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Evers Criticizes Walker On School, Road Spending During Annual Education Speech

State Superintendent Tony Evers Delivers Annual State Of Education Address

By
Tony Evers
Scott Bauer/AP Photo

State schools Superintendent Tony Evers called for more K-12 spending in his annual state of education speech Thursday at the state Capitol.

Despite a $636 million funding bump for schools in the next two-year state budget, which Gov. Scott Walker has lauded as “historic,” Evers pushed for more investment in education.

“On school funding, we must face the reality that for too many budget cycles public school funding has not been the priority for those in control,” he said.

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Evers, who has been superintendent since 2009 and is running as a Democratic candidate for governor, has pushed for years for a new funding formula for schools. He cited a number of referendums across the state approving property tax increases for school funding as proof that communities support more money for education.

“Communities and voters are now convinced we need action,” Evers said. “The Legislature wasn’t getting it done, so they had to act.”

Evers also criticized the Legislature and governor for approving $400 million in borrowing for roads in the next budget, arguing bonding puts pressure on future generations.

He also called for the Legislature to implement one of the “dozens of options” suggested by various individuals and groups in recent years to “improve the quality of our roads and free up resources for our schools.”

During budget negotiations, state lawmakers proposed a variety of new revenue sources for road funding, including a gas tax or vehicle registration fee increase, or an increased fee on heavy trucks. None of those options made it into the budget.

“I’m sick of the politics, the false choices, and the endless debates on this issue,” Evers said. “We can walk and chew gum at the same time. Without question, we can fix our roads and fund our schools at the same time.”

Evers said if elected governor, he would support a gas tax increase to pay for roads.

He also said he would “absolutely” call on legislators of override Walker’s veto of increased revenue limits for low-spending schools.

A spokesman for Walker pushed back on opposition to the veto Thursday, pointing out school districts can still increase spending by passing a referendum.

The superintendent’s speech wasn’t entirely critical. He lauded the budget’s spending on mental health programs in schools.

The budget includes new funding for schools to hire social workers and grants for schools to partner with community mental health organizations to provide support for students.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated with original reporting from WPR at 2:40 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017.

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