Lawmakers in Wisconsin, led by Republican governor Scott Walker, are seeking to pass a budget that would, for the first time in 20 years, cut funding to public schools and instead point it toward private schools.
The new budget would restore Walker’s $127 million cut in K-12 funding, instead expanding a voucher program that would benefit private schools and special needs students.
State Superintendent Tony Evers led the negative response, stating that the law would “erode the basic foundation of Wisconsin’s public school system.”
“Wisconsin is nationally renowned for its quality public schools,” Evers’s statement continued. “We are a leader among the states in graduation rates, Advanced Placement participation, and ACT scores because of our highly trained educations and the support of families and local communities…If we want all students to achieve, we cannot continue to ask our public schools to do more with less.”
Other elements of the proposed legislation are equally as troubling. They include budget cuts of about $150 million for the University of Wisconsin higher education system for the next two years, freezing spending on special education in public schools, and, perhaps most disturbing of all, eliminating teacher licensing standards, which would allow districts to hire teachers with only a bachelor’s degree…or without any degree whatsoever, so long as the individual is considered “proficient” with “relevant experience to the subject. (For comparison, current regulations require a teacher to have a bachelor’s degree and a major or minor in the subject they teach, as well as completing extensive training in content assessment and teaching.)
The proposal was put together behind closed doors with no opportunity for public scrutiny.
John Forester, director of government relations for the School Administrators Alliance, confirmed that action will be taken against the proposal by concerned educators and supporters. “In the days and weeks to come, we will work with pro-education legislators of both parties, parents, and community leaders in the fight to restore Wisconsin’s tradition of sound investment in and support for its public schools and public school students,” he said. “Budgets are about choices. They are about priorities. It’s clear that the 860,000 public school students in Wisconsin are not a priority in this budget.”