Commentary on Wisconsin K-12 Tax & Spending Policies

Madison Teachers, Inc. Solidarity Newsletter (PDF), via a kind Jeanie Kamholtz email:

Governor Walker’s proposed Budget and the gamesmanship being played in the legislature has been compared to the game “whack-a-mole”. Representative Melissa Sargent, a champion for public education, teachers and progressive causes, said of the Budget proposals, “Just when you think we’ve averted one crisis, another initiative is introduced to threaten the progressive traditions of our state.” Sargent added, “The Budget process provides a look inside the corporate-driven policy agenda of the Republican party. Their goal is comprehensive privatization.”

That concept came through loud and clear last week, when the Republican majority on the Joint Finance Committee introduced a proposal which would enable even more funds to be diverted from money-starved public schools to private schools, by expanding the number of parents who can use a State-issued voucher to pay the cost of sending their child to a private school. The funds would come from that child’s area public school system. An investigation by One Wisconsin Now illustrates that a pro-voucher front group donated $122,000 to the campaigns of the Republicans on the Joint Finance Committee.

Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling said education must be the top Budget priority, that “the needs of children and schools must be addressed before tax breaks for the wealthy and giveaways to special interests (voucher supporters).” Shilling continued, “To fully restore the cuts our schools have seen over the past four years, we need to invest an additional $200 per student above what Walker has proposed.” While the Republican majority brags that they are adding $208 million in school aids, it amounts to only 1⁄2 of 1% over the two-year Budget, and more than 50% of that will not go to schools, but to reducing property taxes.

The Walker Budget would also enable State takeover of the Milwaukee Public Schools, and perhaps the Madison Metropolitan School District. The Budget proposal would enable a “commissioner to convert these schools to charter or voucher schools.” The “commissioner” would have the authority to fire all teachers and administrators in a school district taken over, given the provisions of the proposed law.

A recent amendment would enable anyone with any BA degree to teach English, social studies, math or science, and enable anyone – even without a degree – to teach business, art, music, agriculture or special education.

The Budget will be acted upon this month. It is time to let your objections be heard regarding the school funding crisis being created by the proposed Budget. Contact majority party members of the Joint Finance Committee:

Related: Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results, despite spending more than $15,000 per student, double the national average.