For the first time in quite a few years, Wisconsin classrooms stand to gain additional money from the state -- and public school advocates want to make sure it happens.
Hundreds of folks showed up to speak their minds at a public hearing Wednesday in Milwaukee, including a strong contingent of parents and teachers.
Hours before they made their case to the legislature’s budget committee, parents and teachers gathered outside the State Fair Expo Center to pump each other up and make sure they got their names on the list to testify.
It’s not unusual to see public school supporters out in force at political events around Milwaukee. Education advocates are among the most active protesters and organizers – especially when it comes to school spending.
It’s not uncommon to hear statements like this one, from Kim Schroeder…
“Our public schools need funding,” says Schroeder, president of the Milwaukee teachers’ union, MTEA. “It was cut during Act 10, and we’ve struggled. It’s time that the state invests back in our students.”
But this budget cycle, the governor has proposed an increase in school funding, and the union leader wants to make sure it happens. That’s why he’s among the group hoping to speak in front of the state’s budget-writing committee.
“We’re not speaking to the governor today -- we’re speaking to the state legislature, who have been iffy at best on the governor’s proposal,” Schroeder explains.
Gov. Walker wants to spend $200 additional per public school student, each of the next two years. But legislative leaders – including some in Walker’s own Republican party – aren’t too keen on the idea. Some say they’d rather see the money go toward more private school vouchers. Others are concerned about whether the state can afford the increase.
Retired teacher Jane Miller says it’s time to make public schools and the kids they serve the priority.
“I’m here because I believe in public education, I believe in public schools, and I believe in them for all children,” Miller says.
In her retirement, Miller says she has traveled the state to help train teachers, and she has seen what extra money can do.
“Believe me, you can see great differences between poor districts – who couldn’t provide paint on the bathroom walls -- to rich districts that have digital clocks in every room and SmartBoards,” she adds.
The legislature’s Joint Finance Committee will hold four more hearings across the state to gather feedback on the proposed state budget. Judging by the turnout in Milwaukee, it’s likely the committee will hear from many more public school supporters in coming weeks.