MADISON (WSAU) Governor Scott Walker plans to increase state aid to public schools by one-percent in the next two-year budget that he’ll submit to lawmakers on Wednesday. It would give schools an additional $276-million, after a major cut of $834-million two years ago.
The Republican Walker said yesterday that he would not raise the schools’ state-mandated revenue limits in order to avoid hikes in local property taxes. But he proposed a series of aid increases – including incentives for schools and teachers based on the districts’ new report cards which the state put out for the first time last year.
Democrats and teachers’ union leaders said Walker’s increases are not nearly enough. Mary Bell of the state’s largest teachers’ union said the governor quote, “has no intention of supporting neighborhood schools.” Republican Senate Education Committee chair Luther Olsen said he wished Walker would have offered more money – but it’s better than no increase or another reduction.
Walker proposed an extra $73-million for private schools that teach low-income kids with tax-funded vouchers. One report said he would expand the program for up to nine new districts.
The governor also wants $23-million more for charter schools – and $21-million for special-needs kids to get private-school vouchers for the first time. Lisa Pugh of Disability Rights Wisconsin said all public school kids with special needs should get more money, not just a select few. Pugh said Walker’s plan would cause a major change in how special needs’ youngsters are treated. She said it’s an issue that should be debated separately, and not buried in the massive state budget.