WEAC members continue to provide budget feedback to Governor-Elect Evers

WEAC member Rick Erickson of Bayfield (above) leads a discussion during Monday’s state budget listening session hosted by Governor-Elect Tony Evers. The Superior hearing was one in a series designed for the governor-elect to hear from citizens about what they would like to see in the state budget proposal he will present to the Legislature in January. WEAC members were also well-represented at earlier hearings in Green Bay and Wausau. Other scheduled hearings are today (Tuesday) in La Crosse and Wednesday in Milwaukee, although they have waiting lists.

WEAC has created another opportunity for educators to have their opinions and ideas voiced to the new administration – WEAC’s Feedback Form:

What are your top priorities for the incoming governor?
Click here to complete our online form!

This form will be active throughout the budget and legislative session this winter and spring. WEAC member Amy Traynor serves on the governor-elect’s transition team, and will be sure your thoughts and ideas are brought forward as plans are made for Wisconsin’s new direction.

A new era supportive of public education and educators is about to begin, Evers says in phone call to WEAC members

Governor-Elect Tony Evers personally thanked WEAC members for the critically important role they played in helping him win this month’s “watershed” election that will change the way Wisconsin state government treats public schools and educators.

“The hard work of the campaign is over. The hard work of governing and making sure that we are being supportive of the people who work in the schools begins now in earnest,” Evers said during a Tele-Town Hall conversation with WEAC members throughout the state. All WEAC members were invited to participate in the phone call last week.

“I can’t thank you enough for all the good work you have done to get us this far, to get us through eight years that have been exhausting, exacerbating and frankly demoralizing for the people who work in our schools and work with our kids. Those things are over. The issue of making sure that we value the people who work in our schools, that will never be a problem for me. I did it as State Superintendent and I will do it as governor of the State of Wisconsin.

“Survive we will. Thrive we will,” Evers said.

Evers said his top priority as governor will be “to make sure that educators have the resources they need and have the policies in place” that lead to quality public education. And, he said, it is important that educators have a voice in making decisions. “I give you my pledge,” he said, “that we’ll be working with your leadership and you personally if you want to be involved in any way possible.”

The governor-elect asked educators to keep advocating for public education and to work to support the budget he will be presenting to the Legislature early next year. That budget will include a large increase in public school funding, additional money for programs that serve students with disabilities, and increased funding for after-school, 4-K, mental health and English learner programs.

“It’s going to take your efforts across the state of Wisconsin to get our budget passed,” he said. “I’m looking forward to working with you all. I certainly appreciate your support and guidance in the past. Now we’re in a position where we’re going to govern.”

Listen to Governor-Elect Tony Evers’ message to WEAC members:

With a new record for approving referendums, Wisconsin residents sent a strong message in 2018 that they support their public schools

Wisconsin residents made it very clear in 2018 that they stand behind their public schools and will do whatever it takes to support them. After years of state funding reductions by the Republican Legislature and the about-to-be-former Republican governor, voters went to the polls in droves to make up for the lack of state funding by approving a record number of local school referendums (in addition to electing educator Tony Evers governor). According to a new report by the Wisconsin Policy Forum, voters this year signed off on a record $2 billion-plus in debt and revenue increases for local schools. The approval rate was 90 percent, the highest on record. Read more on the WEAC News From Around the Web Topic Board. You can sign up for WEAC news alerts at weac.org/subscribe.

State Superintendent Tony Evers: Fair Funding lifts all public school districts

A guest editorial by State Superintendent Tony Evers (distributed to all media)

Tony Evers

Creating a system of public education is one of the most critical duties each state has. How we accomplish that goal is a source of consistent debate and discussion. A discussion that revolves around how we regulate, manage, and importantly, how we distribute dollars that improve the lives of kids through teaching and learning.

In each of my five budget proposals, I have included a provision to overhaul our school funding formula. Our current system is overly complicated, does not account for the unique challenges of our students, and short-changes too many districts. My plan, Fair Funding for our Future, guarantees a minimum dollar amount for every student ($3,000), accounts for the impact of poverty on education, and brings transparency to the system by transferring tax credits that don’t go to schools into the fund that directly pays for education.

Change inevitably invites critics. Change to a complex system, even more so. Therefore, one of the things I prioritized in building this proposal is the idea that no district would receive fewer dollars in tax credits and aid than they did in the old system. My plan greatly benefits communities in the northern parts of the state that were otherwise on the outside of the old system looking in. For example, Tomahawk would see a 24.8 percent increase in overall dollars ($769,650) from the state, Rhinelander would see a 31.7 percent increase ($2,813,572), and Hayward would see a 54.2 percent increase ($2,106,806).

So take a look at our plan, and learn how it will impact your district at https://dpi.wi.gov/budget/funding-reform.

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.

 

Wisconsin voters strongly support quality public schools over tax cuts, poll analysis finds

Wisconsin voters have made their priorities clear – they want quality public schools – but lawmakers are not listening. That is the analysis from the Wisconsin Budget Project of last month’s statewide poll by the Marquette University Law School. In the poll, voters said in many ways that they support quality public schools in the state. In response to one question, 61 percent said they prefer more money for public schools, while just 32% said they prefer tax cuts.

“One of the remarkable aspects of the poll results,” the analysis said, “is the degree to which they show that Wisconsin voters across the entire state place a high value on education. … Wisconsin residents believe that excellent public schools are important to the state’s success, and are concerned that recent changes have harmed public schools. Cutting taxes ranks relatively low among voter concerns, the poll showed.”

According to the Wisconsin Budget Project analysis:

“Voters all across the state place a great deal of value on Wisconsin’s schools, with nearly half (49%) naming K-12 education as among the two most important issues facing the state, according to the August 2018 poll from Marquette University Law School. In contrast, only 13% of voters identified tax cuts as among the most important issues.

“When presented with a direct trade-off between increasing resource for schools and cutting taxes, a significant majority of Wisconsin voters said they favor spending more money on schools (61%) than reducing property taxes (32%).”

The analysis continued: “One of the remarkable aspects of the poll results is the degree to which they show that Wisconsin voters across the entire state place a high value on education, and that concern about the quality of Wisconsin’s public schools is not limited to voters in more liberal-leaning areas of the state. In areas like Green Bay/Appleton and the suburban counties surrounding Milwaukee, both areas with high concentrations of conservative voters, respondents indicated that that education is a much more pressing issue than tax cuts, and express concerns that schools are worse off now than in the past.”

It concluded: “The reduced funding for public school districts didn’t occur because the state lacked resources. Wisconsin has enough state revenue to overturn the past budget cuts to schools, but lawmakers have chosen instead to use that revenue to pass billions in new tax cuts, many of which wind up in the pockets of the wealthy and well-connected.”

Read entire Wisconsin Budget Project analysis:

Wisconsin Voters Choose Education Over Tax Cuts – Wisconsin Budget Project

A new poll shows that Wisconsin residents believe that excellent public schools are important to the state’s success, and are concerned that recent changes have harmed public schools. Cutting taxes ranks relatively low among voter concerns, the poll showed. Voters all across the state place a great deal of value on Wisconsin’s schools, with nearly …

 

$269 million in taxpayer money has been given to private voucher schools so far this biennium

Democrats on the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee released a memo from the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau Tuesday revealing that private voucher schools in Wisconsin have received $269.6 million in state funding so far in the 2017-19 biennium, while public schools have seen a $90.6 million reduction in state aid. The memo also showed that:

  • Approximately $475 million of taxpayer dollars were paid to voucher schools over the 2015-17 biennium, during which time public schools in those districts faced a $150 million aid reduction.
  • Private school voucher programs in Wisconsin have already received over $2.5 billion [$2,576,900,000 approx.] in total state funding, and that number is only growing.

The Democrats released the figures in a news release in which they stated:

“As our children go back to school, we want the best for them and their bright futures. But Republicans have funneled millions of tax dollars to unaccountable voucher schools while our K-12 public schools continue to go to referendum just to keep the lights on,” said Rep. Katrina Shankland (D-Stevens Point). “Instead of funneling tax dollars to private schools, the Legislature should fairly fund our public schools so that everyone in Wisconsin has the same opportunity to learn and succeed.”

“Taxpayers have the right to know how much of their hard earned dollars are going toward voucher schools, especially since voucher schools are not required to meet the same accountability standards as public schools and have shown no significant improvements over public school performance,” said Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton).

“Access to a quality education should not depend on your zip code. Unfortunately, eight years of misplaced Republican priorities have made it impossible to ensure our public schools can meet and exceed our standards for educational excellence. We must invest in our public education system so that all of our children have equal access to the best educational opportunities – it’s what they deserve,” said Sen. LaTonya Johnson (D-Milwaukee).

“As a mother of two children in public school and a member of the budget committee, I hear from people across our state who question why my Republican colleagues and Governor Walker are creating a second, private school system while not adequately and consistently funding the public school system where most of our Wisconsin children are educated,” said Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison). “Republicans’ big campaign donors want to privatize public education to make a buck, and they are willing to destroy our public school system to do so. People should be outraged by their disregard for the 870,000 children in public schools, whose future, and our state’s future, depends on a strong public school system.”

A copy of the Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau memo can be found here.

Evers to seek 163% increase in special education funding

State Superintendent Tony Evers said Monday he will seek a 163% increase in special education funding in his next biennial budget request. The request will 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 applauded Evers’ announcement, saying that years of underfunding of special education has worsened under 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,” he said.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Evers’ announcement was welcomed by disability-rights advocates.

“This is just such a welcome investment in our most vulnerable students, and it’s long overdue,” said Joanne Juhnke, policy director for Wisconsin Family Ties.

“We applaud any effort to champion a meaningful increase in special education funding in our state,” Lisa Pugh of the Survival Coalition of Disability Organizations in Wisconsin said in a statement. “The state investment in special education has been flat-funded for a decade, forcing local districts to make up the difference and harming students with disabilities.”

Read more:

Evers to seek unprecedented $600 million more in special education funding

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers will seek an unprecedented increase in school funding for students with disabilities in the 2019-’21 state budget, the latest in a series of announcements by Gov. Scott Walker and his top Democratic challenger as they position themselves as the most education-friendly in advance of the November election.

Special needs voucher program costs taxpayers $5.6 million, reduces aid to public schools, report says

The Wisconsin program that allows children with special needs to attend private schools at taxpayer expense cost the state $5.6 million in “scholarships” in its first two years, and diverted $4.1 million in needed state aid away from 25 local public school districts, according to a new audit from the Legislative Audit Bureau. Milwaukee Public Schools alone lost more than $2.6 million in state aid because of the program.

In addition, an analysis of the report by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says the report “confirmed what many critics had feared: that it would serve primarily children already in private schools and leave children with the greatest needs to the public schools.”

The report points out that:

  • Only about one-fourth of the 306 students who participated at some point during these two school years had attended a public school in the school year before participating, and most of the remaining students had attended private schools.
  • Approximately three-fourths of participating students lived in the boundaries of Milwaukee Public Schools.
  • In the 2017-18 school year, participating students attended 26 participating private schools and were from 25 resident school districts.
  • The number of participating private schools increased from 24 in the 2016-17 school year to 26 in the 2017-18 school year.
  • In the 2018-19 school year, 84 private schools intend to participate.

Read more:

Special needs vouchers cost Wisconsin public schools $5.6 million in first two years

A Wisconsin program that allows special needs students to attend private schools on taxpayer-funded vouchers cost local public schools almost $5.6 million in state funding over the last two years, including hundreds of districts where no residents participated in the program, according to a new state audit and related documents.

Read the entire audit report:

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