Walker to increase school aid $129M

GREEN BAY — Gov. Scott Walker will propose a small increase in school funding in his biennial budget this week.

Area educators say Gov. Scott Walker's pledge to boost school funding in his next budget isn't enough.

Walker says his upcoming budget proposal includes a one-percent increase in school funding. The governor says more than $475 million in new funds would go toward all levels of education.

But some say they're concerned about not only the amount of money, but also how it will be used.

Ahead of his budget announcement Wednesday, Walker says he's rolling out millions in new spending for education, particularly K-12.

"I'm glad that there's more money in the budget,” said State Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon. “As you know, last budget we had to cut money for education."

The roughly one percent increase in aid to schools Walker is proposing comes after he cut aid by more than eight percent in the first year of the last budget.

Schools would get $129 million in aid under Walker's plan, but total K-12 funding would go up $276 million.

However, Democrats in the state Legislature say the money isn't enough.

"I was looking for more of a substantive investment in public education. It's just not enough to make up for what they went through last time around,” said State Rep. Eric Genrich, D-Green Bay.

Walker's previous budget also included Act 10. That measure required most public employees to contribute more to their benefits and pension plans.

The nonpartisan Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance reported Act 10 savings offset about two-thirds of the reductions in school revenue.

Olsen, who chairs the Wisconsin State Senate Education Committee, says school districts still face financial issues.

"It becomes challenging when you have to prioritize where you're getting the biggest bang for your buck with that money you have available in the district,” said Olsen.

Walker says he will also increase funding for vouchers for choice and charter schools and special needs students. Money would also be available for schools that perform well.

Both educators and some of Walker’s fellow Republicans say they'd rather see money spent on all students.

"Currently choice and charter are only four percent of the kids. So, thirty percent of the new money is going to four percent of the kids,” explained Olsen.

"A lot of the increases are tied to the voucher program. The voucher program does not have the same accountability that we have,” said Dean De Broux, president of Bay Lakes United Educators.

None of these changes can take effect until the state Legislature debates and approves the budget.

Walker will introduce his budget proposal in its entirety on Wednesday.

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 

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Wisconsin (change)

 
According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Wisconsin’s population totaled 5,686,986, a 6.0% increase over the 2000 U.S. Census count of 5,363,715. (Source: Wisconsin Blue Book)
 
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Governor: Scott Walker
Lieutenant Governor: Rebecca Kleefisch
Attorney General: J.B. Van Hollen

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