“This budget is an insult to Wisconsin’s children and citizens,” said Betsy Kippers, a Racine teacher and president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council. “This budget is a campaign ploy to further the governor’s presidential ambitions. He’s shutting the door on children and leaving them behind.”
Kippers said among the most egregious components of the budget is unbridled expansion of the statewide, tax-funded private school voucher program, while students in neighborhood public schools – especially in rural areas – get the shaft.
“Under Governor Walker, Wisconsin has had some of the largest cuts in the nation to school funding, while at the same time giving $10,000 tax deductions to wealthy families who send their children to private schools. He has expanded the taxpayer-funded private voucher school program even though public school students perform better. Governor Walker’s cherry-on-top this time around is a $300 million cut to UW campuses across the state and a big, fat blank check to the voucher lobbyists who fund his campaigns while holding public school revenue flat.
“Enough is enough,” Kippers said. “Education cuts don’t heal.
“If our elected officials want to help children, they need to ensure that every child has a good public school to attend no matter where they live or what their family circumstances are,” she said. “That is true opportunity.”
“Educators and parents will be calling on their legislators to make significant changes to the budget, instead of blindly following the governor down this path to the end of neighborhood public schools as we know them,” Kippers said.
Governor Walker’s 2015-17 State Budget Proposal Highlights
School Funding. Holds revenue limits flat. Provides +$104 million in general school aid in 16-17 combined with +$105.6 million each year of the biennium in school levy tax credit for property tax relief. Provides $141.9 million in 16-17 for per pupil aid outside of the revenue caps.
Rural Schools. Provides +$5 million for High Cost Transportation Aid, +$8.4 million in Sparsity Aid, +$25 million for TEACH 2.0 and +$6 million for broadband expansion.
Voucher Expansion. Removes caps on the statewide voucher program. Funds new students in the Racine voucher program and the statewide program through a general aid deduction. Deducts general aid for those students from school districts, pools these amounts together and then divides the total by the number of students to calculate the per-pupil voucher payment. Gives public school students enrollment preference.
Privately Run Charter School Expansion. Creates a charter school oversight board at the state level to grant charter school authorizing authority to approved nonprofits.
Alternative Licensure. Creates alternative pathways to teacher licensure to allow a candidate with a bachelor’s degree “with real life experience” to pass a competency test to teach in grades 6-12.
Assessments. Fully funds the ACT and Dynamics Learning Maps (DLM) Assessment with +$2 million in 15-16 and +$3 million in 16-17. Prohibits and eliminates the Smarter Balanced Assessment. Instead, requires DPI to choose a new assessment for 2015-16, providing +$1.5 million each year of the biennium.
Accountability. Uses A-F letter grades. Weighs 2016 report card for poverty and length of enrollment in a particular school or system. VARC will identify 3-5 alternative test that any school can use. Requires school districts to notify parents of their report card grade, the assessment, and standards as well as enrollment options available.
Common Core. Clarifies that no school district is required to use Common Core. Prohibits the State Superintendent from giving effect to any academic standard tied to the Common Core.
Chapter 220. Closes the program to new students and phases it out over time.
Tuition freeze. Applies to those pursuing training in high-need occupations.
Performance funding. Increases the percentage of general state aid distributed in accordance with performance factors. The percentage will be 10 percent in fiscal year 2015-16 and increases by 10 percent per year until fiscal year 2019-20. At that time 100 percent of general state aid will be distributed based on responsiveness to state needs.
Financial aid. Increases funding for technical education scholarships for high school graduates who exceed in career and technical education courses.