Lawmakers received feedback on a wide range of provisions in the state budget, as they opened a series of listening session Monday on the University of Wisconsin Platteville campus.
Education issues dominated testimony during the opening hours of the hearing, with speakers urging lawmakers to consider a number of changes to education funding and other policies Governor Scott Walker proposed earlier this year. John Havlicek, a teacher from La Crosse, was one of many people urging the legislature’s budget committee to target increases in per-pupil funding, rather than taking an across the board approach. Havlicek argued that such an approach “exacerbates” the inequities that exist in already struggling districts. “The state must restore funding for public schools, but it should be targeted to help kids with the most need.”
Several speakers called on lawmakers to go beyond the per pupil increase included in Walker’s budget – currently set at $200 in the first year of the biennium and $204 in the second. Others also warned of dire staffing situations facing many districts, which are having trouble attracting qualified teachers.
Many University of Wisconsin students also stepped up to advocated against a budget provision that would allow them to opt out of paying some segregated fees that help fund student organizations. The move could result in funding cuts to campus services, such as crisis rape centers. UW-Madison student Elizabeth Hays said the move would change campus culture. “You would be taking away our right to choose the college experience that we want for ourselves – you would be limiting the resources that students have recognized a need for,” she argued.
The next hearing on the budget is this coming Wednesday at State Fair Park in West Allis. The others are April 7 at Berlin High School, April 18 and Spooner High School, April 19 at Ellsworth High School, and April 21 at Marinette High School.