Rolling out a key plank of his budget, Gov. Scott Walker called for a $649 million boost to K-12 education as part of a plan that would increase per-pupil funding statewide while also targeting more money to Milwaukee Public Schools and rural districts.
Walker said the proposal, included in his two-year budget, is part of an overall effort to better prepare Wisconsin’s workforce. He also said it would result in a property tax bill on the average home that is lower in 2018 than it was before he took office in 2011, while pushing state aid for K-12 to an all-time high of $11.5 billion.
“We’re investing in our priorities, and priority No. 1 is education,” Walker said.
The plan would represent a dramatic uptick in state aid for K-12 education after years of Walker getting hammered by Democrats, who have accused him of funding school choice at the expense of public schools.
Assembly minority leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) and Senate minority leader Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse) knocked Walker, saying he has cut more than $1 billion from public schools since 2011. Shilling said anything “short of a full refund will continue to hurt hardworking families,” while criticizing the state aid going to vouchers.
Walker said under state law, the vouchers would see a similar bump in per-pupil aid as what public schools would receive.
Barca said he was still looking for details and questioned whether the plan would result in schools “struggling to keep the lights on” getting a smaller increase per student than voucher schools.
“Every child in Wisconsin deserves and our economy needs quality education,” Barca said. “We need a budget to support that.”
Walker’s proposal almost meets the full amount state superintendent Tony Evers had included in his budget request, though it would divvy up the money differently.
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