The Joint Finance Committee heard seven hours of testimony on the governor’s budget Wednesday in east-central Wisconsin.
The first of four official public hearings was heavily represented by school administrators talking about the need to fund education.
Todd Carlson is superintendent for the Gillett School District, a small city just north of Green Bay. He recalled how a senior who expressed interest in a future in education, was convinced by his father — a teacher — to try something else. “His son is one of our best students. And I’m sad to say that his father talked him out of it,” Carlson said, “Because of the lack of support, the lack of funding, increased accountability, he’s convinced his son not to go into education.”
Carlson told members of the budget-writing committee it wasn’t that long ago that a public education was seen as an investment. Now, he said, it’s seen as an expense.
Superintendent Brain Hanes of the Ashwaubenon School District said Wisconsin schools can’t take another hit. “I believe we’re at a tipping point in how the state is starting to affect the supply and demand of quality teachers and how this is affecting Wisconsin.”
Hanes said many districts are “at the end of their rope.”
Green Bay parent Kathryn Carley told lawmakers, “Schools are not failing,” instead she says, “They are struggling to succeed” with the little resources they are given.
Public school administrators also gave their two cents worth about a proposed expansion of the program that gives tax-funded vouchers to low-income kids to attend private or religious schools, saying it takes money away from public schools. Walker’s budget would lift the enrollment limit, and use public school aid to cover the vouchers.
There were also many people testifying on health care, disabilities, smoking cessation programs, transportation funding, and other issues.