State Superintendent Tony Evers said Wednesday that he will propose a “transformational budget” that provides full funding of 4-year-old kindergarten and achieve the state’s longtime commitment of funding two-thirds the cost of local public schools “without any gimmicks while holding the line on taxes.”
“No more false choices. There’s a better way, and that is the high road,” Evers said in opening remarks at the Wisconsin Public Education Network Summer Summit at Appleton North High School.
“We need to prioritize mental health, we need to shatter the decade-long freeze on special education funding, we need to reform our broken school funding system, and we need to restore and expand crucial student support services,” Evers said.
WEAC President Ron Martin welcomed Evers’ proposals, adding, “Investing in our public schools is essential to building a strong Wisconsin. For the past seven years we have – under the current governor – experienced extreme cuts to our public schools that have hurt our schools and kids while contributing to the low morale of educators. These proposals by State Superintendent Evers begin the process of turning that around.”
Evers reiterated his proposals to increase student mental health funding tenfold, direct unused school safety funds to student mental health services and shatter the decades-long freeze on special education funding by increasing funding 163%.
“Your leadership on this issue has to happen,” he said. “We need this reality.”
Saying that Wisconsin’ school funding formula has been broken for a long time, Evers said that in order to fix it, “it is time to do more than just shuffle the deck chairs, it has to increase opportunities to close those achievement gaps for kids.”
To address the achievement gaps, Evers said his budget proposal will include:
- Funds to provide full-day 4-year-old kindergarten for all students in Wisconsin.
- An unprecedented $20 million state investment in expanding and supporting high-quality after-school programs. “We all know our students need many caring, stable adults in their lives to nurture them, to help them be safe and to reach their full potential,” and these after-school programs will be “difference-makers,” especially in rural areas, he said.
- Increase the low revenue ceilings so all districts – not just a few – can catch up. “There is no reason that in some districts a kid is supported by $18,000 while in another district by $9,600. That is patently unfair.”
In thanking Summer Summit attendees for their work in support of public schools, Evers said, “Advocacy around public schools has never been more important. We can make a huge difference in our kids’ lives. This is the year we can make that happen.”