Gov. Scott Walker spoke at an education convention Friday about his vision for education, including increasing funding to schools in a performance-based funding system.

In his speech, Walker previewed some of the reforms his administration will include in the next biennial budget, to be introduced next month.
Among them is the new performance-based funding system, which he said would help ensure the preparedness of teachers as well as school and district accountability. 

“One of the things we’re looking to do going forward is to put additional resources into public education over the next two years in this budget in a variety of different ways is in part … put money behind performance,” Walker said. “How can we provide an incentive bonus”? 

Walker said such a system, aimed to encourage growth and progress in schools, would be an alternative to No Child Left Behind, a law implemented by President George W. Bush. 

This performance-based funding system will be based off the report cards the Department of Public Instruction started last year, although he said the report cards will “continue to be upgraded and improved.” 

Although the performance-based program would have incentives for improving schools, Walker said there would also be funding to help those schools that are falling behind. The funds would come from categorical grants from the state. 

“We should apply a portion of that performance funding to be set aside to work with schools that are failing,” Walker said. 

This call for increased funding follows more than $800 million in cuts to public education in the last biennial budget, although at the time, the state had a $3.6 billion deficit. 

Rep. Melissa Sargent, D-Madison, said Walker’s pledge to fund schools should be met with some scrutiny considering Walker’s past education policies. 

“I think it’s interesting we took all this money away from schools, and now we’re putting it back again,” Sargent said. 

Walker said in his speech the vast majority of money would go toward public schools, rather than for-profit schools or voucher schools, although he did not give a specific amount. He emphasized the benefit of a public school education, noting he and his children are products of the public school system. 

Sargent expressed concern Walker might end up putting too much into alternative education systems that are not held to the same standards as public schools. 

“My concern is that money is going to unaccountable voucher school programs,” Sargent said. “Gov. Walker has mentioned this in the past, and that would be concerning. … Not funding our public schools, that would be a travesty.” 

Sargent said she would need to see some actual numbers in order to see what the funding will look like. Walker said those details will be released sometime in the next three weeks, closer to the creation of the budget. 

Walker also acknowledged the concerns taxpayers may have over funding the incentive programs, stating he realizes people want to see their money actually having an impact. 

“All of us will make investments, but we want performance,” Walker said.