The upcoming release of the governor’s proposed state budget draws our attention to the future, and in particular that of Wisconsin’s children.
As a state we have valued a tradition of offering educational opportunities to all of our students, whatever their circumstances or dreams might be.
What our past has taught us and what we continue to believe is that the success of future generations is directly linked to their access to high quality public education. It is that commitment to education that has moved this state forward.
The good news is that the Legislative Fiscal Bureau recently projected that the state will have a $485 million budget surplus in June. This is due in part to the huge cuts taken from our public schools budgets two years ago, when the state was facing a deficit.
The first step in the budget now must be to restore a reasonable portion of that funding to support our students and their schools. Toward that end, districts across the state are calling for an increase in funding that at a minimum keeps pace with the cost of living index.
There is no doubt that school districts used the provisions of Act 10 to reduce costs related to education. Even though school districts have worked to rein in health care and other costs related to employee compensation, there is also no doubt that school districts are facing a bleak financial future if the state does not put forward a basic effort to make sure that students have the educational opportunities that they need. The funding is available to allow legislators to do the right thing.
As stewards of the state, we ask the Governor and members of the Legislature to renew Wisconsin’s commitment to public education and to invest in our schools. We ask that the per-pupil funding be restored to cover basic inflationary costs as time goes on. Without a normal inflationary increase, programs and services for children will continue to diminish.
Elected officials on both sides of the aisle must work together to address our challenges. As our state continues to recover from the recession, we have an opportunity to make strategic investments in Wisconsin’s future. A reinvestment in public education will return benefits to our state now and into the future.
• Julie Underwood, Dean of UW-Madison’s School of Education
• Mary Bell, President, Wisconsin Education Association Council
• Dan Rossmiller, Director of Government Relations at Wisconsin Association of School Boards
• James Howard, President of the school board, Madison Metropolitan School District
• Michael Bonds, President, Milwaukee Board of School Directors
• Kim Henderson, President, Wisconsin PTA
• Jill Gaskell, Legislative Chair, Wisconsin PTA
• Gina Palazzari, Executive Director, Institute for Wisconsin’s Future
• Tom Beebe, project director, Opportunity to Learn-Wisconsin
• David Ewald, retired public school superintendent