Education was at the forefront of the governor’s State of the State speech as he laid the groundwork for his reelection bid. He talked about increasing public school funding, especially in rural areas, and positioned himself as a champion in a number of other educational areas.
“Rhetoric around public schools is commonplace in campaigns, but we educators know the facts,” said teacher Ron Martin, WEAC President. “The state is spending about 11 percent less on K-12 public education than it did in 2008. Voucher schools receive more state funding per student than public schools. It’s time for policymakers to involve educators in solutions for long-term support of public schools instead of using our students as election-year gimmicks.”
In his eighth State of the State address, Governor Walker laid out the following promises:
Increasing sparsity aid to assist low revenue school districts. AB-835/SB-690 addresses two areas, the low revenue ceiling and sparsity aid. Sparsity aid was vetoed by the governor in the 2017-19 state budget, but he has said he supports the provisions now. The bill:
- Low Revenue Ceiling: Would increase the low revenue ceiling from $9,100 to $9,400 in 2019. The bill also would increase the low revenue ceiling by $100 each school year, beginning in 2020, until the ceiling reaches $9,800 in 2023. Districts with failed operating referendums in the prior three years would not be eligible. Of the107 school districts that would be eligible under this bill, nine had failed referenda. The DPI estimates the statewide cost of this bill to be a maximum of $21.8 million in 2019, depending on whether nine additional school districts going to referendum this spring are successful.
- Sparsity Aid: This would, beginning in 2019, increases the sparsity aid per pupil amount from $300 to $400. Under the bill, the appropriation for sparsity aid would be increased by $6.5 million in 2019.
Increasing career opportunities. The governor proposed $20 million to establish a new Wisconsin Career Creator program on campuses all over the state. In the 2015-17 state budget, he cut $300 million from the University of Wisconsin System.
Work-for-food. The governor called a special session on a number of bills about safety net services, including a work-for-food provision.
Small business benefits. The governor promised to pass the Small Business Plan, including reducing costs for small businesses, lower taxes, streamlining regulations, and reducing frivolous lawsuits.
Rural internet access. Walker called on the FCC to finalize rules increasing access to broadband internet by advancing television white space technology.
Serious juvenile offenders. Walker called for smaller regional centers and converting the existing centers to adult centers.
$100 child credit. The governor touted this plan, which he announced just before his speech.
Health Care Stabilization Plan. This proposal, introduced three days before his speech, includes a SeniorCare permanent waiver, pre-existing condition coverage for all Wisconsinites, and a reinsurance program using federal and state funds.
Opioid epidemic. The governor promised to battle against the opioid crisis in Wisconsin.