Governor’s budget starves public schools while choice schools prosper

In an unusual Sunday morning release, Governor Scott Walker unveiled a funding proposal for K-12 public education that will weaken schools and diminish opportunities for students.

“Two years ago the Governor took $1.6 billion in educational opportunities away from kids,” said Tom Beebe, project director of Opportunity to Learn-Wisconsin. “Those tragic cuts came on the back of $400 million in cuts in the previous administration and over two decades of cuts in opportunities because of the state’s broken school-funding system.”

“Based on that history and the desperate needs in our classrooms, this budget is a cruel, cynical hoax and an insult to public schools. It may be time to consider suing the state on behalf of our public school children,” Beebe said.

“It could have been so simple,” Beebe said, “All he had to do was use the state surplus and projected revenue increases to pay schools back the money he and legislators took to balance the last budget on the backs of kids.”

Opportunity to Learn-Wisconsin is a project of the Institute for Wisconsin’s Future (IWF), an organization that researches key state economic policies and uses the information to help citizens fight for policies that maximize every individual’s opportunity to achieve educational, economic and personal success.

David Ewald, retired superintendent of the South Milwaukee School District and IWF board member, said the amount of aid offered by the Governor in his second budget is a pittance as compared to the need. General aid will be increased by only $129.2 million after cuts of over $1 billion in the last two budgets.

And, even then, it doesn’t help most children in classrooms any way. There is no increase in the revenue limit─the ability of districts to raise and spend new aid─so it is virtually meaningless. “If the revenue cap does not go up then there is no new money going to schools no matter how much aid increase.” Ewald said. “The increase in school funding simply goes to property taxpayers not into the classroom”

“That’s a measly 1 percent over two years,” Beebe said.

Jill Gaskell, also on the IWF board and a member of the Pecatonica PTA, said equally as troubling as the small amount of resources is the assault on public education in Gov. Walker’s budget. “He wants to expand the use of public tax dollars for private schools: $73 million more for voucher schools, $23 million for private charter schools, and $21 million for special needs students to attend voucher schools.

“These tax dollars are going to so-called choices that are more about political philosophy and privatizing public education than they are about giving the vast majority of kids in Wisconsin educational opportunities to succeed in school and learn in life. It is wrong for taxpayers and it is wrong for students,” Gaskell said.

The rest of the money (other than that that goes to the university and technical college system) for schools in the budget is aimed at gathering more student data, an as-of-yet unproven teacher rating system, the dubious Teach for America program, and technology funding that falls far short of what schools need for 21st century teaching and learning.

“Every two years─under Republican and Democratic administrations─public school funding has taken one step forward and two steps back,” Beebe said. “This time it’s one step forward and three or four backward. At its core, this is an anti-public education budget …. it’s bad for children, bad for public schools, and bad for Wisconsin’s communities and economic future.”

For more information or questions, contact Tom Beebe 920-650-0525 or

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