Wisconsin Demands a Pro-Public Budget in Eau Claire and Wisconsin Dells

“What an incredible legacy this Joint Finance Committee can leave when they pass this budget and support our public schools and libraries. What an incredible difference they stand to make.” -Dr. Jill Underly, State Superintendent of Public Instruction

“Why are Wisconsin schools systemically and routinely targeted for less funding? Maybe it’s because public schools are still one of the only remaining entities in our community where all are welcomed and all are served.” -Mike Jones, President, Madison Teachers Inc., at Wisconsin Dells press conference

“The state’s taxpayers have shown their willingness to fully fund education. I hope the legislature will too.” -Carolyn, Baraboo resident, in Wisconsin Dells testimony

“We cannot give our children the future they deserve if we continue to underfund [them].” -Shelley Burns, Mequon-Thiensville School Board President, in Wisconsin Dells testimony

“You cannot expect students to perform well at an institution meant to break them. You cannot expect students to show up to school when school is no longer safe or equitable for them to be at. You cannot expect teachers to do their jobs when they are overworked and underpaid. The youth deserve better.” -Amber West, Leaders Igniting Transformation, at Eau Claire press conference

“This committee in this legislature has the power and the responsibility to tell every kid across Wisconsin: you are worth it.” -Abe Smith, Menomonie School Board clerk, at Eau Claire press conference


  • 718 Total Live Testimonies
    • 135: Public K-12 Education
    • 114: Healthcare
    • 96: Higher Education
    • 55: Childcare & Pre-K
    • 54: Municipal Services & Shared Revenue
    • 41: Independent Living & Family Care
    • 38: Charter & Private Education
    • 22: Criminal Justice Reform
    • 22: Environmental Initiatives
    • Other popular priorities: gun control; drivers’ licenses for undocumented Wisconsinites; roads and transportation
  • Approximately 40% of overall testimonies have focused on childcare, public pre-K-12, and higher education.

See our tracker and notes here.

In back-to-back state budget listening sessions, leaders in public education, board members seeking to move on from referendum dependency, and public school champions representing roles and districts across Wisconsin showed up in huge numbers to demand that the Joint Finance Committee deliver the budget Wisconsin kids deserve.

We have tracked public testimony at this week’s hearings in Eau Claire and Wisconsin Dells and are unsurprised that public pre-K-12 and higher education has been by far the most common priority thus far — followed by healthcare concerns. Overwhelming majorities of those testifying are doing so in favor of Gov. Evers’ education budget, accepting federal Medicaid expansion, and delivering on the needs of Wisconsin kids. And with a $7 billion + surplus sitting in Madison, the money is there to meet and exceed all of these expectations.

See our tracker and notes here.

Wisconsin Public Education Network joined our partners around the state to directly address the public and the media ahead of both hearings. Find here the full video of our press event in Eau Claire, and here the video of our press event in Wisconsin Dells.

In Eau Claire, public education, including early childhood care and higher education, made up nearly half of all testimonies delivered to the committee.

We also took note of the fact that Dr. Jill Underly, the state superintendent of public instruction, traveled to Eau Claire to deliver testimony as a citizen — after having not been invited to do so before the public hearings began — on the budget she needs and expects for public schools statewide. Dr. Underly also spoke at our press event in Eau Claire. “What an incredible legacy this Joint Finance Committee can leave when they pass this budget and support our public schools and libraries,” she said. “What a difference they stand to make.”

Another notable event in Eau Claire was impossible to capture in our traditional testimony tracking numbers. In the late morning, Neillsville Superintendent John Gaier spoke to the committee on the shared burdens facing school districts across northern, central, and western Wisconsin, the lasting impacts of low revenue limits, inadequate special education reimbursements, and more; he urged the committee to use Gov. Evers’ proposal as a “floor, not a ceiling.” Approximately 20 superintendents stood with John Gaier to support this testimony, and approximately 50 supporters overall; the enormous group showed their support visually by walking out of the room with him. You can see video of his testimony here.

A frequent theme among public education champions in Wisconsin Dells on Wednesday was the reliance on school referenda to keep the doors open and the lights on — and the opportunity to step away from referenda by fully funding public schools at the state level.

See our tracker and notes here.

“Public schools are an essential part of all rural communities,” said Joni Anderson, a school board member in Adams-Friendship, which just passed a high stakes referendum. “[Our students] will remember what you did today.”

If you join the overwhelming majority of testifiers in wanting to see a pro-public budget become state law, join us in being a budget ambassador and embedding advocacy and awareness into your everyday conversations. Click here to join.

There is one more live hearing on the budget — in Minocqua on April 26 — and Team Public will be there. Join us if you can make it! And whether or not you can make it, written testimony can be delivered directly to the committee at any time this month. We recommend also sharing with your own lawmakers, as all legislators will ultimately vote on the budget bill, and CCing us so we can record and amplify your testimonies.

About the author: Christian Phelps

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