Read a joint statement in reaction to the budget’s passage and the governor’s vetoes from Wisconsin Public Education Network Executive Director Heather DuBois Bourenane and Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools President Sandy Whisler below.
The budget moved forward by legislative Republicans and signed by Gov. Evers today fails more than 820,000 children who depend on strong Wisconsin public schools. After years of deliberate undermining of our public schools, it is time to hold Wisconsin accountable for meeting the needs of our children.
This budget squanders the opportunities and responsibilities that came with an enormous surplus by deliberately maintaining a funding system that does real harm to kids while simultaneously delivering massive, permanent giveaways to private voucher schools and “independent” charter schools. These schools are now guaranteed more direct aid than most public schools receive from the state, and more than many are even allowed to spend per pupil.
Despite misleading rhetoric, this budget doesn’t even provide enough in new spending authority to public schools to keep pace with inflation, and that spending authority isn’t matched by state aid for most districts. In failing to meaningfully meet current needs, it cements a system of winners and losers and widens the existing gaps across the state: a full 39% of public school districts will receive less state aid next year than they did this year. The bottom line is that kids will struggle and local taxpayers will pay more, while districts statewide continue to report crisis-level budget decisions that require more belt-tightening, cuts, and school closures.
Meanwhile, increasing our “worst in the nation” special education reimbursement by a measly 1.8% to reach a still-shameful 33.3% mark fails to close the $1.25 billion annual special education funding gap, or reduce funding discrimination against public school students with disabilities. Private voucher schools will continue to receive a 90% special education reimbursement on top of increased voucher payments.
We call on the state to repair some of this harm by using the additional resources freed up in the Governor’s vetoes to direct critical aid to students with disabilities and students in poverty now, and we call on members of the public to demand nothing less. It’s long past time to hold the state accountable for its persistent refusal to meet its constitutional obligation to the students attending our public schools. If lawmakers refuse to do their jobs, it’s time to call on the courts to force them to do so. Until then, Wisconsin deserves a solid “F” for failing to meet the needs of its children.
UNITE FOR THE 2023-25 BUDGET WISCONSIN KIDS DESERVE!
TAKE ACTION! Be an ambassador for the budget Wisconsin kids deserve in your community.
See our full one-page handout of 2023-25 budget priorities here.
Click a green button below to jump to the corresponding section:
The legislature could convene a Special Session to allocate funds freed up in the Governor’s vetoes to meet the needs of Wisconsin students. The next biennial budget will be passed in 2025.
Governor Evers Signs 2023-25 State Budget, July 5
Read an abbreviated summary of items in the budget, including veto details, here.
Gap-Widening Budget Deserves Failing Grade. Wisconsin Students Deserve Better: Statement on Signing of 2023-25 State Budget from Wisconsin Public Education Network Executive Director Heather DuBois Bourenane and Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools President Sandy Whisler
“The budget moved forward by legislative Republicans and signed by Gov. Evers today fails more than 820,000 children who depend on strong Wisconsin public schools. After years of deliberate undermining of our public schools, it is time to hold Wisconsin accountable for meeting the needs of our children. …
We call on the state to repair some of this harm by using the additional resources freed up in the Governor’s vetoes to direct critical aid to students with disabilities and students in poverty now, and we call on members of the public to demand nothing less. It’s long past time to hold the state accountable for its persistent refusal to meet its constitutional obligation to the students attending our public schools. If lawmakers refuse to do their jobs, it’s time to call on the courts to force them to do so. Until then, Wisconsin deserves a solid “F” for failing to meet the needs of its children.” (Read full statement here.)
The budget bill passed the Assembly in a 63-34 vote along party lines, with all Republican representatives voting YES and all Democratic representatives voting NO (with the exception of one, Rep. Cabrera, not voting).
Follow all education-related legislative votes at WisconsinNetwork.org/tracker.
All Senate Democrats and two Republicans (Senators Nass and Hutton) voted “NO” on the passage of the 2023-2025 Biennial Budget, as amended with a hastily passed 24-page amendment from Sen. Marklein after the body rejected 12 amendments from Democrats. SB 70, the budget bill, passed the State Senate by a vote of 20-13. Senator Chris Larson of Milwaukee raised an amendment on the floor that would have restored crucial public school funding to the budget, laying out the points on our Budget Report Card that served as the baseline for Tuesday’s “What’s Best for Kids” Day of Action at the capitol. That amendment was defeated 22-11, with all Republican Senators voting to reject the amendment and all Democratic Senators voting to adopt it.
Follow all education-related legislative votes at WisconsinNetwork.org/tracker.
What’s Best for Kids Day of Action, June 27
On June 27, public school champions gathered at the State Capitol to tell lawmakers that it’s not too late to fix the budget and meet the needs of Wisconsin kids. Watch powerful examples of some of the speakers below.
Statement on Passage of Voucher Increase and Shared Revenue Bills
from Heather DuBois Bourenane, Executive Director, Wisconsin Public Education Network; Sandy Whisler, (President), Jill Gaskell (Secretary) and Julie Underwood (Treasurer), Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools
“15 minutes after our board of directors publicly called on Gov. Evers to reject a deal that deeply underserves Wisconsin public school students, we learned he had already signed into law the largest stand-alone voucher aid expansion in state history and a shared revenue bill that undermines Milwaukee Public Schools. The move is part of a larger deal that fails to meet any of the priority needs of students in Wisconsin’s public schools, marking 16 YEARS of preK-12 budgets that fail to keep pace with inflation.” (Read full statement here.)
Statement from the Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools Board of Directors:
Legislature and Gov. Evers Must Reject Budget Deal that Harms Wisconsin Students
“As members of the Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools Board of Directors, we take seriously the work of aligning Wisconsin’s resources with the needs of our students and their public schools. WAES has long warned Wisconsin that it risks violating its Constitutional obligation to its children when it fails to adequately fund its public schools. The action taken by the Joint Committee on Finance falls well short of the state’s constitutional responsibilities in the area of K-12 education and must be dramatically improved by the state legislature. If not, the budget must be vetoed by the governor and recrafted in order to pass Constitutional muster.” (Read full statement here.)
On June 8, 2023, Gov. Evers and Republican legislative leaders announced a compromise agreement to tie shared revenue increases for Wisconsin municipalities to a set of education proposals. While the proposal would raise the low revenue ceiling and school mental health, we are profoundly disappointed to see the minimal increases in special education funding and per-pupil aid in this proposal, as well as the massive increase in public dollars spent on private schools. We don’t know everything yet and will continue to follow the details of this agreement closely, and will also closely watch for the full education budget released by the Joint Committee on Finance.
Follow WisconsinNetwork.org/tracker to follow bills through the capitol and see how your lawmakers vote on these bills.
- Waukesha Budget Hearing Roundup
- Eau Claire & Wisconsin Dells Budget Hearing Roundup
- Statement on JFC Hearings from Wisconsin Public Education Network
The Joint Committee on Finance met in Executive Session on the 2023-25 biennial budget on Tuesday, May 2, 2023, at 11:01am.
The Committee first considered the attached motion to remove certain items from budget consideration. This was followed by: (1) a motion to introduce and adopt a substitute amendment to AB 43/SB 70; (2) consideration of standard budget adjustments, sum sufficient appropriation estimates, and debt service associated with the state’s appropriation obligation bonds.
The Committee will continue to meet through the month to draft its budget bill, and may make further omnibus motions.
ACTION ALERT! We have learned from the Clerk of the Joint Committee on Finance that the portal for submitting written budget comments will only remain open through the final hearing on Wednesday, April 26. If you haven’t already, be sure to submit your budget priorities to the committee by then!
Official Budget Hearings with the Joint Committee on Finance
April 5 in Waukesha; April 11 in Eau Claire; April 12 in Wisconsin Dells; April 26 in Minocqua Written comments accepted through April 26.
- Read more here.
Join us in person at the JFC listening sessions! Let us know which one you’re attending here.
Missed our testimony training? Check out this two-page document of testimony resources adapted from our 2021 toolkit!
Feb. 14: Gov. Evers introduced his Education Budget
See a statement on the Governor’s budget proposal from our executive director Heather DuBois Bourenane and Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools President Sandy Whisler here.
Feb. 15: Gov. Evers delivers Budget Address. Watch on Wisconsin Eye: https://wiseye.org/live/ What’s next: Fiscal Bureau will analyze the bill, then the Joint Finance Committee will review and schedule public hearings.
December 2022-January 2023: Gov. Evers’ “Doing the Right Thing” Listening Session Tour Dec. 13, 5:30pm: Kenosha. [Registration] Dec. 14, 6pm: Virtual. [Registration] Dec. 20, 5:30pm: Green Bay. [Registration] Jan. 11, 6pm: Virtual. [Registration] Jan. 12, 5:30pm: Wausau. [Registration] Jan. 17, 5:30pm: Superior. [Registration] Jan. 18, 5:30pm: Eau Claire. [Registration] Members of the public may also submit written comments before these listening sessions conclude.
Feb. 2, 2023, 7-8pm: Budget Ambassador Training.Toolkit available here. Feb. 6, 2023, 7-8:30pm: School Finance in Wisconsin: Where We Are, How We Got Here, What Is Ahead with Anne Chapman of WASBO.Archive available here. March 1, 2023, 6-8pm: Budget Action Workshop.Archive available here (part 1) and here (part 2).
Important 2023 Dates:
Jan. 24, 2023: Governor’s State of the State Address Feb. 14, 2023: Governor Evers Introduces Education Budget Feb. 15, 2023: Governor’s 2023-25 Biennial Budget Message Feb. 27 – Mar. 3, 2023: Public Schools Week
PUBLIC SCHOOL CHAMPIONS are…
…getting their communities involved in the process and educating them on how the budget works.
BUDGET ACTION WORKSHOP ARCHIVE:
Part one: Welcome, budget breakdown with State Budget Director Brian Pahnke, and being a budget ambassador
Part two: Crafting compelling testimony and amplifying your story
Read our reaction to the Department of Public Instruction’s 2023-25 education budget proposal and State Superintendent Underly’s and Governor Evers’ September announcement stating their education priorities for the upcoming budget.
What would a 60% reimbursement mean to your school district? This memo from the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau shows the impacts of the governor’s proposal on every district in the state.
Further reading on special education reimbursement in Wisconsin: Education Law Center, 2022
BACKGROUND INFORMATIONAL RESOURCES: Archive of “School Funding” presentations: here
WASBO School Budget Explainer, May 2023.
School Funding Basics with Dr. Julie Underwood, Sept. 2022.
School Finance in Wisconsin: Where we are, how we got here, what is ahead with Anne Chapman of WASBO, Feb. 2023 (video). View PDF slides here.
HOW TO BUILD THE BUDGET WISCONSIN KIDS DESERVE:
- Increase the state reimbursement of districts’ special education costs to 60% in 2023-24 and 90% in 2024-25.
- Increase spendable state funds by at least $1,500* per student across the board, raise districts’ spending authority and adjust for inflation, with the ultimate goal of eliminating revenue limits.
- Prioritize investments where the needs are greatest: in English language learning (ELL), mental health support, services for students in poverty, rural schools, pre-K needs, and support for attracting and retaining educators.
- Impose a moratorium on the expansion of voucher and independent (non-district) charter spending.
A just budget is one that closes the gaps that currently exist and makes no investments in gap-widening measures.
See our full one-page handout of budget priorities here.
*Source for our $1,500 figure: Legislative Fiscal Bureau Memo, January 2023.
YOU can be an ambassador for the budget Wisconsin kids deserve in your community.
SAVE OUR JUNE 2023 ACTION ALERT + NEWS ROUNDUP!
BOOKMARK THIS PAGE! We are following updates, news, and announcements on the budget process and will keep public school champions up-to-date with how they can take action where they live.
TELL YOUR STORY! Budgets are about people. They are about local kids. Put students first and make sure decision-makers know how the state budget affects them. See our 2022 messaging toolkit here. Read powerful examples of Letters to the Editor written by public education champions here.
CONTACT YOUR LAWMAKERS! Let them know what local students need! Share your story! See our legislative contact list here.
Public Education Champions’ Written Budget Testimonies: Check out these powerful examples of Joint Finance Committee budget testimonies written by public education champions.
School board members, district administrators, and local advocates: Your school board can pass a resolution or set of legislative priorities related to the state budget. Some fantastic models below (have a great example that isn’t on this list? Email it to Christian@WisconsinNetwork.org):
- School District of Cudahy Board Resolution
- School District of Greenfield Board Resolution
- Mequon-Thiensville School District 2023-25 Budget/Legislative Priorities
- Increase per-pupil categorical aid
- Reimburse school districts for 100% of special education costs
- Racine Unified School District Board Resolution
- School District of South Milwaukee Budget Advocacy Page
- Southeastern Wisconsin Schools Alliance Budget Request
- Sun Prairie Area School District Board of Education Legislative Agenda
- WASB Op-Ed Available for Use in Budget Messaging
- Whitnall School District Board Resolution
TURN YOUR APPRECIATION INTO ACTION! Teacher Appreciation Week is in May. Download this image and make it your profile photo on social media!
PLAN A LOCAL BUDGET ACTION EVENT! See the video below for a fantastic example of local budget advocacy, a community art build event hosted by the South Milwaukee Education Association and the School District of South Milwaukee.