Overall, Walker proposed $11.5 billion for schools, including the $649 million increase.
A spokesman for budget committee co-chairwoman Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, said the Joint Finance Committee reduced the increase to $639 million because of reductions to funding proposed by Walker for rural school districts and for schools in the Milwaukee School District that meet academic achievement goals.
Walker in a statement thanked the committee for its actions after the package was approved 12-4, with all Republicans voting for and all Democrats voting against.
Darling raised her voice at one point, arguing that Democratic policies before Act 10 had “put the teachers in the back room and put the unions at the table.”
“Come on,” Darling said. “We value teachers. I’m sick of this victimizing teachers. Let’s agree that education is all of our priority.”
One measure would allow people to take online classes to earn teacher certification in high-need subjects like technology, math, engineering and science. Another would offer loans for people seeking additional education and training to become principals or other education administrators.
Lawmakers also approved a measure proposed in Walker’s budget to eliminate expiration dates for teachers’ licenses following a three-year provisional period.
It also offers resources for school districts that elect to consolidate or share some services. Districts that completely consolidate would be eligible for aid equal to $150 per student for five years after the consolidation, gradually tapering off in the following years. Districts that choose to share a grade could receive $150 per student enrolled in that grade for four years, which would taper off in the fifth year. The package also sets aside $2 million for a pilot program to provide aid to districts that share some administrative services.
Also under the plan, districts could only hold referendums during already-scheduled election days or on the second Tuesday of November in odd-numbered years, with allowances made for special circumstances, such as increased costs resulting from a natural disaster.
“Thanks to the members of the Joint Finance Committee for supporting the education portion of my budget,” Walker said in a statement. “Once signed, this budget will include more actual dollars for K-12 education than ever before in our history.”