During his gubernatorial campaign and in the 2019 budget presented to the legislature this past February, Governor Evers called for a $1.4 billion increase in state spending on K-12 education, driven in large part by a $606 million increase in special education funding.
The budget unveiled Wednesday, May 22 by Assembly Republicans would spend considerably less, setting aside an additional $50 million for special education over the next two years.
The $500 million increase championed by Assembly Republicans is actually less than the roughly $600 million increase former Republican Gov. Scott Walker signed into law in 2017.
Here in Kenosha, the Kenosha Unified School District (KUSD) is expecting a $7.6 million deficit for the 2019-20 school year. In addition, there are many resources the schools still need to be successful that have a large price tag attached to them, including mental health services and wellness dollars. Former Gov. Walker’s refusal of $63 million in Medicaid expansion further hurts the effort to fund these valuable services.
The state covers less than 25% of special education costs for public schools but 90% for private schools, and it would cost $26,709,283 to increase funding by 90% for public school special education services.
The KUSD is already running on a shoestring budget. This budget shortfall proposed by the GOP would further weaken an already impaired school district.
Governor Evers said he was still hopeful he could reach a deal with Republicans on school funding before the entire process is finished. Anything they pass would still need to pass the full Legislature and be signed by Evers to become law.
“The education budget won’t be decided tomorrow,” Evers said. “It’s a long process.”
Should Republicans pass a budget that spends $900 million less on schools than Evers proposed, the governor was not prepared to say whether he’d veto it.
“It’s hard to say,” Evers said. “We have to look at any budget in the totality of it.”
But Evers stressed the $606 million he proposed for special education remained a priority for him, saying stagnant state funding for special education had forced some districts with high numbers of special needs students to cut their budget elsewhere. Evers said his budget was aimed at fixing that.
Strong schools are the bedrock for a strong community. KUSD is the 3rd largest district in Wisconsin; our children deserve better than this. We need EVERYONE in the KUSD to advocate for Governor Evers' $1.4 billion increase for K-12 education, including our superintendent and school board members. Please contact Dr. Sue Savaglio (KUSD Superintendent of Schools) and Dan Wade (KUSD President) and urge them as well as the rest of the KUSD school board to support Governor’s Evers' budget.
Dr. Sue Savaglio: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dan Wade: email@example.com
KUSD School Board: https://www.kusd.edu/board-members
Sources: "GOP Slashes Evers’ School Budget,” by Shawn Johnson, Wisconsin Public Radio
VOP: Call legislators, demand budget justice for local schools, Kenosha News, April 29, 2019