Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed education budget may see some changes, with two Republican senators looking to increase public school spending and Walker wanting more accountability from voucher schools.
Senate President Mike Ellis, R-Neenah, and Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, Education Committee chair, are proposing a $382 million investment in the state’s public schools, or a roughly $150 per pupil investment, the Associated Press reported Friday.
Although Walker increased school aid by about 1 percent, he kept a revenue limit for schools so school districts would not raise property taxes to make up for the more than $800 million in cuts they took two years ago.
Because Walker kept that revenue limit in this budget, the 1 percent increase helps taxpayers, not school districts, according to University of Wisconsin education professor Peter Goff.
“All the money Governor Walker’s putting into the public schools is actually just going to tax relief,” Goff said. “The actual public school students are not actually seeing any money at this point in time.”
Ellis told the Associated Press their plan would lead to a “meager increase” in property taxes.
The senators were not available for comment Friday, but Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, is generally supportive of their efforts, according to Todd Albaugh, his chief of staff.
“Dale has been a longtime supporter and advocate for public education, and he was a supporter during the Thompson administration when we removed part of that burden from property taxpayers,” Albaugh said. “He continues to be a supporter of properly funding our public education.”
State Superintendent Tony Evers and Democrats have called for Walker to increase spending in public schools.
Ellis and Schultz, however, have opposed Walker’s proposed voucher school expansion, as they have called for local referendums on whether there should be voucher schools in their school district, Albaugh said.
Although his budget did not call for this, Walker also told Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Thursday he is willing to use public school report cards for voucher schools as well.
Walker proposed a grant program for public schools based on the new report cards, which Evers pointed out was in its early stages two weeks ago and not ready to tie funding to results.
Regardless of whether they are complete or not, Goff said using those report cards would provide comparable metrics for both public and voucher schools.
“The benefit of that approach is you’re going to be able to look at voucher schools on an equal metric as other schools, ideally schools that are comparable,” Goff said. “So creating that common metric is appealing.”
Although he had not seen the proposal, Albaugh said Schultz has always supported accountability for all schools.
School Choice Wisconsin President Jim Bender said in an email to The Badger Herald Walker’s comments were “nothing new,” as he has always supported report cards for voucher schools.
Bender has been meeting with the Department of Public Instruction about adding voucher schools in a statewide student information system, which Walker calls for in his budget. Once they are included in the system, Bender said, they would use the report cards.
“Private schools have different mechanisms for collecting and reporting data so getting this piece right will ensure equity under the report card,” Bender said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.