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Tony Evers requests 10 percent bump for schools in DPI's 2019-21 budget

Tony Evers requests 10 percent bump for schools in DPI's 2019-21 budget

From the Cap Times election roundup: Coverage of the Wisconsin governor's race series

Tony Evers

As he challenges Gov. Scott Walker for his job, state superintendent of public instruction Tony Evers is requesting a 10 percent increase in funding for Wisconsin's schools in the next state budget. 

Evers, a Democrat, is asking for $1.4 billion in additional funds for the state's K-12 schools in the 2019-21 budget. The $15.4 billion request, submitted by Evers on Monday, comes less than two months before Walker and Evers will meet on the ballot — and Evers' budget letter includes a swipe at the governor.

"Wisconsin has a proud history and tradition of strong public schools. Our state’s education system — from early childhood through higher education — has served as the pathway to prosperity for generations of Wisconsinites and the key to a skilled workforce and strong economy," Evers wrote. "In recent years, however, historic cuts to education have impeded our progress."

Evers' budget request includes $606 million in new funding for special education programs, bringing funding for the programs up to $900 million by 2021. It also dedicates an additional $58 million to mental health programs, and an additional $41 million for bilingual-bicultural programs.

The DPI budget would also expand and fund new programs in the state's five largest school districts — Milwaukee, Kenosha, Green Bay, Madison and Racine — which have disproportionate shares of students with significant achievement gaps. The proposals targeted toward those districts include expanding summer school grants, offering new funding for 3K programs and offering extra funding to National Board certified teachers who teach in high-poverty schools in those five districts.

As he has done in the past, Evers has proposed overhauling the state's school funding formula. Under Evers' plan, two-thirds of public school funding would come from the state budget. 

Walker in June started branding himself as "the pro-education governor," a claim Evers has called a "joke."

Evers initially praised Walker's 2017-19 budget proposal, which included a $639 million boost for K-12 schools, as a "pro-kid budget." But he has argued Walker adopted his own proposals for education spending after "slashing and burning public education for three budgets."

Walker has not yet released his plans for school spending in the next budget.

"Scott Walker made record actual-dollar investments in our schools, the most in state history in what Tony Evers himself called a pro-kid budget. He will continue to make historic investments in schools without raising taxes on hard-working families and seniors to do it," said Walker campaign spokesman Brian Reisinger in a statement.

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Jessie Opoien is the Capital Times' opinion editor. She joined the Cap Times in 2013, covering state government and politics for the bulk of her time as a reporter. She has also covered music, culture and education in Madison and Oshkosh.