Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers is calling on lawmakers to use $250 million in newly projected surplus dollars to bolster K-12 funding through school-based mental health services and special education aid in districts across the state.
The former state schools superintendent, who signed an executive order Thursday ordering a legislative special session to act on the sweeping plan, also aims to restore the state’s commitment to fund two-thirds of what’s required to educate students and direct $130 million of the funds for property tax relief through the state’s equalization aid formula.
The push comes after recent revenue projections show Wisconsin is expected to see $452 million more in its general fund to end the biennium than previously anticipated, opening up a discussion about how the state should spend the extra money.
Republicans have advocated for spending some of the funding on tax relief. But Evers in a state Capitol news conference Thursday said his proposal would both lower property taxes and “invest in our kids,” adding: “We can do both.”
“We need to help around the issue of rising property taxes. We get that,” he said. “Investing in our schools will do that.”
Democratic leaders Sen. Jennifer Shilling and Rep. Gordon Hintz applauded the effort in a statement, saying the investment would give kids better opportunities and give a boost to Wisconsin’s education system.
“We need to ensure we are retaining quality teachers, investing in modern facilities and meeting high education standards to give students the best chance at getting ahead,” Shilling, D-La Crosse, said. “We need to put our money where our mouth is if we want to re-establish Wisconsin’s reputation as a leader in K-12 education.”
But GOP legislative leaders were skeptical of the idea, with Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald taking to Twitter to knock the proposal as one driven by teachers’ unions that are “calling all the shots in the East Wing.”