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Evers calls for increased school funding and stopping voucher expansion

MADISON (WRN)   As the Legislature prepares to begin debating the two year state budget, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers is asking members to consider changes to the proposal. Evers wants majority Republicans to remove provisions that would expand a private school voucher program statewide and to use a projected surplus to increase per pupil funding at public schools.

Evers says the state already has a difficult time paying for the schools it has, and the expansion of vouchers would essentially have Wisconsin trying to support two schools systems. He says “our kids are caught in the middle of an ideologically driven expansion of school vouchers, and it’s financially reckless and academically unproven.”

Evers is also criticizing a tax credit for parents with children in private school, which carries an estimated price tag of $30 million. It would allow parents of children in K-8 to claim tuition of up to $4,000, while parents of high school students could claim up to $10,000.

While Assembly Republicans have shown few signs of being open to stopping the voucher expansion, the plan is seeing some push back from the Senate GOP. Evers and Democrats on Monday called on those members to come forward and side with them in efforts to remove the provision from the budget.

The budget approved by the Joint Finance Committee would increase per pupil funding at public schools by $150 a year. Evers says that figure falls short of what’s needed to make up for hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts made under the last state budget. He says the “small bump provided in the budget bill for public schools doesn’t make up for those cuts, nor does it come close to covering the rising costs.”Evers and Democrats are asking the GOP to increase that figure to $275.

The state Assembly will open the budget debate Tuesday. GOP leaders have so far indicated they plan to approve the JFC version of the bill with minimal changes.