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Gov. Tony Evers Calls Special Session On Increasing School Spending

Proposal Would Boost K-12, Higher Education Funding By $550M

Tony Evers looks over at the reporters asking questions during a press conference.
Gov. Tony Evers speaks during a press conference Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Waukesha, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

Gov. Tony Evers is calling the state Legislature into a special session Tuesday to consider a plan that would increase state spending on education by $550 million over the next two years.

The governor announced the special session call Monday afternoon. He’s calling on lawmakers to use money he freed up with partial vetoes of the state budget to increase per-pupil aid for K-12 schools by $240 million, special education funding by $200 million and higher education spending by $110 million. Evers made $550 million immediately available to spend on state programs by vetoing a transfer of funds into the state’s so-called “rainy day fund” in the budget.

The governor said the session would be an opportunity to make investments in education he believes should have been included in the budget. GOP lawmakers approved an education spending plan that was roughly $750 million less than the governor originally requested for K-12 schools. For the University of Wisconsin System, the GOP-backed budget included an increase of just $8 million over two years, a fraction of the $191 million proposed by the governor.

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“This budget’s bare minimum wasn’t enough for our kids,” Evers said in a video message posted Monday to Twitter.

Republican co-chairs of the Legislature’s state budget committee were critical of the governor’s special session call on Monday afternoon, calling it “political posturing.”

“The Legislature’s budget, which (Evers) signed, accounted for the massive Federal funds for schools, made significant investments in our student’s education and respected taxpayers,” said Sen. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, and Rep. Mark Born, R-Beaver Dam, in a prepared statement. “It was a good budget and we continue to stand by our decisions.”

The GOP-controlled Legislature has previously bypassed special session calls from the governor, convening and adjourning without having any debate or taking any votes. Those special sessions, which the governor has used to highlight his priorities, were intended to focus on issues including Wisconsin accepting the federal Medicaid expansion, changing policing laws in the state and updating the state unemployment system.

The state Assembly was already expected to be in session Tuesday. GOP leaders there are expected to convene an extraordinary session to attempt to override Evers’ veto of a bill that would have eliminated extra federal benefits for unemployment recipients in the state. The override is not expected to succeed, because Republicans do not have a two-thirds majority in the Assembly and no Democrats are expected to vote in favor of the override.

Editor’s note: Wisconsin Public Radio is a service of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Wisconsin Educational Communications Board.