Members of the Wisconsin legislature’s budget panel heard pleas from public school administrators and UW students, during a final day long public hearing in Reedsburg. Republican Governor Scott Walker’s proposed budget cuts some $127 million dollars in public school funding next year.
“Even with the flexibility provided by Act 10, districts increasing costs. Without funding increases that match these growing costs, reductions in the quality of educational services are inevitable,” said Randy Guttenberg, Superintendent of Waunakee Schools in Dane County.
Guttenberg also asked members of the Joint Committee on Finance to remove Walker budget provisions which would expand taxpayer subsidized vouchers schools, and an expansion of charter schools. “We can’t financially support, and I don’t think you as a legislature can oversee, two parallel systems of public education,” he said.
Wisconsin Heights Superintendent Mark Elsworthy said his small district, also located in Dane County, is like the canary in the coal mine. “We oppose the reduction in school funding. Restore the $150 in categorical aid, that really helped us in the last biennium. Also tie increases to the inflationary index,” Elsworthy asked. “Our deficit for 2015-’17 is at $120,000. If our (April 7th) referendum does not pass, we are at a $1.6 million deficit next year.”
The finance committee also heard from students at UW La Crosse, who asked that Walker’s $300 million cut to the UW System be decreased.
Rebecca Steck said the proposed cuts would means fewer class offerings – and longer times to attain a degree. “Longer times spent in college means more student debt, and that’s not good for Wisconsin,” Stenk said. She also told lawmakers that her post college plans include applying to law schools outside the state, and that after she leaves, her parents would also leave the state. Her father is a professor at UW Platteville and her mother is a speech pathologist at Hazel Green public schools. “The state will lose 50 years of experience in public education when my parents leave. That’s not good for Wisconsin.”
“We’re reaching the bottom of the barrel,” said senior James Dirt. “UWL will only hire two of 44 available positions if the budget cuts remain the same.”
“These cuts are devastating, as you’ve heard at hearing after hearing, and from constituent after constituent,” said Sachin Chheda with the Save the Wisconsin Idea organization. “There haven’t been folks coming up and saying ‘yes, the university can stand, the university can handle, $300 million in cuts.'”
Thursday’s public hearing at Reedsburg was the final on scheduled by the finance committee.