Walker Urges Members Of Joint Finance Committee To Build On His Proposed Education Aid Plan

Governor Tries To Rebuff Those Calling For No Increase In State Dollars To K-12 Education

"Your future, your choice" sign in school hallway
Charles Krupa/AP Photo

Gov. Scott Walker is urging his Republican colleagues in the state Legislature to use his funding plan for K-12 schools, and not consider a zero-increase proposal being floated by some critics.

Gov. Scott Walker speaks to the news media Monday at Waukesha South High School. Chuck Quirmbach/WPR

Some conservative lawmakers don’t care for the governor’s plan to increase K-12 aid by $649 million over two years. Walker, speaking Monday at Waukesha South High School, urged members of the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee to use his proposal as a starting point in their deliberations.

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“Build off what we invested. This isn’t a blank check, as all the school leaders here know,” Walker said.

“Through all the Act 10 reforms we’ve empowered school districts to put more money in the classroom, to do more with these dollars, and reinforce and reinvigorate some of our best teachers and educators in the state.”

The governor is being criticized for trying to force school districts to make employees pay about 12 percent of their health insurance costs in order to receive the additional state dollars. Walker said he’ll consider letting go of that language.

“Sure, or the alternative to me, the better alternative is to work on some language with finance committee members to tweak that a little clearer,” Walker said.

“Our original intention was if we’re going to put more money in our schools, let’s make sure they’re actually using the reforms we’ve given our schools over the years. And the overwhelming majority already are.”

Democrats argue Walker’s original plan would make it harder for more school districts to attract good teachers. Leaders of the Wisconsin Association of School Boards and the Southeastern Wisconsin Schools Alliance joined Walker on Monday and praised most of his budget plan.

Walker also addressed part of the budget proposal that would get rid of an “hours of instruction” requirement for Wisconsin schools. Walker said he wants more school districts to be “free of a state mandate.”

Walker said it would be ideal if local officials worked out the right mix of classroom time for their students, because school districts have different needs. Walker said parents want student performance, not a set number of hours in the classroom.

“It’s more important than how long are butts in the seats, as opposed to what are they doing, and are they getting something done?” Walker said. “If our students are succeeding, honestly, I don’t care how many hours they’re in.”

Walker’s plan would also affect private voucher schools and “virtual” charter schools.

The Wisconsin Association of School Boards is raising concerns about the governor’s proposal, including that districts might be more likely to cut instruction hours when budgets are tight. Walker’s proposal would make Wisconsin the only state with no minimum number of hours or days of classroom time.

The Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee has started public hearings on the governor’s budget proposal.