Superintendents Express Wariness Of Walker Budget At Hearings


Leaders from school districts in heavily Republican counties told GOP lawmakers today that Governor Scott Walker’s education budget would hurt them without some changes.

Walker’s budget proposal holds funding for most schools flat because of the way it freezes the amount a school district can spend per student without going to a local referendum. It follows the governor’s first budget, where Walker cut roughly $800 million in state funding from schools, but gave them the ability to absorb the costs by charging teachers more for their benefits.

At a public hearing on the budget in Greendale, Kettle Moraine Superintendent Patricia Deklotz told lawmakers her Waukesha County district used those so-called “tools” to cut costs and increase programming for students. But she says to freeze funding now will damage great schools like hers: “The proposed budget feels like a sledgehammer when what we need is a surgeon’s scalpel.”

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West Bend School Superintendent Ted Neitzke says he also used Walker’s tools to cut spending by $3.6 million in his Washington County district. Neitzke says West Bend was expecting a surplus next year, but that will not happen if Walker’s budget becomes law: “By locking us at zero, it puts us in a deficit situation which we were not expecting.

Neitzke and Deklotz were among several school administrators and teachers who spoke in favor of a plan by Republican senators Luther Olsen and Mike Ellis that would increase funding by $150 per student. Details of that plan are still in short supply but are likely to emerge in the next couple months as the legislature’s Joint Finance Committee starts voting on the budget.