Education a priority in State of State Address

Gov. Tony Evers laid out a continued commitment to two-thirds state funding for schools, along with solutions for student loan debt and attention on special education and mental health in his second State of the State address.

“Governor Evers’ address instilled in me hope for Wisconsin,” said WEAC President Ron “Duff” Martin, who attended the address on behalf of WEAC at the invitation of the governor. “It was just so inspiring. I hope our legislators can work together and listen to the will of the people.”

In his address, the governor said he will:

  • Continue his support of two-thirds funding for schools across Wisconsin;
  • Provide $600 million-dollar increase in special education funding;
  • Bring forward proposals to close achievement gaps;
  • Empower minority students by expanding early childhood education and summer school grant programs through urban Initiatives programs;
  • Support a five-fold increase in mental health programs for K-12 students;
  • Renew the state’s commitment for access to quality, affordable healthcare;
  • Create a task force to address ways to reduce college students’ debt;

  • Form a nonpartisan redistricting to draw new legislative maps after the next U.S. Census;
  • Introduce a series of packages to aid farmers and rural communities, including connecting them to education; and

  • Call a special legislative session in January for a package of bills to create a new program that aims to increase Wisconsin’s dairy exports to 20% of the nation’s milk supply by 2024.

Here are some key parts of the governor’s speech addressing education:

“The budget that I’ll be introducing in the coming weeks is about connecting those dots. And to no one’s surprise, it begins—as it always has for me—with education.

“Connecting the dots means recognizing that what’s best for our kids is best for our state. The investment we make in our kids today will yield dividends for generations. That’s why our budget reaffirms our state’s commitment to our kids by returning to two-thirds funding for schools across Wisconsin.

“I was pleased to learn that the Speaker has encouraged his members to support this provision in our budget, and I hope that I can count on your support going forward.

“In addition to two-thirds funding, we’re also going to make sure that we have resources to support our kids with special needs. For the past decade, we’ve not only cut funding for public schools, we’ve failed to fully fund services for special education. This has forced local school districts and taxpayers to squeeze resources from other areas to provide these critical services. Our budget will provide an unprecedented $600 million-dollar increase in special education funding. That means our school districts will have enough to allocate the resources they do have to other areas of high need.

“And we’re not just going to increase support for our kids with special needs. We’re going to get to work on closing the achievement gap for low-income students and students of color. Our state’s achievement gap is among the highest in the nation in reading and math scores. As State Superintendent, I submitted proposals that would’ve helped address our state’s achievement gap. Unfortunately, most of these proposals never made it through the Legislative process. I believe this is the year they will. And my Urban Initiatives programs will also empower minority students in our state’s highest-need districts by expanding early childhood education and summer school grant programs.

“It is urgent that we increase support for our low-income students and students of color. The longer we wait to invest in closing our achievement gap, the wider the gap will get, and the more it will cost us in the long-run.

“Finally, we’re going to propose a five-fold increase in mental health programs for K-12 students across our state. But funding mental health programming in our schools is not enough; so tonight, we renew our commitment to making sure everybody has access to quality, affordable healthcare.”