With schools ‘at the tipping point,’ educators ask legislators to ‘do the right thing’ and pass Evers’ budget

As the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee concluded its statewide budget hearings Wednesday in Green Bay, educators continued to encourage legislators to “do the right thing” and support Governor Evers’ budget plan that supports children, public schools and our dedicated teachers and education support professionals.

“Today, I urge you to fully support the components in the governor’s budget designed to improve public education,” said Green Bay special education teacher Justin Delfosse, who is president of the Green Bay Education Association. “That includes the complete package of funding increases, preparation time for teachers, and repeal of online alternative education preparation programs for Wisconsin teacher licensure that do not require any hands-on classroom training.”

Delfosse noted that since the passage of the anti-public education law called ACT 10 in 2011, colleges of education have seen a dramatic decrease of student enrollment in teacher education programs. “This has led to a serious teacher shortage in Wisconsin, particularly in hard-to-fill positions such as special education, ESL, and bilingual,” he said.

“I tell you this because Green Bay Area Public Schools, and schools around Wisconsin are at a tipping point. Wisconsin has neglected funding for public education for too long. Wisconsin has fallen to 33rdin the country in terms of paying teachers.”

Delfosse said that students and their families “depend on us, and we are depending on you to be a part of the solution.”

“The solution,” he said, “includes funding increases outlined in the budget in front of us, and it comes with using some of that funding to restore educator pay so professionals who dedicate themselves to teaching can provide for our families and make this a career instead of a stop along the way to a family-supporting job.

“As a teacher, I go above and beyond for my students,” Delfosse said. “I’m asking you to do your part for all students in Wisconsin because our children deserve this investment.”

In addition to testifying in person when possible, such as Delfosse did, educators, parents and supporters of public education have been sending emails and submitting testimony to the committee in support of Governor Evers’ budget. Brad Klotz, a Lake Mills band teacher, communicated with the committee through a video which he posted to Facebook.

Klotz said he is concerned that as Wisconsin teachers salaries continue to fall – dropping already from 18th to 33rd among the states – that “motivated educators such as myself” will leave the profession or the state, adding to the challenges created by a growing teacher shortage.

“There is a way to fix this,” he said. “Legislature of the State of Wisconsin, we are looking to you to do the right thing here … and pass Governor Evers’ budget.”


Educators and supporters of public schools continue to advocate for school funding increases

Educators continued to advocate for public education this week as the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee held hearings on the state budget.

Educators and supporters of public education testified at those hearings, submitted written testimony and shared their thoughts through letters to their legislators and in letters submitted to local media throughout the state. There are plenty more chances to get involved in the state budget:

  • Monday, April 15: Joint Finance Committee hearing, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., University Center – Riverview Ballroom, UW-River Falls.
  • Monday, April 15: Governor’s Budget Listening Session, 6-7:30 p.m. (Doors open at 5:15 p.m.), UW-Superior, Yellowjacket Union1605 Catlin Ave., Superior. REGISTER HERE!
  • Tuesday, April 16: Governor’s Budget Listening Session, 5 p.m., Chippewa Valley Technical College – Business Education Center, Student Commons, 620 W. Clairemont Ave., Eau Claire.
  • Wednesday, April 24: Joint Finance Committee hearing, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., University Union – Phoenix Rooms, UW-Green Bay.

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This week’s budget hearings
On Wednesday, supporters of public education packed a Joint Finance Committee hearing in Oak Creek, speaking in favor of Governor Evers’ proposals to increase general public education funding as well as special education funding.

Among them was Greendale High School teacher Zach Geiger, who said he is concerned about attracting and retaining qualified teachers who provide quality education to all students. 

“I started my career five years ago and have seen teacher after teacher leave the profession in search of careers with more predictability, respect, and adequate compensation,” he told the Joint Finance Committee. “Most of these teachers were in their first five years, and I am afraid that this trend is lowering students’ access to teachers who have developed their practice over years.”

Geiger said he is also concerned at the amount of public school funding that is being allocated for private school vouchers and independent charter schools. 

“This should concern all of us because I believe public schools build successful communities of educated citizens,” he said. “The investments in education proposed in this budget are necessary to stop the damages that public education has withstood in the past eight years and re-establish teaching as an attractive profession and Wisconsin education as a point of pride.”

At an earlier hearing in Janesville, WEAC Vice President Peggy Wirtz-Olsen said our public schools “are struggling to find teachers—substitute teachers, regular education teachers, special education teachers.”

“We’ve neglected funding for public education for too long,” she said.  “Wisconsin has fallen to 33rd in the country in terms of paying teachers. We need to increase state funding by 1.4 billion over the next two years — with a $200 per-pupil funding level for 2019-20 and $204 for 2020-21.  

“My local community passed a referendum last fall — in an attempt to solve the budget shortfalls in pay and in deferred maintenance,” Wirtz-Olsen said. “The state must do its part for allstudents in Wisconsin because our children deserve this investment. I encourage you to pass the People’s Budget – investing in our public education system, criminal justice reform, healthcare. These are the first steps to a brighter future in Wisconsin.”

La Crosse teacher Jon Havlicek submitted a column to the La Crosse Tribune providing a firsthand account of how school funding shortcomings impact his classrooms daily.

“As a Spanish teacher at Central High School for the last 21 years, I can tell you that the state has underfunded public schools for over a generation,” Havlicek wrote. ” In particular, the state has reneged on its promise to cover 66%, or two thirds, of the cost of special education services in our public schools. This cost continues to grow, as more and more students are identified as needing more support.  While private schools can and do exclude many students who need special support, public schools must not and do not shirk our duty to provide the best education we can, for ALL students.  

 “However, the state commitment to special education funding has dropped almost every year, to the point where it stands at about 25% today, far short of the promised 66%,” Havlicek wrote. “Governor Evers, in his People’s Budget, has called on the legislature to pass a budget that moves toward fulfilling the state’s obligation to these students and their families. He also campaigned on a promise to significantly increase general school funding, to make up for the stripping of support that our students and families have suffered over the last eight years.

“We can keep the world class education system we have here in Wisconsin,” he concluded, “but we need to fund it properly.”

WEAC Secretary-Treasurer Kim Schroeder, a fourth-grade teacher in Milwaukee Public Schools, asked Joint Finance Committee members to be open-minded and supportive of public schools rather than just saying Governor Evers’ budget is “dead on arrival.”

For those legislators who refuse to be open-minded, Schroeder said, “Stop. Stop saying you care about education. Stop saying you care about parents.  Stop saying you care about the children of this state. We don’t believe you anyway.”

“What matters are actions. We are tired of the false rhetoric. We are tired of you playing politics with the future of our students.  

“We are watching. The parents are watching.  And, most importantly, the students are watching.”

Voters support ‘major increase’ in special education funding

A large majority of Wisconsin’s registered voters – 74 percent – agree with Governor Evers that there should be a “major increase” in state aid for special education, according to results from the latest Marquette University Law School poll. As part of his state budget plan, Evers has proposed a $600 million increase.

Evers’ plan would increase the state reimbursement rate for special education costs from 27% to 60% and free up funding for other programs at the local school district level.

WEAC President Ron Martin has applauded Evers’ proposal, saying that years of underfunding of special education worsened under former Governor Scott Walker. “It’s incredibly important at a time when so many children have unique needs that we provide the resources needed so all kids can be successful no matter their learning style or ability,” Martin said.

In releasing its plan, the Department of Public Instruction said, “After decades of cutting or freezing support, Wisconsin provides less reimbursement to local schools for special education than any other state in the nation. In order to pay for these required services, school districts have to make difficult decisions, even reducing or cutting other opportunities for students.”

The state budget is currently being debated in the Republican-controlled Legislature.

In other results from the Marquette poll released Wednesday:

  • 70 percent said the state should accept federal funds to expand Medicaid, while 23 percent were opposed.
  • 57 percent support increasing the minimum wage, while 38 percent were opposed. Evers is calling for an increase to $8.25 an hour on January 1 and then to $9 in 2021. It would increase another 75 cents each of the following two years before being indexed for inflation.
  • 57 percent preferred to keep gas taxes and vehicle registration fees at current levels, while 39 percent supported an increase. Evers has called for an increase of 8 cents in the gas tax.
  • 41 percent supported freezing enrollment in voucher schools and a pause on new independent charter schools, while 46 percent were opposed.

Read more:

Evers’ Approval, Disapproval Both Up In Latest Marquette Poll

Public approval – and disapproval – of Gov. Tony Evers went up in the latest Marquette University Law School poll as more people familiarized themselves with the first-term governor after three months on the job. The survey also saw a slight uptick in support for President Donald Trump among Wisconsin voters and a larger jump in support for Vermont U.S.

Legislative Update – JFC hears from State Superintendent

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction testified on its proposed 2019-21 budget in front of the Joint Finance Committee today, Wednesday, April 3.

The DPI budget proposal, which would increase public school funding by $1.4 billion, is a move toward restoring what’s been cut over the past eight years. Democratic legislators on the committee and State Superintendent Carolyn Stanford Taylor stood their ground on the need to increase funding for students while Republican JFC members repeatedly knocked the proposal.

While the JFC is holding hearings on the governor’s budget proposal, they’ve made clear they are considering they’ll ignore his proposal altogether and instead introduce their own budget. Given public sentiment to reinvest in education, Republican leaders have said a funding increase is on table but have questioned how much money that would include – and how it would be divided between public and private voucher schools. Republican members of the JFC did point out the funding for education in their last budget, which did not restore funding they had cut previously but marked the first time they hadn’t made cuts in many years. They also spoke out against capping voucher enrollment.

Key points from the hearing:

  • “…the focus of our budget — and my agenda as Wisconsin’s state superintendent — is educational equity. Educational equity is providing each child the opportunities they need to achieve academic and personal success. It’s about fairness.” – State Superintendent Carolyn Stanford Taylor
  • “…taxpayers probably can’t afford it.” – Luther Olsen, Senate Education Committee Chairman
  • “This budget to me obviously indicates a real true investment in K-12 education, but it also underscores how much we haven’t been paying in the past budget.” – Sen. Jon Erpenbach

Some examples of how the budget advances fairness in education:

  • Increases investment in student mental health by $63 million. State support remains far short of demand and this budget significantly expands school-based services, pupil support staff, and mental health training. One in five students faces a mental health issue, and over 80 percent of these students going untreated.
  • Invests in early childhood education. All Wisconsin students benefit from full-day 4K, and there are 3K grants for the five largest school districts. To eliminate achievement gaps, Wisconsin will finally address learning deficits early. All children deserve access to high quality, developmentally-appropriate, early learning environments – no matter where they live or what their family circumstances are.
  • Establishes after-school program funding. $20 million in aid to fund after-school programming provides more children opportunities for high-quality, extended learning time.
  • Creates Urban Excellence Initiative. Multiple strategies tackle achievement gaps in the five largest school districts that educate 20 percent of all Wisconsin students.
  • Addresses the needs of English learners. Extra support, including an increase of the state reimbursement rate from 8 percent up to 30 percent by 2021, will help this population achieve academic success.
  • Funds special education for the most vulnerable students. This budget ends the decade long freeze on primary special education aid with a $606 million investment to increase the state’s reimbursement rate from 25 percent to 60 percent by 2021.

JFC takes up transportation

Along with the DPI, the Joint Finance Committee took up the governor’s proposed transportation budget. Prevailing wage and an increase in the gas tax were among questions the committee members posed to Transpo Secretary Craig Thompson. Here are the key points:

  • While Republican members of the JFC said they doubt the guv’s proposed 8 cent/gallon increase would be offset by the elimination of the minimum markup, Dems said the gas tax increase would build a path to a long-term plan to fund roads.
  • Thompson said the governor’s plan to reinstate prevailing wage will save money over time, ensure there are qualified workers on the job, and increase competition, but Republicans on the committee expressed firm desire not to bring it back – having just eliminated it.

Bills We’re Watching

  • Character Education (AB 149 / SB 138). The Assembly version of this bill was introduced Wednesday. This authorizes the Department of Public Instruction to award grants to school districts for teachers, pupil service professionals, principals, and school district administrators to participate in professional development trainings in character education. Under the bill, DPI is authorized to make these grants for 24 months.

Governor Evers supports public schools, educators in his first State Budget Address

Governor Tony Evers Thursday night unveiled a state budget increasing state funding of public K-12 schools by $1.4 billion over the next two years, requiring that teachers receive preparation time as part of their workday, and achieving two-thirds state funding of education without raising property taxes. 

In addition, he made the case for higher educator pay, saying, “Wisconsin pays our public school teachers less than the national average… We need to do our part to make sure our educators know that the work they do is valued and to use these funding increases to do everything they can to keep our talented educators here in Wisconsin.”

“Governor Evers listened to the people and is making public schools a priority,” said Ron Martin, a teacher and president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council. “Through this budget, he reveals the heart of an educator — embracing opportunity for all students, protecting the most vulnerable among us, and respecting the noble profession of teaching.”

Governor Evers’ Biennial Budget

Teacher Quality. There are several initiatives that demonstrate respect for the education professions:

  • A requirement that teachers receive 45 minutes or a single class period each day of preparation time.
  • Repeal of alternative education preparation programs for Wisconsin teacher licensure, such as the American Board of Certified Teachers.
  • Allows districts to rehire retired teachers after 30 days without a contract. That retiree may not participate in the state retirement system, to prevent “double-dipping.”

School Funding. The budget represents a 10 percent increase — $1.4 billion – in state spending for schools:

  • Returns the state to two-thirds funding of public schools in 2020 by transferring high poverty aid into general equalization aid, increasing the low revenue ceiling from the current $9,400 to $9,700 in 2020 and to $10,000 in 2021, and transferring funding from the levy tax credit and first dollar credit.
  • Reforms the state’s broken school funding system to help districts of all sizes, including revenue limit fairness so lower spending districts can catch up and all districts can plan for the future.
  • Eliminates delayed equalized aid payments to districts.

Special Education. Provides $606 million over the biennium in special education funding and categorical aid, increasing the reimbursement rate from 25 percent to 60 percent. (Click here for one-pager) This includes:

  • $7 million over the biennium additional funding for special education transition readiness grants.
  • Repeals actual cost basis payment calculation for special needs students who open enroll.

Student Mental Health and School Safety. Nearly $64 million more for student mental health funding, a tenfold increase. The budget also moves the Office of School Safety to the Department of Public Instruction instead of the Department of Justice.

  • $150,000 for the Youth Risk Behavior Survey
  • $26 million each year for annual school climate surveys
  • Expanded Trauma Sensitive Schools first aid training
  • $22 million in reimbursements for general mental health
  • $7 million each year for mental health collaboration grants

English Language Learners. Several funding options are available to school districts, ensuring students get the help and attention they need.

  • $35.3 million over the biennium for bilingual/bicultural aid
  • $2.5 million in 2021 in new support grants for dual language and ELL support
  • $2.4 million in aid to school districts that do not receive bilingual/bicultural aid, with $100 per learner to provide support
  • $3.4 million in 2021 to provide $100 per learner in schools at lower levels of English proficiency

Rural Schools. Sparsity aid is increased and gaps are closed to help rural schools.

  • Transportation aid is increased by $220,000, upping the reimbursement rate is increased for students traveling over 12 miles

Urban Schools. The budget funds achievement initiatives in Milwaukee, Madison, Kenosha, Green Bay and Racine.

  • $5 million in early childhood grants for 3K
  • $7.2 million to expand summer school grants
  • $1.2 million for district grants for teachers who work in high poverty schools
  • $500,000 for the Wisconsin Urban Leaders Program
  • $2 million for collaborative community partnerships

4-Year-Old Kindergarten. Fully funds 4K and expands it statewide by 2021.

After School Programs. Creates the first funding stream for after-school programs.

Drivers Ed. Creates a categorical aid for drivers education programs, at $200 per pupil who completes a designated program.

Urban Initiatives. The budget eliminates language allowing school takeovers in Milwaukee, to align with the governor’s plan to phase out vouchers and privately run charter schools. Other initiatives include:

  • Grants for MPS and UW-Milwaukee to train, place and support math teachers.
  • Vouchers and Privately Run Charters. Freezing enrollment in private school voucher programs beginning in the 2021-22 school year, suspend the creation of new independent charter schools until 2023 and creating new minimum standards for teacher licensing and school accreditation for private schools. The number of available vouchers would be frozen beginning in 2021. There are currently about 28,000 students using vouchers in Milwaukee and 10,000 in other parts of the state combined. Roughly 600 schools participate in the program, which has been growing. According to the governor’s office, the state’s voucher programs grew 8.7 percent in the 2018-19 school year, while costs grew about 12 percent. The estimated total cost of vouchers in the current school years is roughly $302 million. Accountability and transparency. Requiring annual property tax bills to provide information about how much state aid school districts are losing because of private school vouchers, also called “voucher transparency.”

UW System & Tech Schools. The budget continues a freeze on in-state tuition at University of Wisconsin (UW) System schools that has been in place since 2013, and also:

  • Provides the UW system an additional $150 million
  • Allows Wisconsin residents who entered the country without legal permission to pay in-state tuition rates
  • Requires technical colleges and the UW System to offer early college credit programs at no charge to school districts

Student Loan Refinancing. The governor’s plan would also set aside $50,000 to study the feasibility of creating a refinancing authority to allow Wisconsin students to refinance their college loans.

Grants. A number of new grants and enhancements are included:

  • Tribal language revitalization grants
  • Minority teacher grant program to encourage teachers of color to go into the profession
  • $250,000 per year in robotics grants
  • Recommends using current year freshman enrollment instead of membership base to calculate district computer and school performance improvement grants
  • Eliminates grants for information technology, redirecting the funding to other IT programs
  • Water filtration grants for schools are included, for water bottle refill stations

School Nutrition. The budget fully funds the school breakfast program and expands the facilities that qualify for it, along with fully funding the milk program, and also creates a coordinator position between the departments of public instruction and agriculture.

Libraries. Funding for public libraries is enhanced, including that for Badger Link and services for the blind. Adjustments are made to the Common Schools Fund.

Reading. The budget eliminates former Governor Scott Walker’s “Read to Lead” program (read more here). Instead, Governor Evers funds the Wisconsin Reading Corpsat $700,000 a year. 

Gifted & Talented. Funding is up $762,000 in 2020 and 2021, totaling over $1.5 million.

Referendum. Allows districts to hold over two referendums in a calendar year.

Technical Education. There are shifts in the departments that oversee some grant programs are located, along with a new DPI position to coordinate programs being transitioned, including:

  • Career and Technical Education will be moved to the Department of Workforce Development.
  • Technical Education Equipment will be moved from the DWD to the DPI.
  • Teacher Development Training and Equipment grants are merging and staying at the DWD.

Other state budget proposals:

Workers Rights. Repeal private sector right-to-work-for-less law and reinstate prevailing wage on state projects.

  • The governor called it a beginning to undo the harm that’s been done to organized labor. In an appearance after the budget unveiling, the governor said the state will now work to champion workers, collective bargaining and local control. He also voiced his goal of family supporting jobs that are labor friendly and willing to work with unions.
  • He also proposed to increase minimum wage to $8.25 on Jan. 1, 2020, and to $9 on Jan. 1, 2021, with additional 75-cent annual increases in 2022 and 2023. A task force would study ways to work toward a $15 minimum wage.

Child Welfare. Use tribal gaming revenues to fund a $1 million increase in grants for child welfare services for tribes over the next two years and earmark an additional $640,000 in tribal gaming revenues to prepare architectural plans for a proposed $8 million, 36-bed youth wellness/treatment center to treat opioid addiction for tribal and nontribal members.

Health Care. Provide $28 million for “Healthy Women, Healthy Babies” initiatives aimed at improving women’s access to health exams and addressing racial disparities in maternal and child health.

Juvenile Justice. Indefinitely delaying closing the state’s embattled youth prison, coupled with increasing the age for charging juveniles as adults from 17 to 18, beginning in 2021.Under the governor’s plan, closure of the Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls would be delayed until whenever new, regional facilities are developed to house the inmates. Evers’ plan also includes a roughly $200 million increase in state funding for building new regional youth prisons and expanding an existing facility in Madison. According to the Evers’ administration, Wisconsin is one of a handful of states that allows 17-year-olds to be criminally charged and tried as adults.

BadgerCare.The state could receive additional federal Medicaid funding first made available by the federal Affordable Care Act.According to the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB), the decision by the previous administration not to accept this funding resulted in a cumulative net loss to the state of more than $1 billion in federal funding. Expanding BadgerCare coverage from people who earn up to 100 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) to people who earn up to 133 percent of the FPL would generate roughly $200 million in increased federal funding each year because it would by substantially increase the percentage of costs reimbursed by the federal government from about 58 percent to about 90 percent.

Gas tax. Studies indicate the state’s roads and highways are demonstrably worse shape than those of our neighboring states. Gov. Evers’ nominee to fill the Department of Transportation Secretary position estimates the state needs an additional $360 to $400 million per biennium just to maintain the current condition of the state highway system, not counting the additional funding needed to provide road aids to local governments or rebuild portions of the Interstate system within the state.

Evers calls for restoring respect for Wisconsin’s schools and educators

Wisconsin must restore respect for Wisconsin’s public schools and educators and listen to teachers and education support professionals, who have the best interests of students at heart, State  Superintendent Tony Evers said Thursday in his annual State of Education Address.

“Our educators are on the front lines of these challenges,” he said “So when they speak up about bad education policy, deteriorating schools, or the massive teacher exodus we’re facing, they’re doing right by our kids. And we should listen. They’re reminding us that education – like democracy – doesn’t come for free. It must be nurtured, sustained, and invested in over time.”

Evers called for reinvesting in public schools, “so that every kid can thrive.”

“Together,” he said, “we can bring civility and collaboration back to public education and to public life.”

Evers said education remains – as it has always been – “the great equalizer” and the pathway to prosperity, as well as the key to a skilled workforce and a robust economy.

But, he said, Wisconsin’s priorities are out of whack.

“Today in Wisconsin we’re spending less on our public schools than we did eight years ago – putting us below the national average. We serve over 50,000 English learners – and that number is growing. We serve over 120,000 special needs students. Four in every 10 kids are economically disadvantaged. 

“A decade of disinvestment hasn’t magically solved problems, increased student performance, or improved our competitive edge. Divisive solutions from Washington and Madison haven’t made things better. These policies are failing us. But the people of Wisconsin know there’s a better way.”

Evers noted that over the past few years, more than 1.1 million residents throughout the state rallied behind public education and voted to raise their own taxes to support their schools. 

“Now is the time to adopt a transformational education budget that responds to this call,” he said. “A budget that provides educators what they deserve: the resources they need to meet the needs of our kids. A budget that increases opportunities, closes gaps, and allows for competitive compensation. 

“We must continue raising our voices until they can no longer be ignored,” Evers concluded. “Together, we can restore respect for Wisconsin schools and educators. Together, we can reinvest in our schools so that every kid can thrive. Together, we can bring civility and collaboration back to public education and to public life.”

Read more about Evers’ budget proposal:

Evers’ budget plan increases public school funding by $1.4 billion, achieves two-thirds state funding of schools

Evers’ budget plan increases public school funding by $1.4 billion, achieves two-thirds state funding of schools

State Superintendent Tony Evers on Sunday unveiled a state education budget proposal that increases state funding of public K-12 schools by $1.4 billion over the next two years and achieves two-thirds state funding of education. 

“The budget I’m submitting responds to the very real challenges our schools and educators face each and every day,” Evers said. “It changes how we fund our schools and provides resources to our educators to meet the needs of every child.”

Specifically, the budget: 

  • Makes an unprecedented $600 million investment in special education, increasing the reimbursement rate from 25 percent to 60 percent, while expanding funding for English learners and rural schools.
  • Provides nearly $64 million more for student mental health funding, a tenfold increase.
  • Funds full-day 4-year-old kindergarten for the state’s youngest learners, creates the state’s first funding stream for after-school programs, and establishes new opportunities for children in the largest urban school districts.
  • Reforms the state’s broken school finance system to help districts of all sizes, including revenue limit fairness so lower spending districts can catch up and all districts can plan for the future. 

“Our students deserve our support as they prepare to inherit this great state,” Evers said. “As parents, fellow educators, taxpayers, and citizens of Wisconsin, I ask for your support during the 2019-21 biennial budget process so that every child gets a shot at a great Wisconsin education.” 

State budget highlights:

2019-21 State Budget Information

State Superintendent Tony Evers is rolling out major budget requests for the 2019-2021 biennium. Information will be added here as it becomes ready. Topics:

Read more:

Tony Evers calls for nearly $1.7 billion hike in state funding for K-12 schools

Wisconsin’s K-12 public schools would receive a nearly $1.7 billion increase in state funding over the current budget cycle under state Superintendent Tony Evers’ two-year budget proposal released Sunday. Evers, the Democrat challenging Gov. Scott Walker in the Nov.

 

Educators Must Fight for Our Students and Lead the Way Forward!

Photo of textbooks in an MPS classroom (Photo: Joe Brusky).

Milwaukee Public School students and classrooms have been systematically defunded. Tattered textbooks, crowded classrooms, and shrinking art, music, and physical education classes are just a few of the consequences our students and educators face thanks to Scott Walker’s unprecedented public education cuts. In addition to Walker’s cuts, MPS students also face a structural disparity in per pupil funding when compared to their suburban counterparts.

MPS administration has for too long accepted and passed these cuts on to our students and classrooms. Top this with the fact administration continues to entertain toxic proposals from privatizers that will hand over our schools to private operators. Enough! When will administration put their foot down and demand better for our students?

Riverside High School students and educators rallied and walked in together on Tuesday morning to call attention to the cuts (Photo: Joe Brusky).

Now MPS is proposing an additional 5% across the board cut to students and schools and massive healthcare and benefits cuts to the same education workers already burdened by years of cuts. MPS educators have stepped in to fill the void left by state budgets by purchasing snacks, clothing, and basic classroom supplies for their students, but our students deserve fully funded classrooms, not charity.

We’re tired of our Governor, other politicians who refuse to act, and an MPS administration who continues to pass cuts on to students and classrooms. We’ve had enough and we’re fighting back!

Over 1,500 educators, parents, and community supporters packed MPS Central Office on Tuesday to demand a better budget.

Last Tuesday, the MPS Central Office auditorium, three overflow rooms, and hallways were filled to capacity with educators, parents, and students to demand a better budget. Many MTEA and community members as well as students spoke out against the proposed cuts. Join us for these coming events as we continue to fight to demand our students & educators have the resources they deserve:

• Keep budget cuts away from schools!
• Time for teachers and educational assistants to meet the needs of their students.
• Quality affordable healthcare for ALL full-time education workers – including subs!
• Raises to attract and retain the education workers our students deserve.

Upcoming Events

4/18 Community Planning Meeting

MTEA is calling for an all MPS parent, student, and community member meeting to discuss cuts to our schools and next steps. Please invite parents and neighbors to attend this important meeting

RSVP to attend

Facebook Event Page

4/24 Picket to Defend Our Schools

Last Tuesday, the MPS Central Office auditorium, three overflow rooms, and hallways were filled to capacity with educators, parents, and students to demand a better budget. Many MTEA and community members as well as students spoke out against the proposed cuts.

RSVP to attend

Facebook Event page

To download the April 24 sign up sheet, click here. 

Riverside Rallies & Walks In to Say NO to Massive Budget Cuts to Students & Schools from MTEA Union on Vimeo.

Milwaukee Teacher Removed From School Board Meeting for Testimony

Milwaukee public School teacher Ingrid Henry-Walker had her microphone cut and was escorted out by security for expressing her opinion at a board meeting Tuesday night (Photo: Joe Brusky).

Public school districts are strongest when they collaborate and work together with parents and community members. To facilitate a healthy and democratic school district, school board meetings need to be accessible to the public and allow for constructive criticism.

The uptick in reports of publicly elected school boards restricting citizen comments is disturbing. Taxpayers should be able to openly criticize school district decisions, whether it’s a policy around recess, raises, or rent. Public voice should be heard and valued.

This week a video of Louisiana teacher Dayshia Hargrave went viral. Hargrave was speaking at a local school board meeting when her testimony was abruptly cut off and a law enforcement officer aggressively handcuffed her. Her violation: questioning the superintendent’s raise while other district educators had their pay frozen.

Louisiana teacher Dayshia Hargrave was violently handcuffed and arrested for simply expressing her opinion at a school board meeting.

A similar scene played out in Milwaukee on Tuesday night. Ingrid Walker-Henry, a Milwaukee Public Schools educator and the co-chair of a local coalition advocating for public schools in Milwaukee, testified against a lease extension for a private MPS charter school. While the committee chair, Michael Bonds, allowed off-topic and unsubstantiated testimony from supporters of the private charter, he abruptly cut off Ingrid Walker-Henry’s mic for speaking too broadly about the need for fair market lease rates on private charters that use public buildings.

Once her microphone was cut, Walker-Henry turned to the crowd and used her teacher voice to finish her testimony before she was escorted out of the building by district security.

Here is Walker-Henry’s full public testimony that was not allowed by School Board Director, Michael Bonds:

“We are calling on MPS to be more responsible with taxpayer dollars. There needs to be a fair market value lease rate that is charged to privately owned and operated charter schools.

School Board Minutes from 2006 reflect that MPS once had a board approved charter rate of $12/square foot. The current lease for Carmen Northwest is less than half of the 2006 board recommendation and some of the other charters come in at even less.

This raises serious concerns about the way you negotiate leases with private operators.

Last year, Universal Academies taught the District a hard lesson about these leases:
• The original leases approved for Universal in 2013 were for 5 years. Green Bay paid roughly $400,000 per year, Webster $380,000 per year and the Lee campus was for just $101,000 a year.

• In April 2016, the board actually lowered the lease rates for two Universal locations for the 2016-2017 school year.

• And as we all know, Universal DID NOT operate its fifth year in 2017-2018. They turned in their keys and abandoned some of the most economically disadvantaged students in our city. As a result of Universal’s failure, the district only received approximately $1 million total from each school, about half as much as the lease was for.
• The closing of Webster cost the district an additional $1 million.

We need privately owned and operated schools to pay a fair market value. I hope the school board revisits the entire policy regarding non-instrumentality charter leases to make sure they are paying their fair share and are not doing harm to the 76,000 students and families you were elected to govern and are responsible for and not the bad partners like Carmen who is actively working to put a city charter in the same building as one of your public schools.”

Democratic school boards have a moral obligation to provide a forum where local citizens can give meaningful input, both positive and negative, about the actions of the district.

Budget fallout: DPI to remove expiration date from teachers’ licenses

DPI outlines what teacher licensure changes mean for us

As a result of sweeping changes to teacher licensure included in the now-complete state budget, the DPI is reporting that anyone who holds a current professional or master license will automatically have their license converted to a lifetime license. This will be done by DPI removing the expiration date from these licenses. There will be no fee charged to the license holder for the conversion to a lifetime license and there is no action teachers need to take with the DPI at this time for the lifetime license.

In short, the PDP component of PI 34 will no longer be required. For initial educators currently in the middle of the PDP process moving toward professional status, DPI will soon issue guidance about how the transition from initial to professional status will be handled. WEAC will continue to advocate for common-sense rules that uphold the integrity of the profession.

For new teachers coming into the profession, a school district needs to certify to DPI that an individual completed 6 semesters of work as an initial teacher, after which they will fulfill requirements for a lifetime license.

Read more from the DPI.

Public hearing for bill that mandates schools to use competitive bidding

Senate Bill 236, requiring school districts to use the competitive bidding process on certain school construction projects, will be up for a public hearing October 3, and pushed to a committee vote on October 5.