Republicans on the legislature’s Joint Finance Committee voted Thursday to limit an increase to public education spending to $500 million. Committee Republicans are defending their position on cutting back on Governor Tony Evers’ proposed $1.4 billion boost to K-12 public education. State Senator Luther Olsen said the Legislature is still increasing spending on students.
“It’s not like, well one guy has a proposal, and this is a cut from that. We’re talking about a number that is an increase on an actual number that was spent.”
Olsen says the Republican budget is a reasonable and prudent figure that reaches a goal of having the state provide 30 percent of a district’s funding. “And when I have talked to superintendents around the state, they’re realistic. And they said ‘If you can get us 30 percent, Luther, we will be very happy.'”
State Senator Jon Erpenbach, a Democrat on ther budget panel, said the Governor’s original funding plan comes from both his time as state superintendent and also from his months-long listening session tour for the budget. “It’s not Tony Evers’ wish list. It’s not a political budget. It’s not a ‘gotcha’ budget. This is what the people of Wisconsin want.”
Erpenbach said that under budget cuts from the Walker administration, school districts were forced to resort to local referenda to keep themselves afloat. “For a long time, school districts have been starved, to the point where they are taxing themselves because the state is not living up to its constitutional obligation to make sure that we provide an education for people.”
The Republican budget increase of $500 million over the two year budget cycle includes a $97 million dollar increase for special education.