Gov. Tony Evers has called a special session of the legislature to take up an increase in K-12 education funding, leading the way to restoring investments in public schools and boosting teacher pay. WEAC was on hand as he signed an executive order for the session, through which legislators will be asked to support a return to two-thirds funding using a portion of state surplus funding.
WEAC member and Mount Horeb High School social studies teacher Beth Maglio spoke to public education advocates before the governor signed the executive order. “As a veteran teacher who chose to stay in this career despite the many decisions made in last decade about education funding, it is encouraging to see steps to restoring our commitment to students in Wisconsin. I’m hopeful this will attract new teachers and encourage current teachers and support staff to stay in this profession. For too long, education has not been prioritized in Wisconsin and this has left many of us in the trenches feeling undervalued, discouraged and left without necessary resources to meet the needs of our students, especially the most vulnerable.
“I am pleased to see this addresses the national crisis of student mental health. This issue has especially impacted Mount Horeb,” she continued, adding that just over two years ago the community had five students and recent graduates commit suicide. She said the investment will help all students “My kids, and all Wisconsin students deserve more and this can only be accomplished with increased funding to improve our schools.”
WEAC President Ron Martin also welcomed the governor’s actions. “I am grateful for what the governor has done to step forward and address the crisis of teacher pay and school funding,” he said. “Taxpayers will reap the benefits of investing in our public schools and also property tax relief. It’s a win-win.”
Evers is proposing a $250 million investment in education, including a return to the state’s commitment to fund two-thirds of school costs. Additional aid under the plan would be directed to school-based mental health and special education. Evers noted that $10 million in sparsity aid is also part of the plan, quipping, “Sparsity aid? I invented it,” referring to his time as State Superintendent. His plan calls for $130 million in property tax relief through the equalization aid formula. The plan would:
- Renew the state’s commitment to two-thirds funding for our public schools;
- Provide state support so schools can increase teacher pay to recruit and retain the brightest educators;
- Expand access to mental health services;
- Ensure that students with disabilities are receiving the services and support they need to be successful;
- Invest in rural schools through increased sparsity aid, in the summer school programs in our largest urban districts, and in tribal language revitalization efforts; and
- Begin to address the teacher shortage by allowing districts to rehire retired teachers within 30 rather than 75 days.
Education as an Economic Investment
Wisconsin is expected to have more than $400 million in extra tax revenue, and Evers made clear that increased funding for education – including boosting teacher pay – can be accomplished along with a tax cut.
The entire proposal is circulating at the Capitol. Read it here.