An edgy day for public school supporters

Beginning at 11 a.m. today in Madison, the Joint Committee on Finance goes into executive session on a number of items, but two of special interest to Milwaukee public school parents, students, employees and supporters.

Those folks are concerned about the upcoming state budget cuts to education and the potential for a voucher program expanded to include to families of means.

Those items will be part of the discussion of the budgets of Department of Public Instruction – General School Aids and Revenue Limits and Department of Public Instruction – Categorical Aids.

“Budgets are about choices and priorities,” said state superintendent of public instruction Tony Evers in a statement this morning. “Today I call on members of the Joint Committee on Finance to show citizens across Wisconsin that they have their priorities straight by reversing the proposed cuts to Wisconsin’s public schools.”

The committee – led by senate chair Alberta Darling and assembly chair Robin Vos – will also discuss the Wisconsin Technical College System, Department of Workforce Development, Department of Transportation – Transportation Finance, Department of Transportation – Local Transportation Aid, Department of Transportation – State Highway Program, and Department of Transportation – State Patrol.

Folks I’ve heard from have expressed little expectation – but a lot of hope – that the legislature will reconsider its approach to Milwaukee’s schools and their students, more than 80 percent of whom live in poverty.

“Such a drastic cut to education will have far reaching consequences – including for our state’s economy,” Congresswoman Gwen Moore told me in an e-mail today.

“I respect Gov. Walker’s duty to present a balanced budget, but his proposal to cut more than $800 million from our schools is the wrong choice.  When coupled with his efforts to lift the income and participation caps for vouchers, we will harm our children and our public schools.  This is Robin Hood in reverse.  Taking $6,000 from our poorest students  – and in effect – giving it to our richest students has nothing to do with balancing budget.”

MPS superintendent Dr. Gregory Thornton also posted a blog on the subject today. Thornton is in Madison today for the meeting.

Meanwhile, WEAC and other unions are celebrating Dane County Judge MaryAnn Sumi’s permanent injunction, issued today, against the collective bargaining law.

Clear and convincing evidence that the open meetings law was violated led to a judge’s ruling today striking down a law that set Wisconsin labor relations back more than 50 years. The Wisconsin Education Association Council, the state’s largest union of educators, issued the following statement, attributable to WEAC President Mary Bell, a teacher from Wisconsin Rapids:

“Wisconsin public school employees applaud the ruling today that strikes down this backward legislation”, said state teachers union president Mary Bell, who is also a Wisconsin Rapids educator.

“It is not in the best interest of students, schools or Wisconsin’s future to take the voices of educators out of our classrooms. We’ve seen how this issue has polarized our state.”

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