Wisconsin State Superintendent of Schools Carolyn Stanford Taylor on Monday submitted a budget request for the Department of Public Instruction that is $1.4 billion larger than the current budget.
Stanford Taylor's ask comes after Gov. Tony Evers ordered state agencies not to request any more money in the next state budget.
Eric Bott with Americans for Prosperity in Wisconsin said this is not the time to open up the checkbook for public schools’ wish list spending requests.
“Governor Evers must reject this bloated and nonsensical budget request from the Department of Public Instruction and instead work with the legislature on crafting an education budget that increases opportunity for all students while also protecting taxpayers,” Bott said Wednesday. “Now is not the time to pump $1.4 billion of new taxpayer dollars into an education system that saw a huge decline in enrollment and is not meeting the needs of these families.”
The biggest increase, $844 million, would come in state equalization aid, which is money sent to schools based on the formula meant to cover gaps in local funding.
But Stanford Taylor is also proposing to spend hundreds of millions on other initiatives, including $371 million more for special education and another $46.5 million for mental health and wellness programs.
“The budget I’ve submitted provides the resources, services, and funding to help meet the needs of Wisconsin students, as well as libraries,” Stanford Taylor said.
Stanford Taylor says schools across Wisconsin need more state help because the coronavirus has cut into their bottom lines.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged our schools in ways never seen before,” she said. “It magnified many existing inequities in our state and highlighted essential areas where our students and educators need further support.”
To ensure schools do not lose funding because of the coronavirus, Stanford Taylor is suggesting schools use their highest enrollment numbers from either 2019 or 2020. She also wants to allow schools to count pre-K students as full time students. Currently, pre-K children are counted as half-students for the purposes of school funding.
Stanford Taylor is also asking for $5 million more for drivers’ education and $6.5 million more for public libraries across the state.
The request comes as lawmakers in Madison are preparing for a possible $2 billion shortfall.
Bott said instead of adding to the current system, he’d like to see lawmakers and the governor recognize that the coronavirus has a lot of parents rethinking how they want to send their kids to school.
“We urge Governor Evers and the Legislature to instead consider policies that will fund families and students directly instead of simply funding buildings, including expanding access to part-time open enrollment, allowing funding to follow the student if they choose to leave their public school, and ensuring student access to the technology that may be needed for continued virtual learning,” Bott added.
Lawmakers in Madison will begin the process of crafting a new two-year state budget when they return to the Capitol after the first of the year.
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