, state Schools Superintendent Tony Evers on Thursday called on members of the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee to reject a proposed expansion of voucher schools and to give more money to public schools.
Citing figures from the Legislature’s nonpartisan budget office, Evers said the $129 million in new state aid Walker included in his two-year budget bill drops to $39.2 million after accounting for how part of that money would go to private and charter schools under the proposal. Walker seeks to increase funding for existing and future voucher schools, expand them to nine new school districts and allow special-needs students from around the state to attend private schools at taxpayer expense.
At the same time, Walker wants to use the state public school aid to hold down local property taxes rather than increase spending on education.
Evers, who is running for re-election on April 2 against Rep. Don Pridemore (R-Erin), said Walker’s budget pitted public schools against private schools by increasing state funding for voucher school initiatives by 32% while keeping overall revenue to schools flat.
“This has to stop. The state cannot continue to play favorites. We can and must meet our constitutional obligation to invest in all of our kids,” Evers said.
In its third straight day of budget hearings, the Joint Finance Committee took testimony Thursday on Walker’s 2013-’15 budget proposals for Wisconsin’s K-12 schools, technical colleges and universities. The hearing made clear that the governor’s education proposals will face resistance from some senators in the Republican-controlled Senate and have strong support from Republicans in charge of the Assembly, leaving its future in doubt.