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Republicans Dismiss Evers, Underly Call for School Funding

By Dee Pettack | September 7, 2022

From WisPolitics.com …Gov. Tony Evers and state Superintendent Jill Underly today called for a nearly $2 billion increase in funding for public schools as they laid down the first big chunk of DPI’s budget plan if the guv is reelected.Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, was quick to dismiss the proposal as an election-year ploy, while GOP guv candidate Tim Michels called it just more “money and more bureaucracy.”The biggest ticket items in the package included a call to increase revenue limits by $350 per pupil in 2023-24 and $650 in 2024-25. Under the plan, the state would provide $800 million in additional aid to hold down the impact on property taxes.On top of that, Evers and Underly are calling for additional per pupil increases of $24 per student in the first year of the budget and $45 in the second. That would amount to another $60 million boost to public schools that would go toward increasing their overall ability to spend.The plan also includes investing $750 million more over the biennium in special education funding.“This is a feeble ploy to try to win votes after the disastrous results of Governor Evers’ failures,” Vos wrote on Twitter. “The impact and damage done to children’s education by shutting down schools for two years is not something their parents will easily forget.”Evers ordered schools to close in March 2020 at the outset of the pandemic. He then left the decision up to local officials.State agencies have to turn in their budget requests to the Evers administration by Sept. 15. But today’s announcement didn’t touch on a host of state funding for schools such as the $55.9 million in aid to small, rural districts in this biennium. It also didn’t address the state’s voucher program, which Republicans want to expand.If he’s reelected, Evers would have to sell the GOP-controlled Legislature on the proposal after the two have been at odds over education funding in both of his budgets. GOP lawmakers, for example, cut nearly $1 billion in general purpose revenue he had proposed for the DPI budget for 2021-23, arguing education funding had to take into account the millions in federal COVID-19 aid flowing into the state. If Michels wins this fall, Underly would have to convince him and Republican lawmakers of the benefits of funding the plan.Evers said the state is looking at a $5 billion surplus in the 2023-25 biennium and can make such a significant investment in schools without raising property taxes.“Budgets are about priorities, and that’s why building our biennial budget always begins for me with doing what’s best for our kids, and we know our kids, families, and schools need our help now more than ever to get caught up, get more educators and staff in our classrooms, and ensure every kid has the support and resources they need to be successful,” Evers said.The new proposals include:*a student mental health categorical aid. The plan would invest $240 million in the effort to start to ensure every district could have at least one full-time staffer focused on mental health services. Districts would also get additional money based on enrollment.*a categorical aid of $10 million each year to fund literacy-related programming.*a state-funded program to reimburse districts for breakfast, milk, snack and lunch expenses to make it more affordable for students regardless of family income.*a $10 million categorical aid for literacy programs.*a $5 million initiative to improve financial literacy.

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