Here’s what’s at stake for Wisconsin K-12 schools in the gubernatorial election | WUWM 89.7 FM
Public schools are a major concern for Wisconsin voters, according to the Marquette University Law School Survey.
Wisconsin students fell behind in school during the pandemic and school districts are now grappling with essentially fixed public funding and rising costs, prompting many to seek taxpayers referendums.
How these issues are handled at the state level can come down to who is elected governor.
Last December, Governor Evers stood on a podium at North Division High School in Milwaukee. He was there announcement of grants about $130 per student in federal funding for public schools.
“As I said when I signed it, the last budget wasn’t good enough for our kids,” Evers said. “Especially in light of the ongoing pandemic and the supports we know our children need more than ever. Republicans could and should have done more.”
It’s an example of how Evers worked to circumvent the Republican-controlled Legislature, which gutted his two education budget proposals as governor. In the latest state budget, Republicans approved less than a tenth of the education funding Evers wanted. Evers many times used federal pandemic assistance to help schools fill the budgetary gaps.
“While these funds won’t make our schools whole on their own, they will go a long way to ensuring that our children get the services and resources they need to bounce back and recover,” Evers said at this press conference. december.
Evers is again trying to increase school funding by over $2 billion during the next biennium. He wants to increase income caps, special education funding and mental health support, among other priorities. More funding, Evers says, is what schools need to catch up to students academically.
With a gerrymandered legislatureEvers is likely to encounter resistance again if he is re-elected.
As for Republican challenger Tim Michels, it’s unclear how much he would increase public school funding.
“We’re going to spend as much money as any governor has ever invested in education, but we’re going to spend it wisely. Right now that’s not happening,” Michels said during a gubernatorial post. . debate.
Michels’ campaign did not respond to a request for details on that and his other education proposals.
Heather DuBois Bourenane of the Wisconsin Public Education Network says Evers played another important role in education: vetoing Republican bills.
“Even though most of Governor Evers’ proposals didn’t go through, he was able to stop a lot of these bad ideas from becoming law, and that’s something that really, really matters a lot to every child in the world. ‘State,’ DuBois Bourenane said. said.
One of the bills Evers vetoed would have lifted income limits on school choice programs. These programs allow low-income families to use taxpayer funding for private, mostly religious schools. Michels wants to create “universal school choice,” though he didn’t provide specific details of that plan.
Martin Luther High School in Greendale is a great example of how more choice for parents means better education for students. We had a great conversation with top parents, students, and educators about how we can prepare every child in Wisconsin to succeed. pic.twitter.com/CH8jaNFjXE
— Tim Michels (@michelsforgov) October 5, 2022
Jim Bender, a school choice lobbyist, says the pandemic has increased parent demand for options outside of traditional public schools.
“The movement to achieve universal school choice is very simple – you’re going to give all taxpayers the opportunity to direct funds to the education choice that will work best for their family,” said Jim Bender. “It’s not more complicated than that.”
The Department of Public Instruction valued it would cost taxpayers more than $500 million if income limits were lifted for school choice programs. This estimate is based on the fact that every private school student who does not currently have a voucher receives one.
But Bender says fee-paying students at private schools wouldn’t automatically receive vouchers because schools might not be able to open up more places with vouchers. The Voucher amount is approximately $8,400 for a student in grades 1-8 and $9,045 for a high school student.
“The only high school that operated with the voucher, meaning it operated the entire high school specifically in a neighborhood that could only afford the voucher, is HOPE Christian High Schoolhad to close last year,” Bender said. “They had to close just because on $9,000 per kid, unless you did a major fundraiser, they couldn’t operate.”
Bender said the state should increase voucher payments in order to open up more places in private schools. Even then, some schools with higher tuition fees might choose not to accept vouchers.
In the latest Marquette poll, only 29% of Wisconsin voters wanted more state support for private schools, compared to 63% who favored more funding for public schools.
Evers opposes giving more public funds to private schools. He previously offered program limits – but that proposal died in the state legislature.
Milwaukee Public Schools
Milwaukee Public Schools have come under fire from Republicans after spending nearly the entire 2020-21 school year remotely and continue to produce academic results well below the state average. MPS serves a high concentration of students living in poverty.
A bill by Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) that would divide Milwaukee into four to eight smaller districts passed the legislature last session, but vetoed by Governor Evers.
Michels called the MPS “broken” and said he would be open to breaking it up into smaller districts.
“We’re going to bring all the people together, from the mayor, the county executive, the heads of MPS… We’re going to say, how can we improve this?” Michels told the Rotary Club of Milwaukee appearance. “If they say, just give us more money and it will be better, I’m going to say it’s not going to happen – something has to improve dramatically. If we’re going to break the MPS and start from scratch, we’ I will do it.”
MPS high school student Shafarrah Ray worries about the idea.
“Have you even tried to go to an MPS school? Have you even tried to help the problems that arise in MPS?” Ray asked.
Ray went to Milwaukee Spanish Immersion for elementary school, which is across town from where she grew up. She fears that if the MPS is divided into smaller districts, it will limit opportunities for students like her.
“I feel like it takes away a lot of the voice of parents and a lot of their choice, because it’s like you only have the ability to communicate with the schools around you,” said said Ray. “What if you live in a bad neighborhood and you don’t want your child to go to this school?”
Which education options to support will depend on Wisconsin’s next governor. The election is Tuesday, November 8.
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