K-12 PUBLIC EDUCATION FOR ALL
K-12 PUBLIC EDUCATION FOR ALL
by Kathleen Michel of Grassroots Northshore
In its hasty and irresponsible passage of an omnibus motion funding the Department of Public Instruction, the Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee disavowed the constitutional commitment that every member of the state legislature has sworn an oath to uphold.
This principle, that every child in Wisconsin has a ‘fundamental right to an equal opportunity for a sound basic education,’ is at the core of our state’s best traditions and promises.
Those who seek to undermine this moral and legal obligation are vandalizing our history and undermining our future. Their actions run counter to the wishes of the people of Wisconsin, which have been expressed so eloquently throughout the budget process.
In spite of the actions of the Joint Committee on Finance, I ask all interested citizens to continue in their efforts to defend the rights and interests of all Wisconsin’s kids. This fight is not over, and it won’t be until it has been won for the children of this state.
As voucher schools gain ground in Wisconsin at an astonishing rate, public education languishes. The latest Wisconsin budget destroys public K-12 education piece by piece with the spoils going to private investors who are betting on voucher schools and the American Legislative Council (ALEC).
The Wisconsin Governor has been an active ALEC member since the early 1990’s. He is the main conduit through which ALEC imposes its road map on our state; he’s responsible for most of the policies included in this budget and Motion #999.
Only one power could have prevented passage of this horrendous budget: Wisconsin citizens. And we tried. People were out in force at meetings throughout the state: protesting, writing letters, voicing displeasure for the budget, and announcing our disgust with the Joint Finance Committee and the Republican dominated legislature.
Few can forget our response to the first budget from this governor: the 100,000 demonstrators who in 2011 gave Walker “firsthand experience fighting the likes of ISIS.” But then as now, the voices of the people have been silenced. Even though 11 Republicans voted against it, the budget passed both the Assembly and the Senate on July 8, 2015.
The effects on our public schools are devastating. According to the Wisconsin Budget Project, Governor Walker[‘s] … education budget … cuts state support to public schools, freezes local support, devotes new resources to private schools, and cuts property taxes. [It] reduces support for public schools by $98 million over the two year budget period.
Although the bill increases school aid by $108 million in the second year of the biennium, districts will generally have to use those funds to reduce property tax levies, rather than increasing spending. Not counting the cut proposed for the upcoming budget, Wisconsin has already cut state investment in schools by 15% per student since 2008, a deeper cut than all but four other states. That 15% cut (in inflation-adjusted spending) means the state is spending $1,014 less on each student in fiscal year 2015 compared to 2008.
The cumulative cuts have produced a most unwelcome result: “For what could be the first time ever, Wisconsin would fall below the national average in per-pupil K-12 spending…, according to an analysis from a national nonpartisan research group” [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 15, 2015