Joint Finance Committee budget continues Republican assault on public education

the red rectangle buttonThe Republican-led Legislature continued its assault against public school students in Wisconsin, with the powerful, budget-writing Joint Finance Committee advancing proposals that drain revenue for public schools by bolstering voucher and charter schools in Wisconsin.

The committee introduced a 30-page motion on education-related topics late Tuesday night, giving Democratic members of the committee 90 minutes to look over the content before bringing it to a full committee vote.

Numerous items had never received a public hearing, meaning parents, educators and students have been denied an opportunity to provide input on the drastic changes that are creating a dueling, state-funded school system in Wisconsin.

Perhaps the biggest financial hit to public schools will come as a result of Republicans lifting the cap on the number of vouchers issued statewide, while simultaneously preventing school districts from levying taxes to replace lost aid. That means public schools will be prevented from raising taxes to fund the educational needs of students who opt to stay in public schools rather than applying for a state-funded voucher.

Republicans also confirmed the fears of many by sliding a proposal by Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, and Rep. Dale Kooyenga, R-Brookfield, into the motion. The proposal would turn “underperforming” Milwaukee public schools into voucher or charter schools. This proposal, which will impact thousands of Milwaukee public school children, never had a public hearing.

“The Republican public education budget, designed by Gov. Scott Walker and politicians to pay back voucher lobbyists for campaign cash, represents the worst of the worst for Wisconsin Public Schools,” said teacher Betsy Kippers, president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council. “At the same time Republicans are at the front door of the schoolhouse boasting that they are putting money inside, they are sneaking money out the back door to subsidize private schools. Citizens will not stand for this assault on public schools.”

The education budget package advanced by the committee does the following:

  • Removes the cap on statewide vouchers and prohibits districts from levying to replace the lost state aid.
  • Creates a special needs voucher program.
  • Allows operators of privately run charters to open new schools under conditions specified by the Legislature.
  • Allows for the takeover of struggling public schools in Milwaukee under the control of an appointed commissioner to convert them to voucher or charter schools while paving the way for similar takeovers in other school districts.
  • Provides for licensure of individuals with minimal qualifications, some with little more than a high school diploma, to teach in our public schools.
  • Eliminates common core standards.
  • Pushes back the non-renewal deadline in odd-numbered years.
  • Requires passing a civics exam to graduate from high school.

Following final action on the state budget by the Joint Finance Committee, the budget bill heads to both houses of the Legislature for approval before heading to the Governor for his consideration.

For more details of the Joint Finance Committee state budget education provisions, click here.

Look for additional analysis distributed through WEAC Communications channels soon and follow state budget developments at weac.org/budget and at twitter.com/weac. You can also sign up for At the Capitol News Alerts at weac.org/subscribe.

Tell your legislators this budget will hurt your local schools: www.weac.org/cyberlobby.